Sep. 17—The two non-conference games have been completed and the Dickinson State Blue Hawks are still searching for their first win.
It's the first time Dickinson State has started a season 0-2 since 2014.
The Blue Hawks will be back on the road this week as they take on fellow North Star Athletic Association foe Mayville State to begin conference play.
Saturday, Sept. 18 — Dickinson State Blue Hawks (0-2) @ Mayville State Comets (0-3), Jerome Berg Field, Mayville, ND, 12:00 p.m. MST.
LAST TIME OUT
Dickinson State played their first home game last Saturday against Montana-Western and suffered another loss to the Bulldogs 42-30. Montana-Western have never lost to the Blue Hawks, improving their record to 4-0 against the North Dakota side.
Dickinson State were in control in the first half, at one point holding a 23-7 lead, scoring 20 unanswered points.
Touchdowns from junior running backs Alec Lovegren and Riley Linder and two from senior quarterback Drew Boedecker — one rushing and one passing — paced the Blue Hawks early on.
But the Bulldogs didn't let Dickinson State get too far ahead as they answered with a pair of touchdowns from the arm of their quarterback Jon Jund.
The lack of an effective running game proved to be detrimental for the home side as they were shutout in the second half after having a 30-21 lead at the break.
Montana-Western scored 21 unanswered points as the Blue Hawks' offense stalled. They had just 77 yards on the ground at just over 2 yards per rush. It was a similar amount against Black Hills State the week before, when they finished with 72 yards.
The Bulldogs had their struggles on the ground as well. After having 246 yards in his first two games, running back Reese Neville had 94 yards, but needed 23 rushes to get there.
It was more about the aerial attack for Montana-Western, who had only four players with a reception, but each of them had more than 65 yards. Wide Receiver Trey Mounts was the favorite target for Jund, catching 13 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown.
Montana-Western scored two touchdowns in the third and one in the fourth as they pulled away from Dickinson State. Their victory improved their record to 2-1 and earned them a spot in the most recent NAIA Top 25 poll, clocking in at No. 23. Dickinson State fell out of the top 25 poll, earning just 12 votes total.
Jund finished with 331 yards and four touchdowns, but also threw three interceptions. The Blue Hawks' defense has four interceptions on the season, two coming from freshman defensive backs Jayden Heartwell and Deavon Crawford.
"We've got some guys out there that are able to make those plays," Dickinson State head coach Pete Stanton said. "They're athletic guys. What's hurt us is we've had time where the ball didn't stay in front of us and we've given up big plays, whether it's the running backs swinging out from the backfield or a guy coming downfield. We have to prevent those."
While their ball-hawking skills have flashed early on, they've been a part of a unit that has allowed 306 passing yards per game and 72 points combined through two games.
Boedecker finished with 299 yards through the air, his second straight week surpassing the 275 mark, but was injured late in the game and it remains to be seen if he'll be able to go on Saturday.
Stanton said he is confident Boedecker will be able to go on Saturday, but is uncertain how much he could play. That could lead to increased playing time for junior Aaron White, who has seen action in both games this season in a limited capacity, compiling 159 yards and two touchdowns.
THIS WEEKS OPPONENT
Like Dickinson State, Mayville State is looking for their first win of the season. They've lost the first three games of their season, including a blowout loss to South Dakota Mines 52-7.
The Comets struggled mightily against the Division II side, managing only 78 yards of offense, including just 13 yards on the ground at 0.3 yards per attempt. Mayville State got two first downs and averaged 1.4 yards per play.
Having an offensive output that low won't be hard to top, which is what they did in the two games prior. Against Roosevelt on August 28, the Comets had 570 yards of offense in a 37-32 loss. The next week against Division III opponent Wisconsin-Stevens Point, they had 235 yards.
The Comets are led by freshman quarterback Tim Salmon who is averaging 282 yards per game, a top-15 mark in the NAIA, with 6 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. His favorite target has been freshman wide receiver Javeion Davison, who has big play potential every time he touches the ball.
He has only 10 catches on the year, but has amassed 325 yards in three games, averaging 32 yards per reception. Davison has three touchdowns as well, each coming from more than 45 yards out. Against Roosevelt, he had 5 receptions for 216 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Outside of Davison, the next best receiver has just 103 yards as the Comets have struggled to get their passing game on point, completing only 50% of their passes. But the lack of production outside of Davison isn't something the Blue Hawks are taking lightly.
"They're a dangerous team," Stanton said. "They have a lot of great athletes and the best receiving core we'll see in terms of speed. We know we're going to have to play well and be hungry to get a win."
The running game hasn't been much better, averaging 61 yards per game. Freshman Mason Ollman leads the way with 34 rushes for 122 yards and a touchdown.
On defense Mayville State gives up 460 yards per game, which is a better mark than Dickinson State, who has allowed 493 yards per game. The Comets also give up 40 points per game.
One of the bright spots has been their ability to force fumbles, recovering five through three games.
Mayville State's head coach is Rocky Larson, who is in his second season in charge of the Comets, moving over from Wisconsin-River Falls after spending four years as the defensive coordinator for the Falcons.
Last year the Comets went 2-7 with a 1-6 record in conference play.
The Blue Hawks have seen Mayville State plenty of times over the past ten years. It's a series that has been dominated by Dickinson State, holding a 14-1 record over the Comets since their first meeting in 2009, including a current 11-game win streak. The last meeting between the two conference foes ended in a blowout victory for the Blue Hawks on the road 37-7.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Get running game back on track — The running game for the Blue Hawks has yet to fully arrive this season, and this matchup could be one where Dickinson State gets it going. In last years' 37-7 win, they had 230 yards on the ground with a well balanced attack. Mayville State allows just under 250 yards per game on the ground, ninth-worst in the NAIA. The Blue Hawks have faced some tough run-stopping units so far, but if there was a week to jumpstart the running game, this is it.
"They're a different team as far as the way they play on defense, they give you a lot of looks," Stanton said. "But that's definitely a goal, working hard to improving our run (offense)."
Limit big plays — If there is a dangerous element to Mayville State's offense, it's their big play ability. As previously mentioned, Davison has the potential to score each time he touches the ball. But outside of him, it's relatively quiet in terms of home run hitters, so stopping Davison will be key to setting the table defensively for the Blue Hawks.
Keep up aerial attack — If Boedecker is unable to go or plays in a limited capacity, White will have some big shoes to fill. Boedecker currently sits at 11th in the NAIA with 285 passing yards per game. It will be his job to keep the offense flowing but will have plenty of help from his receivers. The Blue Hawks have three receivers averaging over 85 yards per game, led by junior Conor McCarvel with 103 per game. White's limited playing time this season gives him a good chance to have similar success to Boedecker. Between Boedecker and White, Dickinson State averages 377 yards per game in the air, fifth-best in the NAIA.
Continue series dominance — Just two years ago in 2019, Dickinson State put up 79 points against the Comets. They haven't lost to Mayville State since 2011, and even that game was close, a 15-14 loss. The Blue Hawks will want to keep their winning ways against Mayville State and extend their current 11-game win streak in conference play. Both teams will be desperate to get their first win of the season.