LSC Week 2 Playoff Preview

November 22nd, 2023 12:00pm

LSC Week 2 Playoff Preview

Playoff Week 1 Recap

“George Costanza : Yeah, I should do the opposite, I should.
Jerry Seinfeld : If every instinct you have is wrong, then the opposite would have to be right.
George Costanza : Yes, I will do the opposite. I used to sit here and do nothing, and regret it for the rest of the day, so now I will do the opposite, and I will do something!”

Unless you were a fan of Central Washington or Bemidji State, you may have been thinking as I was that Western Colorado and Texas-Permian Basin might have some difficulty during their games, but would ultimately get wins and move on to the second round to have a much-anticipated rematch of the Mountaineers’ Week 2 win over the Falcons. 

Well, Central Washington and Bemidji State both decided on doing the opposite of what the so-called experts (including me) thought.  Both underdogs won tight, defensive struggles, holding their favored opponents to far below their season averages in points and yards, and now next week we have Central Washington going to Bemidji, MN for the right to play in the Super Region 4 final.



Now, about last week:

Central Washington wins at Western Colorado 16-13 (1 OT)

Despite being down 3-0 at halftime after giving up a late second-quarter 31-yard field goal by Adam Tasei and having to shut down top player Tyler Flanagan after just two carries, Central Washington had reasons to be optimistic.  The Wildcats were able to move the ball fairly well against the Western Colorado defense, even outgaining the Mountaineers in the first half.  CWU remained up to the task in the third quarter, as Tanner Volk ended WCU’s first drive of the third quarter with…you guessed it…another interception, number 12 on the season.  WCU drove back into CWU territory the next time they had the ball, only for the CWU defense to stop them on downs. 

But it was now the fourth quarter and it was still 3-0.  Could CWU get any points on the scoreboard?

Darius Morrison started the fourth quarter with a 37-yard touchdown catch to give CWU their first points and first lead of the game with 13:40 remaining.  WCU would eventually regain the lead on a 19-yard touchdown catch by Cameron Colangelo with 5:47 left.  After exchanging punts, CWU took the ball at the own 20-yard line with 3:06 left needing a field goal to tie it.  Kennedy McGill led the Wildcats to the WCU 11-yard line with just 6 seconds left.  Josh Jones tied it with a 28-yard field goal and we were headed to overtime. 

In the first overtime, WCU had the ball first and managed just 4 yards on their drive before Tasei’s 41-yard field goal put the Mountaineers up 13-10. 

Now it was CWU’s turn. 

Zach Matlock started the drive at quarterback and followed up an incomplete pass with an illegal forward pass pushing the Wildcats back to the 30-yard line for third down and 15 yards to go.  McGill re-enters the game at quarterback and connects with Darius Morrison on the game-winning 30-yard touchdown pass. 

CWU played the game they wanted to play – keep it close with their defense and get enough offense together (especially considering Flanagan was out for most of the game) to have a chance in the end.  The Wildcats held WCU to 10 points, 28 points below their season average.  CWU also outgained WCU by 378 to 304 yards, holding the Mountaineers to nearly 100 yards below their season average while also holding the ball for 34:13 of the game.   Cameron Daniels came in for Flanagan and was able to gain 81 of the Wildcats’ 101 rushing yards, and without his contributions, the Wildcats’ season may have ended at 7723 feet. 

Central Washington improves to 8-3 and Western Colorado’s season ends at 10-2. 


Bemidji State wins at Texas-Permian Basin 10-3

There’s a saying in baseball when a team is facing a good pitcher, that “sometimes if you don’t get to him early, you won’t get to him at all”.  Turns out that was the case for the Bemidji State defense.  When the Beavers punted the ball away after UTPB forced a three-and-out on the game’s first drive, the Falcons moved the ball downfield with the speed and efficiency that we have seen all season, and Kenny Hrncir scored on a 16-yard touchdown run. 

Holding, offense.  10-yard penalty, replay the down. 

Two plays later, Hrncir was intercepted by Jamel Stone.  A good drive, but still an empty drive to start the game.  UTPB returned the favor by intercepting BSU quarterback Brandn Alt on the next drive, and the Falcons went back to work, moving the ball down to the BSU 28-yard line. 

