It’s not easy for those directly involved with the program. And even the fans of North Dakota State football for that matter.
But taking a deep breath and recognizing the fact the Bison are entering historic territory in Division I college football is not something that is part of regular every-day conversation. Or any bar room talk at all.
“We try to remind ourselves all the time here, you have to enjoy it sometimes, too,” said NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen. “It’s unprecedented what’s going on here in football and the level of success.”
Unprecedented in that in the modern era, only the University of Oklahoma put together two better winning streaks. The Sooners won 47 straight from 1953-57 and 31 in a row from 1948-50.
NDSU will be attempting to enter exclusive winning streak company on Saturday when the Bison host the University of South Dakota at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. With 31 wins in a row, the Bison are tied for seventh place with Penn (1896-98), Pittsburgh (1914-18) and the Sooners’ first streak.
Thirty-two would put NDSU alone in sixth place behind the Bison of 2012-14 that won 33 in a row.
Not that anybody is saying anything.
“I’m around that program a lot, I haven’t heard one player, one coach talk about how many games in a row they’ve won,” Larsen said. “They just don’t. It’s all about trying to win the next game.”
Washington won 40 straight from 1908-14 while Yale is twice tied for third place winning 37 straight from 1887-89 and 1890-93. Toledo won 35 straight from 1969-71 and Penn (1894-96) and Miami (2000-02) are at 34 in a row.
It’s debatable on the definition of the modern era of football. Some would say the 1950s when televised games entered the picture. Or the early 1970s when the NCAA separated divisions.
In either case, or in most cases, NDSU would own the fourth- and fifth-best streaks in the modern history of college football with a victory on Saturday.
“The thing that amazes me is how hard it is every single week,” Larsen said. “I know we say it. And think about it: We get everybody’s best shot every week and to not have a letdown is really hard to do with 18-, 19- and 20-year-old kids when they have a lot of other stuff going on in their life. I know it drives people crazy, it’s a cliche, but they truly take it one day at a time.”
Like the age of modern football, it’s also debatable if the NDSU fan base is appreciating the school’s place in NCAA history. The lopsided wins have been met with empty chairs in the dome in the second half.
Larsen says “a large portion” of the fans recognize the streak.
“I say that because even though folks leave, there are a lot of folks who don’t leave,” he said. “And those folks want to see the third stringer as much as they want to see Ty Brooks run for a touchdown. I would say the far majority of our fans do appreciate it. There are folks that probably don’t and that’s OK. Trust me, I’m disappointed when I see how much time and energy the team puts into it and the success they’re having and people leave before halftime. To me, it’s their loss but that’s OK.”
NDSU does own one nation’s best winning streak. Alabama’s loss to LSU last Saturday leaves the Bison with the longest home active winning streak in Division I football at 24 games. NDUS's last home loss was to James Madison in the 2016 FCS semifinals.
A Bison win on Saturday would also tie the 2012-24 NDSU teams for most Missouri Valley Football Conference wins in a row at 18. Southern Illinois is in third place with 14 in a row in 2008-09.
Not that anybody is talking about it.