FARGO — North Dakota State fullback Garrett Malstrom has yet to carry the ball and has three receptions for 20 yards. Yet, Bison head coach Matt Entz said the senior from Frazee, Minn., is more valuable to the Bison than what a football play can provide.
It was noticeable when Malstrom missed four games this season because of an injury. The senior from Vergas, Minn., returned last week in the 49-14 win over the University of South Dakota.
“The team needs Garrett to be successful,” Entz said. “More than just what he does between the whistles but it’s Garrett being on trips and the leadership he provides is really important to our offense and defense. Guys love him. When he’s back at practice, he brings a level of energy and a level of intensity that only the Bison fullbacks should be allowed to bring.”
Malstrom is the prototypical fullback at 6-foot, 250 pounds. His most recent ailment was a knee injury and it appeared he left the USD game for the same reason.
“No, I’m good, just tweaked it a little,” he said. “It’s just coming back from an injury. It’s a little tender but I’m good now.”
Plus, he said it would have taken more than a tweak to keep him out of his last regular season home game. Or any game at this point of the season for that matter.
“It was an out-of-this-world experience to be able to run out out onto the Fargodome one last time in the regular season with some of your best friends,” Malstrom said.
Kava takes advantage of position switch
NDSU redshirt freshman Jake Kava from Fargo Shanley began practice in August as a middle linebacker. Just over a week into camp, he was switched to defensive end — a move that got him thinking he could get on the field sooner than at linebacker.
Sophomore Jackson Hankey was already slotted to be the starting middle linebacker and NDSU normally doesn’t rotate linebackers very often. That’s not the case on the defensive line.
“When I initially got moved, I thought, hey, this potentially could be a position I could see some time,” Kava said. “Maybe mop-up minutes. There are two d-ends that play every snap and only one middle linebacker so there are better odds at that position.”
He’s turned in more than mop-up minutes. Last week, he had back-to-back tackles in the second quarter. He has 11 tackles, three for lost yardage, in nine games.
Injuries made the move up the depth chart a necessity. Defensive ends Bartholomew Ogbu, Brendan Cook and Tony Pierce have been out with injuries. Pierce just came back. Starting defensive ends Derrek Tuszka and Spencer Waege each missed one game.
“Injuries happen, I had my opportunity and tried to take advantage of it,” Kava said.
Pelini may make changes in Youngstown
Of all the teams in the Missouri Valley this season, perhaps the most mystifying has been Youngstown State. The Penguins started the season 4-0 and were a constant presence in the top 25 FCS polls.
But once league play hit, matters went south. Three straight losses to Northern Iowa, South Dakota State and SIU put the Penguins in an early conference hole.
There was one reprieve, a blowout win over Western Illinois, but NDSU essentially stuck YSU into a permanent tailspin with a 56-17 win in Youngstown. The Penguins enter their final game against Illinois State with a 1-6 mark in the Valley and 5-6 overall.
This week, head coach Bo Pelini sounded like somebody ready to make some changes. Starting with himself.
“You’ve got to adapt with the times a little bit and the nature of who you’re coaching,” he said during his weekly press conference. “There are some things that I already have in mind as far as what needs to happen going forward and some changes that need to be made. There are a number of things. I’m not going to get into all of that today … but believe me I’ve thought about some things that need to be adopted into the winter and spring ball and beyond that to get ready for next year.”