No matter how this season ends up for the University of Mary, Saturday’s game against Minot State is a must win. The Marauders will travel to Herb Parker Stadium in Minot, N.D., and try to bring back home the Battle of the Big Lake traveling trophy after a three-year absence. There’s a lot on the line other than the trophy, both these NSIC North teams are looking for their first victory of the season. Here are four burning questions to get you geared up for Saturday’s 3 p.m. kickoff.
Is this a revenge game for UMary?
Yes but no, does that make sense? Listen, this 2018 team is miles different compared to the 2017 team. Every aspect of the Marauders football program has been flipped upside down and hopefully for the better. Yes, most of the players that played in the 27-19 loss a season ago are on the team but the coaching staff has changed. This is a new era for UMary. The Marauders aren’t going to feed of the revenge factor, however, a win against the Beavers will start a new trend which will add a new revenge factor going into the 2019 season. Different team, different mentality, different style but the same goal: win the game.
How good is Minot State quarterback Ben Bolinske?
Before Bolinske came to Minot State in 2017, he redshirted his first season at the University of North Dakota. He was named UND’s Offensive Scout of the Year and then came back home to Minot due to the large abundance of UND quarterbacks. It’s always interesting when a Division-I transfer drops back into Division-II ball because you may think that guy is going to tear up the league. That’s not always the case. Bolinske is still an underclassman (sophomore) but hasn’t had the hottest start to his Beavers career. It probably hasn’t helped Minot State has been outscored 91-19 in its first two games. The 6-foot-0 signal caller is 15 of 25 this year for 209 yards and zero touchdowns. On the ground, Bolinske has been effective with his 144 rushing yards and one touchdown. After splitting time with senior Andy Jones, Bolinske took all of the snaps in the second half against Northern State. If the Marauders can put pressure on the young gun, it could force Bolinske to throw some bad passes, which means turnovers for UMary.
Will this game feature two of the best punters in the NSIC?
Absolutely. UMary junior punter Bailey Meyer is second in the NSIC in punting average (45.1) and has five punts of 50 yards or longer. Minot State junior punter Jose Luis Moreno has an NSIC high six punts of 50 yards or longer and is fourth in punting average (43.8). Meyer and Moreno have combined for nine punts inside the 20-yard line. If there was ever a game to watch just because of special teams it would be this one.
UMary has played in two completely different games this season. A close one to open the year and a blowout loss last week. What will we see on Saturday?
I think we will see a much closer game Saturday compared to what happened to UMary last week against Bemidji State. Craig Bagnell is still getting used to his team and what they are capable of and he should feel confident going on the road. Minot State’s passing offense is at the bottom of the NSIC and its pass defense isn’t much better. The Marauders are right in the middle of the pack in both those categories and I give the advantage to the blue and orange. Even with the questions at quarterback, I think UMary walks away with this game and brings the trophy back to Bismarck. I think this will be a 27-20 type of game with UMary’s defense making multiple stops.