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College football: Minnesota West offense struggles in opening loss

BOTTINEAU, N.D. — Minnesota West’s defense played a solid game Saturday in the Bluejays’ season-opener at Dakota College. The problem was, it spent too much time on the field.

The Lumberjacks were able to take advantage of their opportunities and handed M-West a 22-9 MCAC loss.

“We got to the quarterback and got put pressure on them defensively,” said Bluejays head coach Jeff Linder. “As a head coach you don’t want to see your defense on the field as much as we were. And that goes back to our offense not being able to sustain drives.”

Minnesota West finished the game with just 133 yards of total offense. On the other side of the ball, Dakota State managed only 208. But the Bluejays never found the end zone with all of their scoring coming on special teams.

The good news, according to Linder, is that none of the issues with his team’s offense on Saturday are ones that can’t be worked out.

“We had opportunities, we just didn’t make plays,” he said. “We didn’t sustain or drives; had a lot of three-and-outs. Whether it was a breakdown in catching the ball or blocking, we couldn’t keep our drives going. But, everything we’ve seen on film and everything we saw on Saturday can be corrected.”

The home team came out of the tunnel fired up, putting 10 points on the board in the first quarter. With the offense struggling, the Jays got a big play from their special teams to dent their side of the scoreboard.

The Lumberjacks lined up to punt from their own 40-yard line. Minnesota West broke through and blocked the punt with first-year defensive back Aryl Cinevert there to scoop it up. He returned it 40 yards to pay dirt. Colin Brons was true on the extra point and the Bluejays were within three at 10-7.

That is where the score remained until late in the third quarter when Dakota finally started breaking through on a weary M-West defense. The Bluejays got two more points when Cinevert blocked an extra point and brought it all the way back, but aside from that, the Lumberjacks had things under control.

“We can’t be concerned about this because we can take care of what we need to fix,” Linder said. “The guys worked hard and played with discipline the whole game, we just need to get everybody on the same page. We have a young team and some of these things will show up when you have a young team. As we mature, those things will take care of themselves.”

Brons completed 13-of-35 passes for 91 yards for the Bluejays and had one interception that was returned for six. Tiras Bolton caught four passes for 20 yards with Luverne-native Colin Kunkell making one catch for 35 yards. Anthony Love led the rushing attack with 17 yards on seven carries.

Rick Thomas got in on 17 tackles to lead the defense. Dan DeVivo and Tyree Bel had one and a half sacks each with Tyler Knox getting to the quarterback once.

Elsewhere in MCAC action, Rochester Community and Technical College defeated Vermillion 43-12, M State took down Fon du Lac 22-19 and North Dakota State College of Science beat Itasca 61-12. The Bluejays travel to Cloquet to take on Fon du Lac at noon on Saturday.

M-West 0 7 2 0 — 9

Dakota 10 0 12 0 — 22

Zach Hacker

Zach is the Daily Globe sports reporter. He has previously been a sports editor at both the Waseca County News in Waseca, Minn., and The Emporia Gazette in Emporia, Kansas. He is originally from New Richland, Minn., and now lives in Worthington with his dog; a beagle-corgi mix named Homer. In his spare time he enjoys spending time with family and friends, pontooning on St. Olaf Lake and watching professional and collegiate sports.

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