NSIC Week Three Preview - 2021

September 17th, 2021 7:00am

NSIC Week Three Preview - 2021

Week 3 Games


Games for Saturday, September 18


Minnesota State-Moorhead (1-1) at Augustana (2-0)

Moorhead got off to a great start a week ago, leading Winona State 13-0 just after halftime.  MSUM QB Tommy Falk threw for 393 yards and a few scores against WSU, but in the back half of the contest the Warriors got pressure on him leading to sacks and a very costly late turnover allowing Winona to battle back and steal the contest 27-13.  MSUM outgained the Warriors but simply wasn’t able to finish out the game when it had the chance.  Certainly, that’s part of being a younger squad. 

Augie had little trouble at UMary in a 43-20 win.  The game wasn’t as close as the score might indicate.  The Vikings jumped to a 30-7 lead by half, mixing the run and pass effectively.  The Augustana pass rush sacked Marauder quarterback Logan Nelson four times and the Vikings running game got a mix of backs involved, including lead dog Jarod Epperson going over 100 yards and 2 scores. 

Outlook:  I think Moorhead could be an opponent that’s worth concern for the top squads in the conference.  However, in watching the Dragons struggle to protect the passer against Winona, I think this will be much the same against an Augie front who’ll reach the quarterback quickly.  I’ll be interested to see how the Vikings offense does in this contest, seeing as they’ve had the easiest schedule possible in the NSIC with Minot and Mary to open the year.  If Augustana blows out Moorhead, it might suggest they are as good or better than anyone in the NSIC.  If they struggle, it might indicate otherwise.  I’m envisioning a game that’s close for 2-3 quarters, with Augie getting out by a few scores down the stretch. 

Prediction:  Augie 37-17

Minnesota-Duluth (2-0) at Winona State (2-0)

UMD is coming off as impressive a win seen in Duluth since the 2014 playoff victory over NWMSU.  The ‘Dogs got after Mankato in a hurry last week and held the Mavs to a shocking 10 points in the process.  I’ve said it before, but when John Larson is healthy, he’s the best signal-caller in the conference, period. Larson conducts the UMD offense with confidence and when he’s at the controls, they play as a confident football team. 

Winona State’s game a week ago was truly a tale of two halves.  The first found the Warriors down two scores to Moorhead and looking a bit out of sorts, unable to score.  After the break the Warriors took over and looked like the clear-cut better squad en route to victory. 

Outlook:  One of the tougher games to pick of the season.  This matchup in Winona has all the trappings of a let-down effort by Duluth after defeating their nemesis for the first time in a decade.  That’s why this one scares me for UMD.  On the other hand, UMD has had its way with Winona recently and seems like it might run the table in the conference now after slaying the dragon known as Mankato.  Winona has been a very unpredictable squad the entire time I’ve covered this conference.   I just cannot find myself picking them in this battle of upper tier NSIC teams.

Prediction:  UMD 24-17

Concordia-St. Paul (1-1) at Sioux Falls (1-1)

The Cougars had the get-right game at Minot that I was calling for and return home at 1-1.  QB Adam Mullen was a precise 18 of 22 for 192 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Pair that with USF netting over 200 yards on the ground, and the Cougars found efficiency with ball security.  Thuro Reisdorfer leads the NSIC in rushing but will also probably lead the league in workload as well.  If USF can mix run and pass and not become predictable with the inside running game, they have a chance to be one of the better offenses in the league. 

The Sioux Falls defense held Minot in-check, except for a one long score. I get the impression USF defense will be able to handle any of the mid-level offenses this fall, but I'll be interested how they hold up against some of the better offensive attacks like Northern and Augie in the coming weeks.  

A season ago the Cougars lost their opener as well, but in 2019 their defeat was at the hands of Concordia.  The Bears thumped USF 41-17 in a contest the Cougars surely haven’t forgotten. The 2021 Golden Bears don’t look a lot like that ’19 squad that upset USF. Instead, this is a team trying to figure things out offensively.  CSP put up just 24 points and 335 yards of offense against one of the NSIC’s worst defenses, which doesn’t give me the impression they are prolific.  Pair that with the 6 points they scored at Winona in week one, and this looks like a game USF should control.  Former superstar defender Chris Garrett who gave USF problems in the past is now playing for the Los Angeles Rams.  CSP certainly played better defensively a week ago against Upper Iowa, but it’s hard to forget their struggles in week one against Winona in their blowout loss. 