Rafael Vargas’ 45-yard field goal try on fourth down and 9 was blocked by BSU defensive lineman Marco Cavallaro, ending UTPB’s second drive into BSU territory the same way as the first, with no points. 

BSU would then do something they didn’t normally do this season – go on long, deliberate drives.  An 11-play, 60-yard drive ended in a UTPB goal-line stand, but the Beavers would finally break through on their next drive, a 12-play, 57-yard drive that ended with a 15-yard touchdown pass from Alt to Mike Wandmaker. 

No problem for UTPB, right?  They average 46 points and nearly 500 yards a game!  Yeah, about that….

These were the yardages for each UTPB drive in the game – 34, 17, 21, 28, 7, 0, 16, 28, 60, and 46 yards.  The Beavers built a dam around their red zone and the Falcons only got past it one time in the game. 


Bemidji State would add a 20-yard field goal by Marko Josivic with 4:12 left in the third quarter to put the Beavers up 10-0, and it started to feel like that would be enough, and amazingly it was.  UTPB put together their best drive of the day (18 plays for 60 yards) late in the fourth quarter, but that was stopped on downs at the BSU 37-yard line with 2:27 left.  UTPB would finally score on their final drive of the game on a 44-yard Vargas field goal, but the Falcons’ hopes ended when his onside kick was not recovered. 

So what happened?  What did Bemidji State do?  Two big things – First, they kept the Falcons from getting the big-yardage plays that they got all season long.  Second, they held UTPB to 6 of 19 (32%) on third downs.  Remember, UTPB converted 52% of their third downs this season.  Sure, UTPB still outgained BSU, but the Falcons only gained 264 yards, by far their lowest output on the season and nearly half what they normally gain.  UTPB could neither sustain nor finish drives, and BSU was able to do enough despite only gaining 220 yards of offense.  The UTPB defense came to play and did more than enough to win, but because of the BSU defense it wasn’t enough.  BSU’s defense played their best game of the season, it’s as simple as that.  It was a very, very bad day for UTPB to have their worst game of the season, and that season is now over. 

Bemidji State improves to 9-2 and Texas-Permian Basin’s season ends at 10-2. 


Playoff Watch

With Round 1 completed, these are the Super Region 4 Week 2 matchups:

Colorado Mines hosts Augustana

Bemidji State hosts Central Washington


Playoff Week 2 Preview

The CWU Wildcats are the LSC’s last representative in the playoffs, and they head back out on the road for their fourth road trip in their last five weeks.  Bemidji State heads back home after being on the road for three of their last four games.  Both teams won close defensive games last week and look to continue their defensive dominance this coming week.   


All games are on Saturday, November 25.  All game times are in the Central time zone.

Bemidji State hosts Central Washington, 1:00 PM

Records:  Bemidji State 9-2 (8-2 NSIC), Central Washington 8-3 (7-1 LSC)

Series History: First meeting


Team Statistics

Bemidji State:
Points per game – 32 for; 17 against
Yards per game – 404 for (139 rushing, 265 passing); 336 against (122 rushing, 214 passing)
Turnovers – 15 committed; 23 caused
Sacks – 34 caused; 11 allowed
Time of Possession – 26:57 for; 33:02 against
Third Down Conversions – 42% for; 31% against
Field Goals – 8-10 for (long of 32 yards); 11-13 against

Central Washington:
Points per game – 24 for; 23 against
Yards per game – 349 for (188 rushing, 161 passing); 334 against (147 rushing, 187 passing)
Turnovers – 18 committed; 22 caused
Sacks – 12 caused; 16 allowed
Time of Possession – 31:09 for; 27:22 against
Third Down Conversions – 35% for; 37% against
Field Goals – 12-13 for (long of 46 yards); 6-10 against


Top Players

Bemidji State:
QB Brandon Alt – 213/353 passes for 2760 yards, 25 TD, 7 INT
RB Ali Mohamed – 112 carries for 492 yards, 7 TD; 5 catches for 52 yards, 1 TD
RB Sage Booker – 89 carries for 501 yards, 5 TD; 21 catches for 237 yards, 2 TD 
WR Dhel Duncan-Busby – 47 catches for 755 yards, 10 TD
LB Max Buduris – 59 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 1 INT, 3.5 sacks, 10 passes broken up
DE Marcus Hansen – 45 tackles, 18 tackles for loss, 10 sacks 
LB Spencer Wehr – 50 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2 INT

