MOORHEAD, Minn. -- In an absolutely absurd Homecoming affair, MSU Moorhead piled up 53 points in less than 17 minutes of possession as the Dragons roasted Sioux Falls 53-40.
The victory is the first time MSUM has defeated Sioux Falls in each of the program's histories.
Sioux Falls would strike first as the Cougars would quickly implement a simple game plan: keep the ball away from the Dragon offense. The Cougars would score on a 10-play drive that spanned 50 yards and resulted in a Camden Dean passing touchdown. Sioux Falls would stop the Dragons on their first few offensive drives to retain momentum throughout the first 15 minutes.
This held true as Sioux Falls drove down to the Dragon six-yard line in hopes of making the contest a 14-0 affair. Instead, Josiah Behm picked off a pass from Dean at the two-yard-line and returned it 98 yards for MSUM's first touchdown. The play ties the longest interception return in school history, which was previously held by Eric Schaumburg on November 8, 2008 against Southwest Minnesota State. MSUM would miss the ensuing extra point with the Cougars leading 7-6 after one quarter of play.
MSUM would gain their first lead of the game early in the second quarter as Jack Strandfound a returning Ryan Bieberdorf for a six-yard score. The touchdown capped off a quick five-play drive for the Dragons. Sioux Falls would respond to regain the lead at 14-13 with the half dwindling. That Cougar drive spanned 11 plays and nearly six minutes of game time. The Dragons would swiftly respond, driving 54 yards in four plays with Strand again finding Bieberdorf, this time for a 26-yard pitch and catch. Sioux Falls would come right back and drive 75 yards on six plays to score with one second remaining in the half. At the break, the Cougars led 21-20 as Sioux Falls possessed the ball for nearly 25 of the half's 30 minutes.
The Dragons would receive the opening kickoff in the second half and would make quick work of the entire field. MSUM drove 76 yards on seven plays in just under three minutes of play. Once again, Strand dished out a pass to Bieberdorf for his third touchdown of the game, giving MSUM a 27-21 lead. The Dragon defense would hold firm on a fourth and one play on the ensuing Cougar drive to give MSUM the ball back. Strand and the offense only needed four plays to score, as the sensational sophomore would connect with Gage Florence for a 32-yard touchdown pass. The score also gave MSUM some needed breathing room, leading 33-21.
Sioux Falls would score on their next drive to continue to put the pressure on the Dragon offense, but the potency of MSUM was downright unstoppable all afternoon. The Dragons quickly took the ball 49 yards on six plays with a Tyson Powell goal-line run adding on another score for MSUM. A 42-yard connection between Strand and Madden Thorsonhelped the Dragons move the ball quickly. After three quarters, MSUM led 40-28.
The two teams would trade interceptions to begin the final quarter as Jacob Brosiuspicked off Dean thanks to a tip at the line by Hayden Carr. Strand would throw an interception on the next play to give Sioux Falls the ball right back. MSUM's defense would force a Cougar punt and would gain favorable field position for the next drive. That drive lasted all but 69 seconds with MSUM driving 50 yards and Strand finding Bieberdorf for his fourth touchdown reception of the contest.
The drive pushed the senior past the 2,000 yard receiving milestone for his career while his four receiving touchdowns tied the single-game MSUM school record. Bieberdorf nows sits alongside Dragon greats Damon Gibson (Oct. 24, 2016 v. UMC), Bruce Green (Nov. 4, 2006 v. UMC), Chad Davis (Nov. 15, 2003 v. WSC) and Rick Manke (Nov. 11, 1972 v. WSU) as the only student-athletes to catch four touchdowns in a single game in MSUM history. The score also ballooned the MSUM lead to 47-28.
Sioux Falls would score another touchdown on the ensuing drive, but would miss a two-point conversion opportunity with the score 47-34. To cap the day on the next Dragon drive, Strand would link up with a wide open Florence for a 67-yard touchdown pass. The score was Strand's sixth touchdown score of the game, which ties the MSUM single-game record held by Jon Frykman (Nov. 15, 2003 v. WSC). Strand also became the fifth Dragon quarterback to have multiple games with five or more passing touchdowns in the same season (Frykman, Demetrius Carr, Jake Hodge, Dustin Long).
While the Cougars would score before the game ended, it was MSUM who fully commanded the game, winning 53-40. The Dragons racked up 50 or more points for the second time this season despite Sioux Falls running 57 more plays than MSUM (105-48). The Cougars possessed the ball for nearly 44 minutes of the contest as the Dragons did not eclipse 17 minutes of possession time.
Jack Strand: 20-30, 428 yards, six touchdowns
Ryan Bieberdorf: Six receptions, 137 yards, four receiving touchdowns
Gage Florence: Six receptions, 135 yards, two receiving touchdowns
Josiah Behm: Eight tackles, one interception, one touchdown
Adam Kallenbach: 13 tackles, pass breakup
Tate Gustafson: 12 tackles, one tackle for loss
Jared Kallenbach: 11 tackles, pass breakup
Jake Bettcher: Six tackles, one interception, two pass breakups
MSUM (4-3, 3-3 NSIC) is back on the road for a tilt with Southwest Minnesota State on Saturday, October 21. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m. with game coverage available on AM 1100 The Flag.
This article was written by MSUM's Nolan Schmidt