FARGO — Cordell Volson is in his fourth year with the North Dakota State football program, with most of that time being spent as one of the better players on the offensive line. At 6-foot-6 and 309 pounds, he has the size and power to back up the laurels.

Yet, on Saturday when the Bison host the University of North Dakota, the junior will get his first start at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. Chalk one up to the depth the Bison have enjoyed over the years.

“It’s always a dream come true,” Volson said. “You come here, you put in your time and put in your work and to get that opportunity to play in front of your home crowd, I’m excited for that.”

He redshirted in 2016, played in nine games as a reserve in 2017 and played in all 15 Bison games last season. It was a season of relative health for the Bison, whose offensive line of left tackle Dillon Radunz, left guard Colin Conner, center Tanner Volson, right guard Luke Bacon and right tackle Zach Johnson started every game.

Conner, Bacon and Tanner Volson graduated and the Bison moved Johnson to right guard. That created an opening for Cordell Volson at right tackle.

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“You look at a lot of really good players who have played here,” Cordell Volson said. “Maybe I’m being biased but look at my brother. He waited his time, too. Guys like Luke Bacon, they put in their work, waited their time and when their opportunity came they ran with it.”

Unlike Tanner Volson, UND put a recruiting pitch on Cordell, who was also being wooed by the University of Wyoming.

“As a North Dakota guy, I always wanted to be a Bison,” he said.

He said his home area near Balfour, N.D., consists mostly of Bison fans, which he attributes to the agricultural nature of the surrounding communities. NDSU has long been known as an agricultural school.

“Being a North Dakota guy, you know the history of it,” he said of the matchup with UND. “But it’s the next game on the schedule and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Valley’s best-league status in jeopardy

It’s been a mixed bag of results for the Missouri Valley Football Conference after the first couple of weeks of play. Only two of the 10 teams are 1-0 in NDSU and Youngstown State and both of those victories came against subpar opponents.

The Bison beat non-scholarship Butler and Youngstown took care of a Samford team that was depleted from last year.

Four of the losses were to FBS teams with all four Valley teams having a shot at victory. Turnovers cost South Dakota State in a 28-21 loss at Minnesota, Northern Iowa had its chances in a 29-26 defeat in three overtimes at Iowa State, a pick-six cost Illinois State in a 24-10 loss at Northern Illinois and Indiana State lost 24-17 to a beatable Kansas team.

“I’m always rooting for the Valley teams to win,” said Bison head coach Matt Entz. “It’s the best league in the country.”

That status is in jeopardy. On the down side, Southern Illinois was beaten by Southeast Missouri State, Missouri State lost at Northern Arizona and perhaps most damaging was Western Illinois’ 26-17 loss at North Alabama.

In what could be considered a game with potential playoff consequences, Montana from the Big Sky Conference won at South Dakota.

It could put further importance on a few future Big Sky vs. Valley games like Northern Iowa vs. Southern Utah and Idaho State, Illinois State at home against Northern Arizona, Western Illinois hosting Montana State and UC Davis at NDSU.

Etc. etc. etc.

-The 35,544 fans at Target Field last weekend was the 10th largest crowd in Bison history. Only eight other programs outside of the Power 5 conferences drew larger crowds on their opening weekend. It was the 14th straight neutral site win for the Bison since 1985 and was the second time they opened their season at a neutral site. The Bison beat Montana State in the 1967 opener in Great Falls, Mont.

-UND is 4-2 in the Fargodome since the facility opened in 1993. The average margin of victory was 13.8 points. In the last meeting and the only one in the Division I era, NDSU held the Fighting Hawks to just 61 yards of total offense in a 34-9 Bison win.

- Saturday’s game will be UND’s first against the No. 1-ranked team in the FCS since moving up to Division I in 2008. The Hawks are 8-24 overall against ranked opponents, but have won two of the last three.