Chip Scoggins
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Thank you for reading Football Across Minnesota (FAM), my weekly column that tours football topics in our state from preps to pros. You can find last week's FAM column right here. — Chip

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Kyle Walljasper is not a prototypical quarterback. He doesn't pretend to be.

For starters, his Minnesota Duluth bio says he weighs 232 pounds, which causes him to chuckle when asked to verify. It's wrong, he admits.

"I'd say 240," he said.

In high school, he played quarterback next to current Wisconsin star running back Braelon Allen, and it was Walljasper who led the squad in rushing by averaging 19.1 yards per carry. Unlike his weight, that number isn't a misprint.

He is a chemical engineering major learning about computational methods this semester. His formula on the football field is to play quarterback with a linebacker's mentality.

He loves to smash defenders when they try to tackle him.

"You always want to be the hammer," he said, "and not the nail."

His coaches would rather he put the hammer away on occasion and maybe, you know, slide to avoid a big collision. Walljasper has an opinion about that.

"If I'm a baseball player, I'll slide," he said.

He leads the Bulldogs in carries and rushing yards, more than double any UMD running back in both categories.

Lest anyone assume that he's strictly a one-trick Bulldog, Walljasper passed for a career-high 270 yards on Saturday to help his team remain undefeated with a win over Sioux Falls.

The sophomore also tied his career high with four rushing touchdowns, giving him eight for the season, which ranks first in Division II.

Before the snap he often hears opponents yelling from the sideline, "Watch the QB run."

"Then you hit them with a pass and they're like, 'Oh, I wasn't expecting that,' " he said.

Walljasper has become one of the top performers in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference in his first season as the full-time starter.

He ranks second in rushing yards per game. He ranks near the bottom of the conference in pass attempts, but he is third in touchdown passes and first in efficiency.

He leads the nation in points responsible for by a wide margin. He's at 90.

"He has worked himself into being a good thrower at our level," UMD coach Curt Wiese said.

Walljasper was a capable passer in high school. He just didn't need to use his arm that often. He and Allen formed a powerhouse tandem for Fond du Lac High in Wisconsin.

"Basically, either he ran or I ran," Walljasper said. "We'd throw a deep shot every once in a while."

QB Kyle Walljasper is a force for UMD.
QB Kyle Walljasper is a force for UMD.

Dave Harwig, courtesy of Minnesota Duluth

One game became legendary. The pandemic forced Fond du Lac to play a condensed spring season of seven games during Walljasper's senior year.

In the final game, against perennial power Kimberly, Fond du Lac won 71-47. Walljasper rushed for 306 yards and five touchdowns. Allen finished with 278 rushing yards and four touchdowns.

"Those two can make anyone look good," former Fond du Lac coach Steven Jorgensen said Monday.

Wiese recruited Walljasper knowing he would need time to develop as a passer. He had everything else that Wiese covets in a quarterback, especially his athleticism and attitude.

"We're looking for gym rats who want to compete in everything they do," Wiese said.

Walljasper took a redshirt season and then was used mostly as a wildcat quarterback option as a backup last season before an injury thrust him into a starting role. He devoted his summer to becoming a better passer by working on his mechanics and spending endless hours studying defensive coverages.

Wiese said he sensed that Walljasper felt "boxed in" by being labeled a one-dimensional quarterback. "He wanted to get better and become more versatile in the position," Wiese said.

He went about it the only way he knew how: by being ultra-diligent. Walljasper is the opposite of a slacker.

"He is a very serious individual," Wiese said. "He has no time for people who are unprepared."

"His demeanor is all business," said Jorgensen, his high school coach.

UMD offensive coordinator Chase Vogler joked that it takes a lot of work just to get his quarterback to smile.

Really? A smile?

"It's a daily battle for us," Wiese said, laughing.

Hey, he's too busy for that between being a college quarterback and an engineering student. A junior academically, Walljasper's daily schedule includes classes, studying, studying football video, practice, weight room training and physical recovery work.

"Early mornings and late nights," he said.

He's mastering it all. Not that anyone is surprised.

