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Big first half helps Dragons football team smother McKendree

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 Big first half helps Dragons football team smother McKendree

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MOORHEAD — The Minnesota State Moorhead football team set the tone early and a key swing late in the second quarter helped the Dragons cruise to a 38-17 win over McKendree in a non-conference game at Nemzek Stadium. Dragons quarterback Jack Strand hit Carter Birrenkott for an 8-yard scoring pass less than five minutes into the game and MSUM built that advantage to 24-3 by halftime. After Birrenkott's score, MSUM kicker Jacob Schroeder hit a 31-yard field goal with 2:53 left in the first quarter. McKendree got on the board with Ryan Kastl's 47-yard field goal early in the second quarter to make it 10-3 and the teams settled into a stalemate until two late Dragons TDs put them comfortably ahead at the half. With 6:36 left in the half, MSUM drove 73 yards in nine plays, with Ryan Bieberdorf snaring a 5-yard touchdown pass from Strand for a 17-3 lead with 3:24 left. ADVERTISEMENT Minnesota State Moorhead's Josiah Behm (47) puts a hit on McKendree quarterback Caleb Fisher during the Dragons' 38-17 win on Saturday, Sept.

16, 2023, at Nemzek Stadium in Moorhead, Minnesota. Avery Nelson/MSU Moorhead Athletics The Dragons forced a three-and-out on McKendree's next possession but Strand threw one of his two interceptions to set up the Bearcats at the MSUM 49 with 1:43 left. Penalties stalled the drive, however, and the Dragons held on a fourth-and-7 play to take over at their 43 yard line with 33 seconds left. Strand hit Birrenkott for 26 yards to the Bearcats' 31 and a defensive holding penalty on the next play moved the Dragons to the 21 with 12 seconds left.

On the next play, Strand found Gage Florence on a 21-yard scoring pass and the Dragons led 24-3 at the half. Strand and Birrenkott connected on a 7-yard scoring pass in the first 90 seconds of the third quarter and the Dragons' Tyson Powell ran 3 yards for a TD in the first 90 seconds of the fourth quarter and MSUM led 38-3. McKendree quarterback Caleb Fisher threw TD passes to Yogi Flager and Jordan Sprychal in the final seven minutes of the game. Strand finished 30 of 43 for 387 yards, the four touchdowns and two interceptions.

Birrenkott had 10 catches for 179 yards and two TDs, Florence caught nine balls for 116 yards and a score and Bieberdorf had three catches for 32 yards and a touchdown. Luke Imdieke led the Dragons with 47 rushing yards on eight carries. Tate Gustafson had 16 total tackles, including 10 solo stops, and Josiah Behm was in on 10 tackles, had two sacks, forced a fumble and had a pass breakup.

Miles Evans had an interception. The Dragons are 2-1 overall and take a 1-1 Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference record into a conference game at Augustana at 1 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23, in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

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