By Brad Blume
Sports Information Director
South Dakota School of Mines
RAPID CITY --- With three games in the books for the 2006 season, the South Dakota School of Mines football team finally gets to start Dakota Athletic Conference play Saturday on road trip to North Dakota. The Hardrockers are slated to take on the Minot State Beavers in a 1 p.m. outing.
The Rockers find themselves in a similar situation this week as they did the previous --- heading to North Dakota to face a winless team. The Beavers are 0-3 on the season after dropping a 6-2 decision to Black Hills State Sept. 16. The Hardrockers come into the game after falling to the then 0-2 Dickinson State Blue Hawks. The Hawks got off to an early lead and took advantage of a few short-field opportunities to win the bout, 33-7.
Minot has also lost games to Rocky Mountain College (Mont.), 27-23, and to Bemidji State (Minn.), 30-9.
“They have traditionally been a good solid defensive team that run a lot of even fronts,” said Hardrocker head coach Dan Kratzer of the Beavers. “Offensively they are a no-huddle spread (team) and they have been a quick-throw spread (team). They always have a decent running game.”
But the team has had a few injuries at some key positions, so Minot may have to rely on a few younger, inexperienced players to fill those spots.
“I think they are struggling a little bit on offense this year, but the fact is that they have played some pretty good defensive teams this year,” Kratzer added.
The Beavers’ offense, just like the Hardrockers offense, is piloted by a freshman. Where SDSMT has seen some impressive things out of Jason Beilstein (Lodi, Calif.), Minot has had some difficulty with its signal caller --- Jon Meier (Regent, N.D.).
“That puts us on more of a level playing field from that particular position,” Kratzer said.
The coach added that one of the plans for the game is to get some pressure on Meier and create some opportunities for the Hardrockers.
“We have to put a little pressure on their young quarterback so that he can make mistakes,” Kratzer said. “He’s thrown some picks this year and I think we are in a position where we can be on the receiving end of a couple more of those this week. If we do, that turnover ratio is going to be really big in the outcome of the game.”
The Beavers though are a fairly quick-paced offense with the no-huddle system and plays coming in quickly from the sideline. It will be important for Mines to stay on their toes.
“From a defensive standpoint we have to be prepared every play,” the coach said. “We have to be ready to respond to that kind of situation.”
Where they lack in offense, the Beavers make up in defense. Minot is extremely strong is in their defensive front. The Beavers have a very good ‘D’ line in senior tackle Chase Spenser and senior noseguard Tommy Molio’o
“That’s going to be their stronghold right now,” Kratzer said. “Obviously last week’s 6-2 ball game was just an indication of what two good defensive teams can do.”
Looking at Saturday’s game, the Hardrockers may find themselves at an advantage, playing their standard offensive scheme.
“We are a spread flex offense. If that fits better into what we can do effectively in what we do against this kind of defense then that is just a plus for us,” Kratzer said. Kratzer also stressed that for Mines to be effective, his team has to execute effectively and then should be a more well rounded team.
In the Dickinson game, Kratzer said he wanted to get more production out of his freshman running back John Henderson (Los Angeles, Calif.). Henderson rushed 25 times for 78 yards, which was quite a feat considering the pounding defense of Dickinson.
This week Kratzer wants Beilstein to be more effective.
“I think we want to get better production out of our quarterback this week. He wasn’t quite as productive last week --- but that was based on the team we were playing,” Krazter said. “Dickinson did some things that didn’t allow us to get the ball down field. We want to be able to do that (this week) and have him more apart of the offense.”
That should also benefit the receiving unit, in particular top wide out Lukas Munsell. The junior from Mills, Wyo., paces the Hardrockers with16 catches on the season for 186 yards and a touchdown. Look for Beilstein and Munsell to hook up on Saturday.
The only glaring flaw last week was in the punting game. SDSMT had a couple kicks in the Dickinson game that didn’t net a lot of yards and gave the Blue Hawks a very short field to work with. Addressing that issue has been a priority for the Hardrocker team and the coaching staff has remedied the situation.
“What you do is to try to find solutions to your problems and we have done that,” Kratzer said. “There were about four athletes that we recruited that had punted and kicked in high school. We pulled a couple out of the closet and I think you will see an improved kicking game this week.”
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