Corey's Corner 3/30

Posted 3/30/17 (Thu)

               Rhythm is a funny thing in sports. A team that finds its groove can look like a completely different squad than when it first comes together. And the Bismarck Bucks have found their groove. Three different times. Injuries have really hampered this new squad in their inaugural season, and so they’ve needed a rotating group of starters to step up and take the helm. And they have done so admirably, repeating that mindset vs. the Bloomington Edge.

               Right out of the gate, the Bucks had to adjust to their 3rd starting QB in three weeks. Mike Ashley came in at the end of last week’s game vs. the Bandits, but now he entered the US Cellular Coliseum as the go-to-guy for the Bucks. But before he could lead the O onto the field, the Edge went down the field and scored on a QB keeper by Caleb Holbrook. Then Ashley and Co. took the field, and they began the feeling out process. But it would end as a defensive stop for Bloomington, and the Edge took a 14-0 lead. Then the switch flipped for Bismarck. And a new relationship began to blossom on the Bucks offense. Mike Ashley and Jauhem Byrd were on the same page all night long, and that duo would be responsible for nearly all of the offense for Bismarck. Especially in the absence of Elby Pope-injury-the Bucks needed one of their talented wideouts to step up. And Byrd notched the first touchdown of the day to make it 14-6.

               The Edge would get the next points on the board, from an absolute bomb off the foot of kicker Cody Barber. Special teams would be the defining feature of this game, as the field position battle went to the Edge. And they get the long FG to make it 17-6. But Byrd answered right back again, and Bismarck continued to keep pace in the first half. But the final minute of the first half would see a strike from Bloomington as Marcus Lewis got his second TD of the game. The final minute of the first half has gone decidedly against Bismarck in their first few games. And, much like the bad luck associated with injuries, that will change going forward.

               Speaking of the injuries, the Bucks had even more of them on the defensive side of the ball. Tyrone Ezell is one of the top players in this league on the DLine. Melvin Tavares was doing a great job in the secondary. Both of them were out for this one. And despite that, the defense stayed in the rhythm its been in for weeks. This Bucks D is one of the best in the league right now, and when it gets fully healthy they’re gonna be a problem for opposing teams. It is through their effort that the Bucks have been a part of the two lowest scoring games in the league the last two weeks, and they have kept Bismarck in the game as they try to work their way through the injuries on both sides of the ball.

               The Edge did not score a touchdown in the entire second half. The Edge did not, in fact, score at all in the entire second half.  Isiah Dunning, despite having to move to the nose tackle spot, was still wreaking havoc. Brenden Daley continued to be a force on the end. Brandon Lewis was called into another injury relief role, and the UMary LB was great at blitzing Holbrook and rushing the Edge offense. Bloomington did get inside the Bismarck 5-yard-line twice. And it didn’t matter. The highlight was a goal line stand on the one as the Bucks stuffed Holbrook on a QB sneak on 4th and 1.

               That set up Ashley and the Bucks for a comeback bid, down 10. And for a Bismarck team that had relied on a slow and steady offense for most of the day, that changed in a hurry. A 36 yard Td to Jauhem Byrd made it a three point game and setup a chance for Bismarck. The defense held fast, and Bismarck got the ball back. A tough sack on 3rd set up a long FG. And it’s here the game defining special teams took hold. Evan Connolly was unavailable for this one, and so the Bucks turned once again to Bismarck native Andrew Nelson. But here’s the other prevailing unfortunate theme for Bismarck: injuries. Nelson had an injury to his kicking leg and so he had to go with the off leg. His first deep attempt wouldn’t go. The Bismarck defense forced a three-and-out and Bismarck got another shot. Back to Nelson. He lined up his second shot, and it was right on line. But it was just a bit short. And so the Edge got the win 24-21, and Bismarck has been in back-to-back games that they feel as though they should’ve won. If Bismarck can get healthy, they can really make some noise this year. They’ll try and do just that this weekend vs. the West Michigan Ironmen.