Dakota State hung around in the first half and forced three turnovers from Dickinson State quarterback Drew Boedecker.
Three first half interceptions from Boedecker kept the Trojans in the game. The offense was able to move down the field, but some errant throws from Boedecker that Dakota State capitalized on gave them life.
But to begin the second half, Blue Hawks defensive back Deavon Crawford made a pair of highlight plays on defense to turn the tides in their favor on their way to a 34-14 win Saturday afternoon at the Henry Biesiot Activities Center in Dickinson.
The Trojans (2-2, 3-3) got the ball to start the second half down 14-7, but it was the Blue Hawks who scored first after Crawford picked off Dakota State quarterback Ja’Sem Atonio and returned it 50 yards to the two-yard line of Dakota State. Boedecker found paydirt two plays later to extend their lead 20-7.
“If the quarterback was going to loft the ball I was going up to get it,” Crawford said. “In that play it was like ‘Dev, this is the rollout, it’s coming straight to you, you gotta have it.’”
Crawford wasn’t done making plays on defense. The Trojans drove down the field on the ensuing drive and got to the Blue Hawks’ 25 yard line, and on the 10th play of the drive, Crawford scooped up a fumble from running back Jack Anderson and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown.
There was some question as to if it was a fumble on the play, but Crawford never gave up on the play as everyone looked around to see if the play would stand.
“I saw him lying on top of our guy and the whistle wasn’t blown,” Crawford said. “I saw the ball was free and I just took it, if I still didn’t hear the whistle I told myself I’m taking off with it.”
Sure enough it did, and Dickinson State (3-0, 3-2) had two touchdowns in the half despite running only three offensive plays.
“That was a huge play because they were crossing midfield,” Dickinson State head coach Pete Stanton said. “They fumble and we get the return on it and it really turned the game around.”
The early second half scores gave the Blue Hawks a lead they thought they could’ve had in the first half if not for the three turnovers.
Dickinson State’s first drive of the game was arguably their best, going 13 plays and 75 yards, capped off on a two-yard touchdown run by running back Riley Linder.
It was the freshman quarterback for Dakota State that got the start, and was under duress all afternoon as the Blue Hawks kept the young quarterback uneasy.
Dickinson State scored again at the beginning of the second quarter when Boedecker found wide receiver Kaden Kuntz wide open in the end zone from 30 yards out to make it 14-0.
The Trojans’ offense struggled to move the ball in the first half before they went on a 10-play, 67-yard drive to score a touchdown to make it 14-7 with 4:56 left in the half. They would have an opportunity for a long field goal to end the half, but the kick was short.
The pressure continued from the Blue Hawks defense on Atonio as they kept him uneasy in the pocket. They only had two sacks in the game but the defensive line did their job to break up the offensive rhythm for the Trojans.
“That was the plan to put a lot of pressure on their quarterback who was starting for the first time,” Stanton said. “We rotated a lot of guys to keep our guys fresh, it was all part of the plan. We were going to bring five (rushers) and pressure (Atonio) and make sure he had to make tough throws.”
Atonio went 15 for 28 with 159 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. He was eventually replaced by sophomore quarterback Josh Giles in the fourth quarter when the game was out of reach.
Alec Lovegren scored on a 12-yard run to cap off a drive in the third quarter that was highlighted by a 51-yard pass from Boedecker to wide receiver Tyger Frye. Boedecker rolled to his left, squared his shoulders, and found his favorite target behind the defense. It stood 34-7 with Dickinson State in full control of the game.
Giles added a touchdown for the Trojans in the final minutes of the game, a 14-yard strike to wide receiver Dajshon Keel.
The Blue Hawks were in cruise control offense as they shut things down to secure a third consecutive win.
Boedecker finished with 208 yards, his lowest total on the season, but a victory was secured. Dickinson State were 10 for 16 on third down and scored on all three trips to the red zone.
Linder had 17 rushes for a season-high 70 yards and a touchdown.
On the year the Blue Hawks defense has recorded 9 interceptions, coming from six different players.
“All week we practice taking away the ball,” Crawford said. “We take it away and give the offense the ball to score again, it will be a good game.”
The third-straight win for Dickinson State has their 0-2 start to the season a thing of the past. They’ll host Iowa Wesleyan next week for a third straight home game.
Trojans - 0 7 0 7 14
Blue Hawks - 7 7 20 0 34
Blue Hawks - Riley Linder 2 yard run (extra point good), 7-0
Blue Hawks - Kaden Kuntz 30 yard pass from Drew Boedecker (extra point good), 14-0
Trojans - Brenner Furlong 14 yard pass from Ja’Sem Atonio (extra point good), 14-7
Blue Hawks - Boedecker 1 yard run (extra point no good), 20-7
Blue Hawks - Deavon Crawford 75 yard fumble return (extra point good), 27-7
Blue Hawks - Alec Lovegren 12 yard run (extra point good), 34-7
Trojans - Dajshon Keel 19 yard pass from Josh Giles (extra point good), 34-14
DICKINSON STATE STATS
Passing - Boedecker 16-30, 208, 1 TD, 4 INT
Rushing - Linder 17-70 1 TD; Braden Zuroff 6-24; Lovegren 6-22 1 TD; Boedecker 11-9 1 TD; Jackson Willems 1-4.
Receiving - Frye 7-93; Conor McCarvel 6-57; Kuntz 1-30 1 TD; Kellen Ray 1-17; Lovegren 1-11.