'We just believed': Dickinson State defense has best showing of the year in upset over No. 5 Northwestern
ORANGE CITY, Iowa -- For 14 years, the Dickinson State football team has been chasing the goal of a playoff win, which they last accomplished in 2004 at home against Montana Tech.
ORANGE CITY, Iowa - For 14 years, the Dickinson State football team has been chasing the goal of a playoff win, which they last accomplished in 2004 at home against Montana Tech.
The past three seasons, Dickinson State won the North Star Athletic Association, finished ranked in the top-20 and earned a trip to the playoffs.
Each time, it looked like the Blue Hawks were well-equipped, but each time, they lost in the first round of the postseason, lengthening the drought.
On Saturday, that changed.
Swarming and stunning No. 5 Northwestern College (Iowa) with its best defensive performance of the year, the No. 15 Dickinson State came away with a 14-6 victory on Nov. 17, at DeValois Stadium. The road playoff win is the first in program history and the Blue Hawks will advance to the quarterfinals where they will take on Kansas Wesleyan.
"The defense just rose to the occasion, made a lot of plays and made some big-time plays when we needed to at the end," Dickinson State head coach Pete Stanton said. "I thought all the way around we did a good job of tackling and just making a lot of key plays.
"Playing against a team that was scoring a lot of points and was a high-powered offense, to hold them under 300 yards is an incredible effort by our players."
The Blue Hawks held the Red Raiders scoreless for 29 minutes and eight seconds, the longest any team has done so all season. Additionally, the six points they did allow were the fewest Northwestern has scored in a game this year.
The Red Raiders only touchdown came in the second quarter, as junior running back Jacob Kalogonis capped a 77-yard drive with a 6-yard scoring rush. However, the snap for the point after was bad, so the home team had to settle for the six points.
The Dickinson State defense was steadfast and dominant. Junior linebacker Kevin Brown, who was back on the field after in injury, recorded a game-high 10 tackles, followed by senior All-Conference linebacker Daniel Moreno, who earned eight tackles.
The Blue Hawks limited the Red Raiders, who typically put up nearly 500 yards of offense, to just 286, another season low for the higher-seeded team.
The true shining star of the game was NSAA co-defensive MVP Jay Liggins. The Bismarck native hauled in four interceptions, setting a new school record for the most in a game. His biggest pick was a catch at the goalline in the third quarter, on the first play of a Red Raiders drive that started from the Dickinson State 32-yard line.
"That was Jay just making plays," Stanton said. "Their quarterback, all year round, had been trying to go with some vertical routes and he had a big time interception on the goalline to get the ball and a couple other big ones in the fourth quarter as well. That's just what Jay does. He's an incredible player and he rose to the occasion making those big plays."
He made another important snag on a fourth-down, last-ditch throw from Red Raider sophomore quarterback Tyson Kooima, but it was his return after interception which proved pivotal.
Following the pick, Liggins ran 45 yards up the field to the Northwestern 15-yard line, putting the Blue Hawks in perfect position. Three plays later, sophomore running back Nick Miller ran in a touchdown. After Cody Johnson's point after kick, Dickinson State led 14-6 with 1:29 left to play.
Eliminating all hopes of a Red Raiders tying touchdown and conversion, Liggins came up with his fourth interception of the game with 30 seconds remaining.
Following the game, Liggins was named Most Valuable Defensive Player of the Game. Fellow senior defensive back Cain Boschee, was given the Champion of Character award, while sophomore Tyger Frye was named the Most Valuable Offensive Player of the Game.
Frye led all players with 112 receiving yards over eight catches. He earned extra yards by breaking tackles and staying on his feet longer than expected on a handful of plays.
The Blue Hawks had 16 first downs on the day, but struggled on third down, converting on six of 17 third-down attempts.
Fighting against a quick Northwestern defense, Dickinson State broke through in the second frame. Starting with Gibson's longest throw of the game, a 36-yard beauty to Frye, the Blue Hawks strung together a 10-play, 73-yard drive. Junior running back Amad Andrews Jr. sealed the series with a 1-yard touchdown run.
Junior safety Derick VandeBossche played another key role in the Blue Hawks win. In a fourth-quarter drive, Red Raiders speedy sophomore quarterback Tyson Kooima dashed towards the goal line on a gutsy second-down keeper. Meeting him in the red zone, was VandeBossche, who forced a fumble before recovering it. While the ensuing drive ended in a punt, he still kept the Red Raiders from scoring again.
Throughout the back-and-forth affair, there were many plays after which each team could have staggered or surged. Early on, a touchdown pass to Randy Ivey was called back, senior safety Bryce Van Beek came up with Northwestern's sole interception, and drive after drive was stymied, but the Blue Hawks and the coaching staff stayed calm until the end.
"We just believed," Stanton said. "Our guys believed. Our coaching staff believed all week long, all game long. We've been down before. That's what sports is all about. That's what big games like these are all about. You just gotta stay with it. We certainly didn't expect a 14-6 type of game, it turned out that. I think our guys just believed the whole way."
Dickinson State 14, Northwestern (Iowa) 6
DSU 0 7 0 7 - 14
NWC 0 6 0 0 - 6
DSU - Amad Andrews Jr. 1 rush (Cody Johnson kick), 6:11
NIC - Jacob Kalogonis 9 rush (PAT no good), 0:52
DSU - Nick Miller 5 rush (Johnson kick), 1:29
TEAM STATISTICS DSU NWC
First downs 16 13
Rushes-yards 34-88 34-159
Passing yards 222 127
Comp.-Att.-Int. 20-34-1 14-32-4
Total yards 310 286
Fumbles-lost 1-0 1-1
Penalties-yards 7-58 2-23
Punts-Avg. 6-32.8 4-31.8
RUSHING: NWC, Kalogonis 23-107, TD; Tyson Kooima 9-40. DSU, Andrews Jr. 19-73, TD; Miller 5-20, TD; Jaret Lee 1-4; Roderick Ashford 5-3.
PASSING: NWC, Kooima 14-31-4, 127 yards. DSU, Gibson 20-34-1, 222 yards.
RECEIVING: NWC, Shane Solberg 7-79; Kalogonis 5-35; Jared Nelson 2-13. DSU, Tyger Frye 8-112; Adrian Hughes Tovar 3-32; Jaret Lee 3-30; Randy Ivey 3-26; Seth Moerkerke 1-8; Cain Boschee 1-5; Jordan Walker 1-9.
TACKLES: NWC, Nate Bennett 7-3, 1 sack, 2 TFL; Garrett Sayler 6-1; Ben Granstra 4-3.
INTERCEPTIONS: NWC, Bryce Van Beek. DSU, Jay Liggins 4, 91 yards.