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Eric Peterson, Published September 15 2012

Slow start dooms Dragons against Upper Iowa

MOORHEAD – The Dragons’ fire failed to burn in another first half. For a third game in a row, Minnesota State Moorhead fell behind by 28 points after two quarters.

Upper Iowa scored 35 points by halftime Saturday at Alex Nemzek Stadium. That fast start vaulted the Peacocks to a 51-33 victory in Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference football.

“That start is our Achilles heel right now,” said MSUM head coach Steve Laqua. “Some of that is a young team. You can build that confidence, but until you prove it, it’s shallow.”

The Dragons (0-3, 0-3 NSIC) remained winless. Upper Iowa (1-2, 1-2) earned its first win this season.

MSUM has been outscored 91-7 in the first halves of its three games this season, including a 35-7 deficit against the Peacocks.

Upper Iowa quarterback Cole Jaeschke had a huge opening half, completing 24 of 37 passes for 304 yards and four touchdowns. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound sophomore tossed three TDs in the first quarter.

The Peacocks built a three-touchdown lead less than 13 minutes into the game. Jaeschke threw a 4-yard TD pass to tight end Lucas Hefty that gave Upper Iowa a 21-0 edge with 2 minutes, 13 seconds to play in the first quarter.

Upper Iowa ran 30 plays in the opening 15 minutes for 218 yards, while the Dragons ran 10 plays for 48 yards in that same time frame.

“Our offense just couldn’t get it going … and our defense was out there for a long time so they got pretty tired,” said Dragons wide receiver Adam Jiskra, who had seven catches for 149 yards and two touchdowns.

“They were out there for the entire first quarter.”

The Peacocks picked on an MSUM secondary that starts four freshmen. The Dragons start a total of 11 freshmen out of their 22 starters.

“It’s part of the learning curve,” Laqua said of trying to start games faster with a young team. “You know that as a coach. It definitely does not make it any easier to deal with it in the present. We’re doing everything we can to eliminate that.”

The Dragons rallied for 26 points in the second half.

Jiskra played a key role in that rally, catching six passes for 133 yards and two TDs in the final two quarters. The true freshman from Grafton, N.D., caught a 53-yard TD pass from true freshman quarterback Jake Hodge with 3:43 remaining in the fourth quarter. That touchdown was Jiskra’s second score of that game and cut the Upper Iowa lead to 51-33.

“He kept scrapping and playing hard,” Laqua said of Jiskra. “He makes plays and our offense needs that.”

Upper Iowa 21 14 16 0–51

MSUM 0 7 14 12–33

UIU–Hosch 10 pass from Jaeschke (Sandoval kick)

UIU–Hosch 10 pass from Jaeschke (Sandoval kick)

UIU–Hefty 4 pass from Jaeschke (Sandoval kick)

MSUM–Lee 92 interception return (Kramer kick)

UIU–Hefty 11 pass from Jaeschke (Sandoval kick)

UIU–Holloway 15 fumble return (Sandoval kick)

MSUM–Montplaisir 5 run (Kramer kick)

UIU–Safety, MSUM fumbles ball out of end zone

UIU–Bradley 6 run (Sandoval kick)

MSUM–Williams 12 blocked punt return (Kramer kick)

UIU–Hosch 87 kickoff return (Sandoval kick)

MSUM–Jiskra 2 pass from Hodge (kick blocked)

MSUM–Jiskra 53 pass from Hodge (run failed)

TEAM STATISTICS

UIU MSUM

First downs 29 15

Rushes-yards 45-248 36-78

Passing 340 222

Comp-Att-Int 28-47-1 16-25-1

Punts-Avg. 2-26.5 4-30.0

Fumbles-Lost 2-2 4-3

Penalties-Yards 9-58 8-69

Time of Possession 33:22 26:38

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: UIU, Bradley 17-138, Moser 13-47, Jaeschke 6-20, Rogers 3-14, Hosch 1-12, Kaluzny 1-7, Duncan 2-6, King 1-4, Dornink 1-0. MSUM, Schell 9-36, Montplaisir 10-30, Medhaug 3-8, Hodge 14-4.

PASSING: UIU, Jaeschke 25-43-1 306 yards, Rogers 3-4-0 34. MSUM, Hodge 16-24-1 222, Montplaisir 0-1-0 0.

RECEIVING: UIU, Hosch 6-110, Hefty 6-56, Gutman 4-85, Giesking 4-34, Kaluzny 3-28, Bradley 2-15, Newsom 1-9, King 1-2, Dornink 1-1. MSUM, Jiskra 7-149, Rivard 3-36, Youngblom 3-28, Shelley 3-9.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com