"I've been around high school football my whole life," Jorgensen said, "and he is the best leader I've ever coached and the best leader I've ever seen."

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Former East Ridge QB slingin' it

Another quarterback with Minnesota ties also is tearing up Division II.

East Ridge graduate Zach Zebrowski leads the nation in several statistical categories in his first season at Central Missouri. Zebrowski spent four years at Southern Illinois and transferred this summer after receiving his degree.

In three games, Zebrowski leads D-II quarterbacks in passing yards, passing touchdowns and total offense.

Zebrowski transferred after Southern Illinois starting quarterback Nic Baker elected to return for a sixth season. Zebrowski is pursuing his master's in sports management and piloting a spread offense that ranks No. 19 nationally in scoring at 41 points per game. He is averaging 49 pass attempts through three games.

"It's a lot of throwing, but I'm not mad about that," Zebrowski said, laughing. The offense uses five-receiver sets and plays "as fast as we can," Zebrowski said.

Another cool part is that he's also closer to his family now. His father, Jim, coached quarterbacks for the Gophers on Jerry Kill's staff and is now the quarterbacks coach at Kansas, an 80-minute drive from Central Missouri's campus. "My mom [Heather] has come to every game and my dad has come to a few because they played on different days," Zebrowski said.

Zebrowski plans to follow his dad into the coaching business when he's done playing. He said he's wanted to be a coach ever since he was a kid working as a ball boy for the Gophers.

"It was kind of like, I don't really know what else I would do," he said.

East Ridge grad Zach Zebrowski is getting a chance to show what he can do at Central Missouri.
East Ridge grad Zach Zebrowski is getting a chance to show what he can do at Central Missouri.

Photo by Andrew Mather Photography

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Game balls

  • Maxwell Woods: Chanhassen senior scored seven touchdowns and accounted for 402 all-purpose yards in a win vs. Rochester Century.
  • Josiah Behm: MSU Moorhead linebacker was a force vs. McKendree with 10 tackles (three for loss), two sacks, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.
  • Jack Curtis: In his third career start, Carleton's quarterback passed for 362 yards and five touchdowns in a win vs. Minnesota Morris.

He said what?!

"Almost having your scoring differential be the same as your turnover margin is not something that you ever want to preach as a positive, but I do know that locker room is confident. So my anticipation is if we make ball security the living, breathing way that we talk and walk about everything in our building, it will improve. That's on me and our coaching staff to emphasize it minute to minute, hour to hour, how we practice and ultimately start seeing it show up on Sundays."

— Vikings coach Kevin O'Connell on his team's NFL-worst minus-6 turnover differential.

Kevin O’Connell wants his Vikings to stop giving the ball away.
Kevin O’Connell wants his Vikings to stop giving the ball away.

Anthony Soufflé, Star Tribune

Numbers to know

  • 100: Career coaching wins for Minnesota Duluth's Wiese, who reached that milestone Saturday against Sioux Falls.
  • 6: Interceptions by St. Agnes' Dan Plamann in three games.
  • 50.6: Completion percentage for the Gophers passing game, which ranks 129th out of 133 FBS teams.

15-yard penalty

The Vikings are signing veteran free agent Dalton Risner hoping to fix their subpar interior offensive line. The front office should have recognized the need to improve this glaring weakness this past offseason. At least GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, who drafted struggling right guard Ed Ingram, didn't wait any longer to make a move.

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Grab your popcorn

Bethel at St. John's, 1 p.m. Saturday. Two nationally ranked teams in Division III split their head-to-head meetings last season, with the Johnnies winning in the MIAC championship game.

An important 48 hours for:

Risner. See above. Get a crash course on the playbook and get in there vs. the Chargers on Sunday.

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The Vikings and Gophers chalked up self-inflicted losses, ruining their chances at winning with killer turnovers, questionable coaching decisions and overall sloppiness. Both teams rightfully walked away feeling frustrated with their performance.

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Thank you for reading FAM. I'll publish this each Tuesday morning in time for your lunch-hour reading. I appreciate feedback so please reach out any time. Thanks again — Chip (@chipscoggins on X)