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'More falls on my shoulders': Dragons QB Tommy Falk more confident heading into 2nd season as starter

The Dragons are slated to open the regular season at 6 p.m. Sept. 1 against the University of Sioux Falls at Alex Nemzek Stadium. Last fall, MSUM lost four games by six points or less.

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Minnesota State University Moorhead quarterback Tommy Falk warms up during opening day of football practice at Alex Nemzek on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum
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MOORHEAD — Tommy Falk is preparing for his second season as Minnesota State Moorhead’s starting quarterback, but his path to being the football program's entrenched starter under center has been atypical.

The redshirt sophomore logged around 60 practices during his true freshman year — since the 2020 season was canceled due to COVID-19 — before he started each game for the Dragons last fall.

“It’s definitely unconventional, you can say that,” said Falk, from Jamestown, N.D. “Looking back at it, it did feel like two freshman years. It was like a pre-freshman year (in 2020) because you are building up for that (2021) season. I think it’s helped me tremendously. I had a really good base to learn and grow.”

The 6-foot, 205-pound Falk completed 252 of 413 passes (61%) for 2,874 yards and 20 touchdowns with 10 interceptions in 11 games during his redshirt freshman season. The Dragons finished 5-6 overall and in the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference a season ago. Falk is hoping the work he did since last season will translate into a better second campaign as the team’s starting QB.

“The first thing that really sticks out was getting better physically,” Falk said of his offseason training. “I think I’m a better 205 (pounds) this year than what I was last year.”

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Minnesota State Moorhead's Tommy Falk rifles a pass during opening day of football practice at Alex Nemzek on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

The Dragons are slated to open the regular season at 6 p.m. Sept. 1 against the University of Sioux Falls at Alex Nemzek Stadium. Last fall, MSUM lost four games by six points or less.

“How we start is key for us,” Falk said. “It’s huge to get rolling and get off to a hot start to be able to carry through the season and set the tone of what we’re about.”

Falk said the offseason training has helped him develop into a better athlete and also improved his movement skills.

“I’m not ever probably going to be a legitimate dual-threat guy, it’s more about getting myself out of bad situations and still being able to produce positive plays,” said Falk, who was a three-year starter at Jamestown High School.

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The Dragons lost their top receiving threat (Grady Bresnahan) from last season, but return junior wide receiver Ryan Bieberdorf. The 5-foot-11, 185-pound Bieberdorf had 59 receptions for 696 yards and seven touchdowns in 11 games last fall.

Redshirt freshman receivers Carter Birrenkott, from West Fargo, and Gage Florence, from Sawyer, N.D., are two emerging targets that have Falk excited. The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Birrenkott and 5-foot-10, 185-pound Florence have both impressed Falk with their development as young players.

“Gage Florence, he’s put a lot of time in and that time is showing for him and he’s really been making plays for us last spring and into this fall,” Falk said. “(Birrenkott) is night and day a different player than what he was in the spring. You’ve got to honor him. He’s a big-bodied guy, he’s tough for corners to defend.”

Birrenkott has also been impressed with Falk’s improvement since last season.

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Minnesota State Moorhead's Carter Birrenkott grabs a reception during opening day of football practice at Alex Nemzek on Monday, Aug. 8, 2022.
David Samson/The Forum

“He does a really good job communicating with us receivers,” Birrenkott said. “He’s been going through his progressions really well this fall and putting the ball on the money.”

Falk said he’s becoming more confident in his abilities and more comfortable running the offense in his third college season. However, he added he’s always working to process faster, operate the offense quicker and handle more information as he strives to get better.

Falk credits head coach Steve Laqua as a key figure in his development and added that first-year offensive assistant Justin Czech has been helpful this fall. Czech was a backup QB for Falk last fall.

“It brings another opinion and it brings another set of eyes,” Falk said. “Having some help like that is nice.”

The Dragons had eight sixth-year seniors on the team last fall and that group took on the majority of the team’s leadership responsibilities. Falk is expecting to play more of a key role in team leadership this season.

“It’s the nature of the position of having to be the guy being the leader,” Falk said. “I think a lot more falls on my shoulders this year than maybe it did last year.”

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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