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College football: UMD doesn’t miss a beat with Walljasper at quarterback

Bulldogs bulldoze Golden Bears for second straight NSIC rout as Cloquet’s Tim Pokornowski fills in as the team’s placekicker.

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Minnesota Duluth quarterback Kyle Walljasper turns the quarter on a touchdown run against Concordia-St. Paul on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 at Sea Foam Stadium in St. Paul.
Justin Oakman photo
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ST. PAUL — Minnesota Duluth quarterback Kyle Walljasper was handed a white envelope Saturday shortly after the Bulldogs’ 53-7 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference victory over Concordia-St. Paul.

It contained a medical bill for a hamstring injury Walljasper suffered earlier in the season.

Congratulations on the win, Mr. Walljasper, now pay up.

“That’s about it,” Walljasper said, laughing.

Walljasper deserves a little slack after the freshman turned in another stellar performance in leading UMD to its second straight NSIC rout before 2,446 at Sea Foam Stadium.

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Walljasper finished 11-for-16 passing for 132 yards and two touchdowns, the first passing touchdowns of his career, while adding 12 carries for 67 yards and another score as the Bulldogs (5-2) won their third straight.

Walljasper had previously been used as a run-first quarterback this season but that changed Saturday when starter Garrett Olson injured his throwing hand early in the second quarter. Olson, who could be seen throwing a football on the sideline after the injury, didn’t return, in a move that was considered largely precautionary.

“No. 12 (Walljasper) does a good job, and we couldn’t stop the run, so the quarterback wasn’t really needed,” Golden Bears coach Shannon Currier said. “They’ve been playing what, three or four quarterbacks all year, so I’m not sure we even look at that guy (Olson) being the starter. Each brings a different dimension to the game. They interchange them without missing a beat.”

Walljasper was asked what UMD coach Curt Wiese said to him after Olson went out.

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Minnesota Duluth's Zach Wallace tackles Concordia-St. Paul quarterback Conner Cordts for a sack during their game on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 at Sea Foam Stadium in St. Paul.
Justin Oakman photo

“Nothing,” Walljasper said. “He knows that I’m ready. Whatever they want me to do, I’ll do it, even throw the ball a little bit.”

Indeed, Walljasper showed he isn’t one-dimensional even if his career passing numbers coming in were only 1-of-6 for 29 yards, with that one completion coming in last week’s 49-14 NSIC home victory over Mary.

“Kyle played really well today,” Wiese said. “He’s had the ability to throw all along and today we had the opportunity to take some of the running plays off his plate and confidently open up the playbook with him. His demeanor as a quarterback is a real attribute. He’s super calm, very intelligent and moves well in the pocket, and today, he was able to put the ball on target to his receivers.”

Concordia (0-7), which came in with the fifth-toughest strength of schedule in NCAA Division II football, had played teams tough but was clearly no match in this one.

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UMD led 19-0 at halftime after amassing 339 yards to only 21 for the Golden Bears (0-7), who had no passing yards in the first half on six attempts.

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Minnesota Duluth's Harrison Kielar holds the ball aloft as he crosses the goal line to complete an interception return for a touchdown during the game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022 vs. Concordia-St. Paul at Sea Foam Stadium in St. Paul.
Justin Oakman photo

“It was very tough,” Currier said. “We just got dominated on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the football. We didn’t play our best football. They capitalized on our inability to move the football on offense and we couldn’t slow them down on defense, so all around, it was disappointing.”

Senior running back Wade Sullivan, who had a game-high 100 rushing yards on just seven carries, opened the scoring in the second half with a 56-yard touchdown run. The Bulldogs then put the game away with 20 points in the third quarter as Walljasper added a 19-yard TD toss to Zach Ojile and Levon Bellemy scampered in from two yards out.

Concordia backup quarterback Bryce Sievers connected on a 42-yard touchdown pass late in the third quarter to Texas native Dion Green for his first collegiate touchdown. That snapped the Golden Bears’ streak of six straight scoreless quarters going back to last week’s 44-0 loss at Bemidji State.

Saturday’s performance should certainly help quiet any doubters as Walljasper said he heard plenty of chirping from the Concordia sideline.

“They kept saying Q-run (for quarterback run) every time I was in there,” Walljasper said. “It didn’t bother me. Winning does the talking.”

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Byron Bynum of Minnesota Duluth leaps over a defender on the way to scoring a touchdown in the first quarter of the game against Concordia-St. Paul on Oct. 15, 2022 at Sea Foam Stadium.
Justin Oakman photo

Pokornowski fills in at placekicker

While UMD didn’t need a punter — the Bulldogs never punted Saturday — they did need a kicker.

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In addition to Olson, UMD lost kicker Curt Cox in the first half to what Wiese called an “upper-body injury.” Later, in the third quarter, junior linebacker Drew Hennessey, who leads the Bulldogs with six quarterback sacks, was helped off the field by a pair of teammates, using his right leg gingerly.

