The Augustana Vikings defeated the Bemidji State Beavers on Nov. 11 by 38-19 to win the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Championship and end the regular season with a record of 10-1.
The conference championship was the Vikings’ first since they shared the title in 2021 with Bemidji and Minnesota Duluth.
“It has been such a special year, and I don’t want it to end,” head coach Jerry Olszewski said. “I want to see this team play as many games as they possibly can, and they’ve earned that.”
The Vikings scored on the opening possession of the game with a 10-yard rushing touchdown from graduate student quarterback Casey Bauman. Augustana’s defense did its part in the first half as well, forcing two turnover-on-downs when the Beavers had pushed the ball into Vikings territory.
Neither offense was able to get on the board after the first possession of the half, and the Vikings led by a score of 7-0 at halftime.
The Beavers came out of halftime firing with a 75-yard pass touchdown on the first play of the second half but missed the ensuing extra point kick. The Vikings quickly matched the score on a 49-yard touchdown pass from Bauman to senior wide receiver Devon Jones to make the score 14-6.
“I couldn’t do it without everybody around me,” Bauman said. “I think the quarterback gets more credit than they deserve. Those guys make my job really easy. I have to do my job and everybody out there does their job.”
Bauman finished off the day with 106 passing yards and two touchdowns, along with another 53 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
Later in the third quarter, the Vikings added on a 52-yard field goal by redshirt freshman Jake Pecina and a 20-yard passing touchdown from Bauman to senior running back Jarod Epperson. Bemidji State scored on a 6-yard touchdown pass as well, and Augustana led 24-12 heading into the fourth quarter.
“We never fret. We never are afraid or nervous when it comes to games,” Pecina said. “We trust in each other, and we trust in each side of the ball.”
Both the Vikings offense and defense came up big in the fourth quarter to close out the game.
Early in the fourth quarter with the Beavers just two yards away from the endzone, senior JayVian Farr pounced on a fumbled snap to take the ball away from Bemidji State. The Beavers later scored on a 5-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead to five points, but Epperson broke off a 54-yard touchdown run to extend the Vikings lead to 31-19.
“[Bemidji is] always a tough one,” Epperson said. “They’re a big physical team. You always have to bring your A-game when you play those guys.”
The Vikings sealed the win on a 61-yard interception return touchdown by Farr and closed out the game, and the conference championship, 38-19.
“If you asked any one of those guys on the sideline, nobody for one second thought that we were going to lose that game,” Bauman said. “We all work together and we just battle through stuff like that.”
The Vikings will play host to Minnesota State University-Mankato on Nov. 18 at the Kirkeby-Over Stadium for a first-round playoff game.