On October 10, 1941, Americans were eagerly anticipating the release of the Walt Disney movie “Dumbo,” Schlitz beer was a favorite beverage of choice and Minnesota Duluth, then the Duluth State Teachers College, played its games at Public Schools Stadium.
That was also the last time Bemidji State won a game in the Zenith City.
That is, until Saturday, Oct. 23, 2021, when the Beavers scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to stun the 16th ranked Bulldogs 42-35 before 3,671 at Malosky Stadium.
Sophomore quarterback Brandon Alt led the way by going 20-for-40 passing for 269 yards and six touchdowns.
“It’s been long overdue if you’re a Beavers fan, so I’m glad we got this one,” said Bemidji State coach Brent Bolte.
Bolte has been with the program 21 years and has been the head coach since 2016, so you don’t have to remind him of all the coulda woulda shouldas when it comes to losing in Duluth. That included a 26-19 loss in double overtime in 2018 at Malosky Stadium.
“We try to downplay the references to World War II over in Bemidji,” Bolte said. “I’m sick of hearing about it, so yes, that’s one I’m glad that’s one I don’t have to hear anything more about. It got old, but every week, it’s hard to win in this league, and I think everybody understands that.”
The loss also snapped UMD’s 18-game winning streak over the Beavers, home and away, going back to Oct. 23, 1999 — 22 years to the day of Saturday’s game.
“I’ve got a ton of respect for UMD,” Bolte said. “We certainly felt like we had some teams that could have won one of those in the past, but you got to give them credit. They find ways to win.”
This time, it’s like the Bulldogs found ways to lose.
Quarterback Logan Graetz, playing the bulk of the time under center as senior John Larson continues to work his way back from injury, was 24-for-35 passing for 261 yards and two touchdowns to lead UMD (6-2), but the freshman fumbled with 61 seconds remaining and Bemidji State (6-2) ran out the clock.
That capped a frustrating ending for the Bulldogs, who turned the ball over four times on two fumbles and two interceptions, in addition to getting a punt blocked that set up Bemidji State’s game-winning touchdown. The Beavers turned it over three times on two interceptions and a fumble in what turned out to be a game with huge momentum swings.
For UMD, it was a head-scratcher. The Bulldogs had 332 yards at the half, 418 through three quarters and 432 for the game, meaning an offense that had been electric suddenly became unplugged, mustering just 14 yards in the final quarter.
“We stalled out,” UMD coach Curt Wiese said. “We needed the field to flip in the fourth quarter, but we couldn’t get out of our end and defensively, they had us on our heels. You have to hand it to them.
“We had an opportunity in the first half of that game (to bury them), but we turned the ball over twice in the red zone, and in a close game, that hurts.”
Alt’s favorite target was senior Malik Williams, who caught 10 passes for 176 yards and three touchdowns for the Beavers. That included the game-winner from 33 yards out with 4 minutes remaining where Williams broke a tackle and then broke ankles, causing two defenders to whiff en route to the end zone. That capped Bemidji State’s rally from being down 35-21 entering the fourth quarter.
“I was just trying to make a play,” Williams said. “The game was tied up and I just knew we needed a play. I just had to go out there and be a guy for the team, and that’s what I did. I knew there was a (defensive) player there, I felt him, but the game was on the line and I had to make something happen.”
Williams sure doesn’t go down easy.
“No sir,” said Williams, who had 77 of his 176 yards coming after contact.
Armani Carmickle caught 10 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns for the Bulldogs while Cazz Martin rushed 13 times for 131 yards and two more scores.
“We knew Bemidji was a good football team, and we knew we’d be in for a fight,” Wiese said. “Our guys played hard all game. We got beat.”
The way Wiese faces the proverbial music, without sugarcoating, helps one understand why Bolte has so much respect for him. Wiese even helped cool off tensions afterward as some late-game chippiness and emotion spilled over after the game had ended. Wiese put an end to it in simple and straightforward fashion, telling a Bemidji State player, “The game is over.” The player listened.
The Beavers spent extended time on the field afterward, soaking it all in. If they had stayed any longer, they could have pitched tents and fired up the grill. This was a party, unfortunately, at the Bulldogs’ expense.
“I don’t want to leave,” linebacker Jaylen Jenkins said.
Bolte did a Jim Mora when asked about the playoffs, but it sure will be interesting when the first regional football rankings come out next week.
Bolte was asked, “At one point did you know you had it?”
“Right about the time the clock hit zero,” Bolte said. “There’s been so much craziness that’s occurred since World War II, so we just wanted to make sure we got it. It was fun. It was a good day for us. Like I said, I’ve got a ton of respect for Curt and crew over there and they’ll bounce back, but for us, it’s fun to get this monkey off our back. Finally.”
Bemidji State 7-7-7-21—42
Minn. Duluth 7-14-14-0—35
UMD — Armani Carmickle 18 pass from Logan Graetz (Curt Cox kick), 5:57
BSU — Malik Williams 59 pass from Brandon Alt (Mason Hoffer kick), 5:13
UMD — Cazz Martin 27 run (Cox kick), 9:18
UMD — Martin 69 run (Cox kick), 3:26
BSU — Brendan Beaulieu 6 pass from Brandon Alt (Hoffer kick), :05
UMD — Byron Bynum 3 pass from John Larson (Cox kick), 6:24
BSU — Williams 29 pass from Alt (Hoffer kick), 3:42
UMD — Carmickle 26 pass from Graetz (Cox kick), 1:54
BSU — Beaulieu 23 pass from Alt (Hoffer kick), 13:16
BSU — Dhel Duncan-Busby 16 pass from Alt (Hoffer kick), 9:18
BSU — Williams 33 pass from Alt (Hoffer kick), 4:00
First downs 21 23
Rushes-yards 38-108 37-158
Passing yards 269 274
Comp-Att-Int 20-41-2 26-41-2
Kick returns-yards 6-114 5-85
Punts-avg 7-33.0 7-36.0
Fumbles-lost 1-1 2-2
Penalties-yards 7-76 12-130
Time of possession 25:54 34:06
RUSHING — BSU, Makaio Harn 22-84, Sage Booker 8-25, Sam McGath 3-11, Team 3-(-4), Alt 2-(-8). UMD, Martin 13-131, Wade Sullivan 14-56, Daniel Mitchell 1-5, Garrett Olson 1-1, Bynum 1-(-3), Larson 1-(-3), Graetz 5-(-29).
PASSING — BSU, Alt 20-40-269-6, McGath 0-1-0-0. UMD, Graetz 24-35-261-2, Olson 1-3-10-0, Larson 1-1-3-1, Johnny McCormick 0-1-0-0, Sullivan 0-1-0-0.
RECEIVING — BSU, Williams 10-176, Duncan-Busby 4-34, Beaulieu 2-29, Brady Bartz 1-13, Michael Wandmaker 1-10, Andrew Manuele 1-6, Harn 1-1. UMD, Carmickle 10-132, Sam Pitz 1-58, Bynum 6-32, McCormick 1-12, Dane Lew 3-11, Larson 1-10, Sullivan 2-8, Martin 1-6, Cooper Yeary 1-5.