As the only underclassman in Minot State University's four-man rotation at inside linebacker, Casey Weinmann entered this season - MSU's first in NCAA Division II - looking to show his worth.
"Coming in as being young, I wanted to make my point that I could play at this level," said Weinmann, a 6-foot, 203-pound sophomore from Harvey High School.
Though he began the season as a reserve, Weinmann is leading the Beavers (1-5) with 46 tackles and is tied for the team lead with five tackles for loss. MSU defensive coordinator Joe Ford said Weinmann's "coming-out party" was at Wayne State (Neb.) in the Beavers' second game of the season.
Minot State University sophomore linebacker Casey Weinmann, pictured here during a game against Wayne State (Neb.) in September, is leading the Beavers in tackles despite beginning the season as a reserve. Photo courtesy of Michael Linnell/MSU sports information.
With seniors Chad Marshall and Brett Mohr sidelined, Weinmann played every defensive snap and recorded 14 tackles (10 solo), including 3.5 for loss.
"Getting a 12, 14-tackle game under his belt against a good opponent, you saw him come back in our meeting room with just a different way of handling himself," Ford said.
Said Weinmann: "The team was kind of relying on me ... to step up and make the plays. I was reading the offense pretty well, the plays came to me and I think it definitely boosted my confidence up a lot that I can be a part of this team and I can help 'em out."
Weinmann was listed as a starter on MSU's depth chart last week, but still rotates with Marshall, Mohr and junior Uepati Fatilua at the two inside linebacker spots in the Beavers' 3-4 defense.
Ford said he brings intangibles to the unit.
"He's a tough guy," Ford said. "He doesn't back down from anybody. He wouldn't blow you away from an athletic standpoint - he's got good speed and good quickness - but his instincts and toughness are what gets him to the ball and gets him finishing plays."
The Beavers' front seven will be tested when they host ninth-ranked University of Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The Bulldogs (5-1) average 48 points and 240 rushing yards per game.
Struggles continue in running game
Despite MSU starting tailback Blake Eggl scoring his first rushing touchdown of the season Saturday against Northern State University (S.D.), the Beavers regressed in the run game.
After surpassing 100 rushing yards the previous two weeks - the only times MSU has reached that mark - the Beavers managed just 41 against the Wolves.
MSU is averaging 62 yards per game on the ground and 1.8 yards per carry. MSU coach Paul Rudolph said the Beavers aren't incompetent in the running game - they're just inconsistent.
"We haven't been horrible," Rudolph said. "I told the o-line, 'We can't get a run of four (yards), then a run of zero, a run of 10, then a run of zero.' We've gotta get some consistency where's it's four, four, 10 - something like that. We haven't been able to do that yet."
The Beavers have shown big-play ability in the passing game, but need a stronger running game to give freshman quarterback Zac Cunha more manageable third-down distances.
"We probably haven't sustained our blocks well enough in the run game," Rudolph said. "We've gotta sustain them a little more, move our feet a little more. We've probably just gotta have a little tougher mentality."
Fisher getting scoring help
When the MSU women's soccer team has scored a goal this season, it's likely been off the head or foot of sophomore forward Zoe Fisher.
Not last weekend.
Four different players scored in the Beavers' wins over St. Cloud State (Minn.) and Minnesota-Duluth on Saturday and Sunday, including Fisher - who entered the weekend with half of MSU's 14 total goals.
Junior forward Jamie MacFarlane and freshman defender Ryann Rafferty scored in a 3-1 win over SCSU, and senior midfielder Lexy Kidd scored the lone goal in MSU's 1-0 win over Duluth.
MSU coach Jason Spain said Kidd's goal came from 20 yards out when the Bulldogs triple-teamed Fisher, the conference's leading goal-scorer.
"Lexy scoring, I think, really opened it up for (Fisher) the rest of the game," Spain said. "That's what we have to do. We have to punish people when they run at her."
Spain said the emergence of more offensive weapons, particularly MacFarlane, could make it more difficult for opposing teams to gang up on Fisher.
"I really hope that helps us out this weekend," he said. "Jamie MacFarlane has gotten more and more dangerous each week. Anyone that's reviewing the last two or three weekends can see that. She's extremely dynamic, she can change directions in a heartbeat. If she starts banging goals in, she's almost more dangerous than Zoe."
The Beavers (8-3-1 overall, 6-3 Northern Sun), ranked No. 6 in the Central Region, play road matches against Wayne State (1-10-1, 1-7-1) on Saturday and Augustana (4-6-2, 3-4-2) on Sunday. Spain said substitute midfielder Nicole Matsumoto and starting defender Breanne Hatfield will likely be out this weekend, but he expects the team to be fully healthy in 10 days.