Outlook:  USF seems to know a little better who it is are on both sides of the football, while CSP is still finding an identity.  The Bears were going to be about running the football this season but have struggled to move the chains.  Frosh QB Conner Cordts has been solid as a game manager but is still getting sacked too often.  I like the Cougars to run the ball with success at home while limiting the Concordia offensive output. 

Prediction:  USF 31-14

Bemidji State (2-0) at Minnesota State-Mankato (1-1)

The Beavers are playing very well after two weeks and might be considered the surprise team of the NSIC.  Having Brandon Alt at the helm makes all the difference for this BSU squad.  He impacts the Beavers like John Larson does for Duluth.  Considering the injuries he’s battled through in his time at Bemidji, you can’t help but cheer for the guy and hope he stays healthy throughout the 2021 season. 

Last week BSU powered through Wayne State without injured star playmaking wideout Malik Williams.  I was surprised Alt threw for over 400 yards without Williams.  This speaks to the depth BSU has at wideout, but I’m sure they’d love to have Williams back in the lineup.  Heading into this contest at Mankato, I see Williams as a pivotal player.  The matchup problems he causes cannot be overstated.  I’m assuming his injury is minor as he’s listed as starter on the 2-deep and was dressed on the sideline, giving chest bumps to fellow wideouts after scores (as seen on the game video). 

The Mavs 30-10 setback at UMD is a clear sign this isn’t the MSU squad of the last few campaigns.  Personally, I feared this from the start of the year, not ranking them in our top 25 poll any higher than 7.  It felt to me like the Mavs had so many new parts and the meshing / learning process couldn’t quite be microwaved for weeks 1 and 2.  Having challenging opponents didn’t help, and the Mavs are surely using this as a teaching tool.  That said, this Mankato group must become more competent in the passing game as they’re struggling to complete half of their attempts.  The one area I figured they’d still be rock solid in is the running game but last week they were held under 100 yards.  I cannot recall the last time that happened.

Outlook:  Bemidji looks like a bad matchup for a Mankato squad still figuring things out.  The Beavers have the top passing game in the NSIC and are unafraid to take shots down the field.  This doesn’t bode well for an MSU squad that’s been susceptible to this very thing.  Having Malik Williams in the lineup is key for my assessment.  If he’s not playing, I’m up in the air on this game. 

I don’t think the BSU defense is the best in the league but seems to be among the top handful.  The Beavers slowed down the power USF inside run game and I’d expect them to employ the same approach here.  The last time the Beavers were at Mankato was 2016 and they won in shocking fashion, 45-17.  That was a year when Mankato was rebuilding and went 8-3.  While I don’t see BSU in a runaway by any means, I do like them in this return visit to Blakeslee in what could be a rebuilding campaign for the Mavs. 

Prediction:  Bemidji State 30-20

Minot State (0-2) at Wayne State (1-1)

Outside of a swing pass that went for a long score against USF, the Beavers have looked bad so far this season.  They’ve given up 49 points twice while lacking punch offensively. 

Wayne State is an interesting club.  The defense doesn’t look like it’s going to win them a lot of ballgames, but the offense is able to put points on the board thanks to slippery quarterback Tavian Willis. 

Outlook:  Give me the Wildcats at home against probably anybody in the lower half of the conference.  The Beavers must be thrilled they aren’t playing either of the Sioux Falls schools in week three, as their opening two weeks have been a tough slate. 

Prediction:  Wayne State 30-13

Mary (0-2) at Southwest Minnesota State (0-2)

Not sure this one is going to garner a lot of attention from those not directly involved.  I think SMSU is playing a little better defensively, while Mary has more firepower on offense. 

Outlook:  I’ll take UMary and the wideout tandem of Danny Kittner and Luke Little to make enough plays to win the day. 

Prediction:  UMary 33-30

Northern State (1-1) at Upper Iowa (0-2)

Upper Iowa struggled offensively for a second straight week, getting accustomed to a new signal-caller.  In a game where I thought they’d compete at Concordia, they didn’t show much signs of life in a 24-6 setback.  Things won’t get any easier for the Peacocks as Northern State comes to town.  The Wolves have shown well the first two contests, having a mild letdown in the first half a week ago versus SMSU, but finishing strong for a 30-13 victory.  NSU hasn’t hit stride in the running game but has been prolific in the passing game.  QB Hunter Troutman is averaging 320 yards per game through the air, tossing 7 scores. 

Outlook:  Northern State is playing with a bounce in its step this year and seems anxious for what lies ahead.  I’m not sure the Peacocks have that same feeling.  I’ll take Northern in a result similar to last week’s victory over Southwest. 

Prediction:  NSU 38-13