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Dragons quarterback Meehl: 'I'm really glad this is where I ended up'

Mineral Water Bowl marks quarterback Bryce Meehl's final game with Minnesota State Moorhead.

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Minnesota State Moorhead quarterback Bryce Meehl is playing in his final game for the Dragons in the Mineral Water Bowl. Avery Johnson / Dragons athletics

Moorhead

Bryce Meehl described his time at Minnesota State Moorhead as a “roller coaster.”

The Dragons quarterback redshirted his freshman season in 2015, and spent 2016 as a backup quarterback and punter before missing all of 2017 due to injury.

“It was difficult,” Meehl said of sitting out the 2017 season. “You always want to be out there and play with your teammates. I did get the chance to watch the game from a different perspective, kind of more as a coach instead of a player and that kind of helped me see things differently.”

Meehl and the Dragons play Missouri S&T at noon Saturday in Excelsior Springs, Mo., in the Mineral Water Bowl, a Division II bowl game for teams that didn't make the NCAA D-II playoffs. MSUM (8-3) is making its first postseason appearance since 1994.

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Both Meehl and sophomore quarterback Jakup Sinani are nursing injuries. They’ve each been able to practice this week, but Dragons head coach Steve Laqua said it will be a game-time decision on who gets the starting nod.

Meehl is confident he’ll be healthy enough to start his final game with the Dragons. Laqua said if Meehl starts, he’ll have the utmost confidence in him.

“He’s a gamer,” Laqua said. “He finds a way, I mean that’s been embedded in his DNA. He’s got a spot deep within him that he’s able to go and overcome pain, overcome noise, overcome injuries in his time here. He’s kinda the epitome of resiliency.”

Meehl, from Oakes, N.D., is an accounting major who will be graduating this spring. He is also getting married to his high school sweetheart on New Year's Eve.

“I’m excited,” Meehl said. “I’m not quite nervous yet, but I’m sure that’ll come.”

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Minnesota State Moorhead quarterback Bryce Meehl, center, is playing in his final game for the Dragons in the Mineral Water Bowl. Avery Johnson / Dragons athletics

Meehl got his first career start at quarterback in this year's season opener. He completed 15 of 30 passes for 215 yards with two touchdowns and no turnovers, leading the Dragons to a dominant 34-10 victory over Minnesota-Crookston.

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After missing more time to injury in the middle of the season, Meehl returned to his starting role in the Dragons ninth game. He threw for 288 yards and two touchdowns, adding 55 rushing yards and two more scores in a 51-26 rout of Minot State.

The following week, Meehl had his best game as a Dragon. He was 28-of-33 passing for 424 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions in a 31-26 victory over Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference North Division rival Bemidji State.

“(Meehl’s) performance in Bemidji after being hurt on the second play in the game was inspirational to the entire team,” Laqua said.

With the win against Bemidji State, the Dragons controlled their destiny. A win against St. Cloud State in the final game of the regular season, and the Dragons earned a trip to the Mineral Water Bowl for the first time in program history. If not, SCSU advanced to the bowl game.

It was a cold, snowy afternoon in Moorhead for the Saturday, Nov. 10, matchup with SCSU. Meehl and the Dragons overcame the elements to earn a 13-10 victory over the Huskies.

Meehl completed 12 of 18 pass attempts for 135 yards, adding 20 rushing yards in the victory.

"Then to have (Meehl) come out and do the same thing (as he did in Bemidji State) in that St. Cloud game, that's the stuff in its own small measure, at least around our program that becomes legendary," Laqua said.

It marked the first time the Dragons defeated SCSU since 1983. Eight wins is also their most in a season since 1991.

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“It’s kind of been up up and down and a roller coaster with injuries, and I haven’t seen the field a lot because of injuries, but this season has been a successful one I think by pretty much anybody in this building’s standards,” Meehl said.

Like the Dragons, the Missouri S&T ended the regular season on a hot streak. The Miners won five consecutive games to finish 9-2 overall and 6-1 in the Great Lakes Valley Conference.

The Miners have scored 34 or more points in four of the five games during the winning streak and have held opponents to 21 points or less in four of the last five.

“They’re an explosive offense that’s difficult to defend,” Laqua said. “They spread you out. They’re efficient with their pass game and I think their skill guys are dynamic, so defensively we’re definitely going to have our hands full.”

Missouri S&T has a stout defense as well, ranking fifth in the nation in team sacks.

“We’ve got our hands full trying to figure that out, trying to protect the quarterback,” Laqua said. “We’re going to have to establish a run game, otherwise they tee off on you and that’s how they get a lot of sacks.”

A win over Missouri S&T would give the Dragons their first nine-win season since 1991 and their first postseason win since 1994.

Playing quarterback growing up, Meehl said he always dreamed of starting for a college program. He’s happy he's done that for the Dragons.

“It’s been exciting,” Meehl said. “It’s been fun, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve grown as a person. I’m really glad this is where I ended up.”

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Minnesota State Moorhead quarterback Bryce Meehl, center, is playing in his final game for the Dragons in the Mineral Water Bowl. Avery Johnson / Dragons athletics

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