Central Washington:
RB Tyler Flanagan – 170 carries for 1017 yards, 12 TD; 12 catches for 132 yards, 2 TD
QB Kennedy McGill – 65/117 passes for 807 yards, 6 TD, 1 INT; 104 carries for 513 yards, 3 TD
WR Darius Morrison – 32 catches for 470 yards, 5 TD
S Tanner Volk – 108 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss, 12 INT
LB Brett McCalla – 84 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss, 1 sack
LB Isaac Clark – 39 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks
DB Patrick Rogers – 53 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 8 passes broken up

Near the headwaters of the Mississippi River just a couple hours south of the US/Canada border lies Lake Bemidji.  A short walk from its shoreline is Bemidji State’s Chet Anderson Stadium.  Could the winner of this Super Region 4 semifinal game be tempted to take a jump into Lake Bemidji’s sure-to-be-chilly waters?   The cold could possibly play a role in this one, as the forecasted temperature is somewhere in the high-20’s to low-30’s with a little wind.  However, unlike last week, Central Washington won’t need to worry about being at altitude, as Bemidji, MN is just 1365 feet above sea level, an elevation comparable to CWU’s home of Ellensburg, WA. 

So, with that stuff out of the way, let’s see where the matchup takes us.  Both teams won close, defensive battles over favored opponents.  CWU won a back-and-forth game in overtime over Western Colorado, and Bemidji State just about completely shut down Texas-Permian Basin. 

For Bemidji State, they rely on a quick-strike offense led by star quarterback Brandon Alt.  Alt hasn’t put up the huge passing numbers as he has the previous two years, but the Beavers’ offense has become more efficient and less turnover-prone (Alt has thrown just 7 interceptions in 2023; he threw 39 the previous two seasons).  BSU is like Western Colorado in that while their offense may not overwhelm the opposition, it is paired with a defense that wants to get into the offensive backfield and bring down whoever has the ball.  Defensive end Marcus Hansen is the top defender in the NSIC and leads the Beavers in tackles for loss and sacks.  The BSU defense has sacked opposing quarterbacks 34 times this season and made life harder than it had been all season for UTPB’s Kenny Hrncir.  So it has to be asked – if BSU’s defense could just about stop UTPB, could they do the same to CWU, who isn’t known for an explosive offense?    

On the Central Washington side, the Wildcats will need their defense and running game to come up big.  Tanner Volk is the top defender in the LSC and leads the entire nation in interceptions with 12.  He also leads CWU in tackles with 108.  If the Wildcats are to have a chance in this one, they need a repeat of last week’s effort, where they kept Western Colorado’s punter very busy and covered up for many of CWU’s offensive errors and turnovers.  If CWU can replicate what UTPB did in holding Bemidji State to 10 points, the Wildcats will certainly have a chance to win again.  The big question for CWU is the status of Tyler Flanagan.  He was shut down after just two carries last week, and thankfully Cameron Daniels was there to help shoulder the rushing load since fellow running back Tre’Jon Henderson has also been out since the West Texas A&M game in Week 8.  Flanagan is a difference-maker on the CWU offense.  Flanagan (and possibly Darius Morrison are just about the only Wildcat who can break free for a big gain and score.  Without Flanagan, CWU will have to win with Daniels and more passing attempts that they may be comfortable with from Kennedy McGill.  Last week, it was enough.  Could it be enough again this week if Flanagan is still out?    

Looking at this matchup, it’s hard to not be reminded of the CWU/Western Colorado game.  CWU faced a Western Colorado team that had a stronger offense than CWU and a defense that was roughly equal to CWU’s.  Well, Bemidji State’s profile isn’t too different from WCU – a stronger offense, a solid defense that gets in the backfield, and an offensive and defensive points per game average that isn’t too different from WCU as well.  So, I think the “doing the opposite” thing is going to apply here.  No, I’m not going to pick CWU in this one; I think Bemidji State is better on offense and will win what I think will be a defensive meat-grinder of a game.  I don’t think Alt has a spectacular game, but I think he will make the key plays BSU needs to win it.  Bemidji State by 10 points, but I am not going to  be surprised if the  opposite was true and CWU proves me wrong again.