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FOOTBALL: Run game powering BSU into Highway 2 matchup

BEMIDJI -- Not many rushing units around college football have had the kind of start Bemidji State has had.

Led by senior Andrew Lackowski and the triumvirate of redshirt freshman Jalen Frye and true freshmen Sage Booker and Sherrod Kpahn, the Beavers (2-0, 2-0 NSIC North) are up to third in the nation with 348 rushing yards per game.

And for the first time in program history, BSU boasted two 100-yard rushers in each of the team’s first two games. Booker and Frye combined to rush for 290 of the team’s 422 yards in last week’s 66-0 road win over University of Mary, with Lackowski and Frye teaming up for 250 of the team’s 274 yards in week one’s 38-17 win over Northern State.

Kpahn also made a significant second-half contribution last week by scoring two touchdowns on 52 rushing yards. Lackowski was sidelined due to injury in week two, but BSU is hoping to get him back soon.

“Right now they look pretty good on a piece of paper. It’s fun to see,” head coach Brent Bolte said of the freshmen. “... They’re gifted, they all bring different things to the table. Sage had a really great week last week running the ball. He’s fluid and he can go out and catch the ball in the backfield. Sherrod’s just like a wild stallion. He just runs right wherever he goes. There’s not much following the holes, he just runs hard all over the place.”

The Beaver offense, up to fifth in the country with 52 points per game, will be guided by a different starter at quarterback in Saturday’s Shrine Game against Minnesota Crookston.

Redshirt freshman Brandon Alt left last Saturday’s game late in the second quarter due to a knee injury and will not play.

Stepping up to start will be junior Jared Henning, who completed six of seven pass attempts for 56 yards and a touchdown after entering last week. True freshman Alec Ogden is also expected to see playing time.

Henning, who has quick legs himself, said his teammates in the backfield will help him ease into the role.

“It makes it so much easier,” Henning said. “When you have a strong run game it makes the pass game so much easier…. The O-line is what starts it all. All the credit to them. And then having that four-headed monster back there right now -- three-headed, and then when (Lackowski) comes back it’s going to be deadly.”

The “Gang Green” defense isn’t looking too shabby either.

The unit ranks ninth in the nation with 8.5 points allowed per game, and posted its second shutout in as many seasons last week.

“It’s means we’re strong and we’re on the right track to where we want to go,” said senior safety Gunner Olszewski. “I think it was just finally coming together.”

Olszewski and the defense will go for another shutout over the Golden Eagles (0-2, 0-2 NSIC North) when this year’s edition of the Highway 2 rivalry game kicks off at 4 p.m. BSU topped UMC 56-0 last season in Crookston.

In 25 all-time meetings, the Beavers are 23-2 against their rivals from down Highway 2. They’ll look to keep the Hub Cap for the fifth straight season with a victory today.

“I’ve had it my whole career here,” Olszewski said, “and I don’t plan on giving it away.”

If you go

Who: BSU vs. Minnesota Crookston (Shrine Game)

Where: Chet Anderson Stadium

When: 4 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 15

Radio/TV: Beaver Radio Network/92.1 FM; KBSU Ch. 17

Austin Monteith

Austin Monteith is a sports reporter for the Bemidji Pioneer. He is an Illinois native and a Butler University graduate. Follow him on Twitter @amonteith92.

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