Kolpack: The laws of football were too much for the Pioneer League Toreros
They look different at defensive tackle in the Missouri Valley Football Conference than they do in the Pioneer Football League. They look different at safety and they look different at defensive end.
They really look different at linebacker, too.
They look like 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds, the dimensions of Bison senior Nick DeLuca. They look like Jabril Cox, who is 6-3, 227. If the conventional wisdom says DeLuca is getting healthier as the season is getting longer, then Wofford College (S.C.) will have to deal with his presence next weekend in the quarterfinals.
The University of San Diego had no answer.
It was simple biology. Physics. The laws of gravity. It all added up to the laws of football and usually the team that has the physical advantage in size and speed will win the game. And that's what happened: North Dakota State 38, San Diego 3.
"If you just look at them you would be able to see the difference," said USD defensive end Jonathan Petersen.
That's one thing, but Petersen added what really separates the men from the boys who are still playing the game in December: effort and intensity.
"You know, these guys, they play whistle to whistle," he said. "A lot of guys in our league, sometimes they're guilty of not going all the way to the whistle and I think that's something we can usually take advantage of."
Playing whistle to whistle is why Petersen left Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome as the all-time quarterback sacks leader in the FCS. He needed 1.5 to overtake Southern Utah's James Cowser—he got three to finish with 44.
"What you saw Jon do to today he does every day in practice," said USD head coach Dale Lindsey. "Practice. Games. Whenever. Up here, coach Chris (Klieman) would like to have him on this team. They would probably play him at linebacker but they would like to have him. He gives you 100 percent every play."
Petersen is 6-foot-1 and 240 pounds.
One of his sacks, a strip of quarterback Easton Stick, resulted in a fumble that the Toreros recovered.
Problem for San Diego is the Bison have 11 of those kind of difference makers on defense. It's not a fair fight, 11 on 1. Like DeLuca, Bison senior defensive tackle Nate Tanguay is starting to show more of a spring in his step after knee surgery last year.
Tanguay made a couple of man-eating plays, one where he powered through an offensive lineman with one arm and dropped a running back with the other. He was primarily a space eater this season taking on double teams with his 6-4, 291-pound frame but now Tanguay is showing the burst of going beyond that.
Last year, Tanguay and DeLuca were on the sidelines when the Bison were making their playoff run that came up short in the semifinals. This time around, the N & N Boys are on the field.
"It's pretty great to have those guys, that was a big difference from last year to this year, at least on defense," Klieman said. "Just having those two experienced guys."
Klieman said Tanguay had his knee drained of fluid again this week.
"He was explosive off the field and Nick continues to get better and better," Klieman said.
It's to the point with DeLuca where it's probably useless to even ask him about his knee. He looks close enough to explosive 100 percent, like the time he sacked USD quarterback Anthony Lawrence. DeLuca, who had two quarterback sacks, came from around the edge with the speed of a tailback.
Bad knee? What knee?
"It's still kind of week-to-week with evaluations and rehab but it's not a big concern anymore," DeLuca said.
It's certainly good enough for his post-NDSU career. He accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl Jan. 27 in Mobile, Ala.
"It's an opportunity to compete and show what I can do and represent my team as well as I can," DeLuca said. "I'm excited."
With Wofford, the Bison will get a scholarship-based team from the Southern Conference. By then, the non-scholarship Toreros will be gearing up for another offseason in trying to find a way to match up to the NDSU's of the FCS world.
It's a tough road. It's hard to beat the laws of football.