Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.
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FARGO—As a principal architect for ICON Architectural Group based in Grand Forks, Mike Kuntz has worked on some of the area's sports landmarks like Ralph Engelstad Arena, Scheels Arena and the Fargodome. When it came to the dome, the project required him to do some research on the tradition and history of North Dakota State football.
FARGO—The football season opener vs. Mississippi Valley State is two weeks away. Although North Dakota State hasn't formally named its starting offensive line, an educated guess at it is getting easier by the day. At heart of any kind of debate: Will junior Colin Conner be a tackle or a guard? The answer as of the end of practice this week was both. "He is absolutely both and he's continually progressed at guard," said offensive line coach Conor Riley.
FARGO—The University of North Dakota soccer team was coming off a two-win 2016 season and pre-season expectations in the Big Sky Conference this year that were as low as they can get. The Fighting Hawks were 11th out of 11 teams in the pre-season poll. Meanwhile, minutes before taking on North Dakota State at Dacotah Field, the Bison players were awarded their Summit League championship watches after winning the regular season title last season.
FARGO—The five days of North Dakota State football practice when a decision is normally made on a player playing as a true freshman came and went this week. Nothing happened. And if that remains the case, it will be the second straight season NDSU will have redshirted its entire freshman class. It's turning into a historical period of sorts in the 13-year history of Division I football at the school. Last year was the first in the FCS era when an entire class was redshirted. And to possibly go back-to-back on the concept?
FARGO—The large banners hanging on the east wall of Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse are a tribute to the success of North Dakota State volleyball. Two names on them hope to bridge the past with the future. Two banners pay tribute to Jennifer Lopez as the Summit League Player of the Year and Setter of the Year in 2011. Another recognizes Mikaela Purnell as the 2016 Summit Defensive Player of the Year.
FARGO—The tight end depth chart is so extensive at North Dakota State these days that the Bison coaches practically need a cheat sheet to keep them all straight. There are 11 of them on the roster and most figure to play extensive minutes at some point in their careers. That includes junior Nate Jenson, who is hoping to put a painful offseason to rest with a few breakout performances. With an injury to senior Jeff Illies that will keep him out for a few weeks, Jenson figures to be the best candidate to fill Illies' pass-catching role.
Fargo It's the way it goes in professional sports. The end of the manager/coach is rarely this feel-good, thanks-for-everything ride into the sunset. And so it went with Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks skipper Doug Simunic. Fired. Thanks for the 22 years. Let's repeat: 22 years.
FARGO—It would probably be easy for the North Dakota State athletic front office to put an "open for business" sign on the front door and do nothing else. Fans would still buy football tickets. Once again, it took less than an hour last week for Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome to sell out every seat for all six regular season home games. About 6,000 single game tickets went on sale at 8 a.m. on Monday, July 31 and they were gone within an hour. If you don't have a ticket for a game this season, you'll have to be resourceful.
FARGO—Perhaps the natural reaction of North Dakota State not winning a Division I FCS national title for the first time in five years is to have a little edginess during August football practices. That's probably true, said senior safety Tre Dempsey. "Not being a champion of course, everybody is hungrier," he said. But this month is different from last August in more than not having a ring. For the first time in three years, the Bison have a rather large senior class with 21 in their final year of eligibility. The difference has been noticeable.
FARGO—Gate City Bank Field was nearly empty late Wednesday morning, Aug. 9, except for some defensive players getting extra work in the southeast corner. You could make a case it's the direct result of Greg Menard going down last week. The standout defensive end is out for the season with a torn ACL. Replacing his status isn't a problem numerically, but finding it from the production side will probably be a work in progress for a while. In this case, a few outside linebackers were getting some instruction on the finer details of the game at the line of scrimmage.