“Both those guys are getting evaluated tomorrow, so we’ll take it day by day,” Wiese said.

With Cox out, UMD went for two points after touchdowns and then had inside linebacker Brad Dati do squib kickoffs.

But then Wiese asked his team who could kick, and starting safety Tim Pokornowski raised his hand. The Bulldogs sent Pokornowski out early at halftime to work on kicks, and the Cloquet product responded by going 4-for-4 on extra-point kicks in the second half.

Pokornowski, a high school quarterback who also plays baseball for the Bulldogs, also handled kickoffs and played as a punt return man at the end, to give other guys a rest, showing even more of his versatility.

“Wow,” Wiese said. “Maybe special teams player of the week for Tim Pokornowski. Tim is an all-around athlete, as we know. He had never kicked before (in college).”

UMD backup kicker Jared Van Watermuelen, a freshman, didn’t make the bus trip to St. Paul.

“We’re limited on the road on who we can bring, so we only brought one kicker, and generally a kicker is a guy who is going to stay healthy,” Wiese said. “We didn’t have a backup plan.”

Wiese smiled and then said, “Now we do.”

Minnesota Duluth 7-12-20-14—53

Concordia-St. Paul 0-0-7-0—7

First Quarter

UMD — Byron Bynum 6 run (Curt Cox kick), 9:02

Second Quarter

UMD — Kyle Walljasper 3 run (pass failed), 9:45UMD — Kurtis Weigand 6 pass from Walljasper (pass failed), 1:59

Third Quarter

UMD — Wade Sullivan 56 run (pass failed), 10:17UMD — Zach Ojile 19 pass from Walljasper (Tim Pokornowski kick), 7:29

UMD — Levon Bellemy 2 run (Pokornowski kick), 5:42CSP — Dion Green 42 pass from Bryce Sievers (Sam Henson kick), 3:51

Fourth Quarter

UMD — Harrison Kielar 24 interception return (Pokornowski kick), 10:41

UMD — Cameron Miller 7 run (Pokornowski kick), 5:35

UMD CSP

First downs................................34 8

Rushes-yards.........................51-304 22-49

Passing yards ..........................269 112

Comp-Att-Int.......................23-33-0 7-23-1

Kick returns-yards...................1-28 8-126

Punts-avg...............................0-0.0 5-37.8

Fumbles-lost..............................3-1 3-3

Time of possession................42:28 17:32

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING — UMD, Sullivan 7-100, Chamere Thomas 13-78, Walljasper 12-67, Daniel Mitchell 9-21, Garrett Olson 2-19, Miller 1-7, Bynum 1-6, Logan Graetz 1-5, Bellemy 3-4, Team 2-(3). CSP, Jaylin Richardson 6-21, Troy Ellison 2-17, Jaire Moore 6-6, Sievers 3-5, Connor Cordts 4-1, Gayflor Flomo 4-(-1).

PASSING — UMD, Walljasper 11-16-2-132, Olson 9-12-0-106. CSP, Sievers 5-11-1-78, Cordts 2-12-0-34.

RECEIVING — UMD, Armandi Carmickle 7-81, Cooper Yeary 4-35, Ojile 3-52, Weigand 3-30, DaShaun Ames 2-27, Sullivan 3-23, Bynum 1-21. CSP, Ellison 2-15, Green 1-42, Jack Munsterteiger 1-32, Drew Enke 1-13, Daniel Hornacek 1-6, Jaheim Arnold 1-4.

Jon Nowacki joined the News Tribune in August 1998 as a sports reporter. He grew up in Stephen, Minnesota, in the northwest corner of the state, where he was actively involved in school and sports and was a proud member of the Tigers’ 1992 state championship nine-man football team.

After graduating in 1993, Nowacki majored in print journalism at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, serving as editor of the college paper, “The Aquin,” and graduating with honors in December 1997. He worked with the Associated Press during the “tobacco trial” of 1998, leading to the industry’s historic $206 billion settlement, before moving to Duluth.

Nowacki started as a prep reporter for the News Tribune before moving onto the college ranks, with an emphasis on Minnesota Duluth football, including coverage of the Bulldogs’ NCAA Division II championships in 2008 and 2010.

Nowacki continues to focus on college sports while filling in as a backup on preps, especially at tournament time. He covers the Duluth Huskies baseball team and auto racing in the summer. When time allows, he also writes an offbeat and lighthearted food column entitled “The Taco Stand,” a reference to the “Taco Jon” nickname given to him by his older brother when he was a teenager that stuck with him through college. He has a teenage daughter, Emma.

Nowacki can be reached at jnowacki@duluthnews.com or (218) 380-7027. Follow him on Twitter @TacoJon1.
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