FARGO — North Dakota State head coach Matt Entz was asked on Monday what he’s thankful for on the week of Thanksgiving. He pointed to his family, his assistant coaches, the Bison fans and the Fargodome and NDSU administrations.
As for the latter, it was about being elevated from defensive coordinator after Chris Klieman left for Kansas State.
“To allow a guy who has never been a head football coach an opportunity to be the head football coach at the best football school in the country,” he said. “They took a shot at a guy.”
As for his players, they’re probably thankful for a week off.
NDSU earned a first-round bye and will take the No. 1 overall seed into the FCS playoffs on Dec. 7. The Bison will play the winner of Saturday’s University of North Dakota at Nicholls State (La.) first round game at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
Entz said three players who were absent late in the season because of injuries will return in defensive tackle Cole Karz, tight end Josh Babicz and running back Dimitri Williams. He also said cornerback Josh Hayes and running back Kobe Johnson, both of whom were dinged up in the 21-7 win at Southern Illinois on Saturday, will be available.
“Our limit of 64 sideline players will look different than it did last week,” Entz said.
NDSU won’t change much under Entz in playoff preparation following the blueprint set by former head coaches Craig Bohl and Klieman. They’ll practice three days this week before taking time off over the holiday break.
The only difference in Entz’s five years as an assistant is the Wednesday practice was in the late afternoon in prior years. This week, it will be a morning workout with NDSU not having class on Wednesday
“And we can get our kids on the road a little quicker so they’re not driving nearly as late,” Entz said. “But as far as the plan, it’s going to remain very similar to what we’ve done.”
Entz said he’ll spend this week looking at both possible second-round opponents. It helps that NDSU already played UND, a 38-7 win on Sept. 7 at the Fargodome. Nicholls won the automatic bid from the Southland Conference and will take an 8-4 record into postseason.
“What I’ll try to do is get a good feel for both teams that are playing,” Entz said. “Since Nicholls State is new, we haven’t played them in the six years I’ve been here, I’ll probably spend more time familiarizing myself with who they are and their personnel on both sides of the football and any issues that they cause.”
As for UND, he said he’ll spend time on Tuesday looking at how the Fighting Hawks have evolved since that early September game. For one, starting quarterback Nate Ketteringham did not play against NDSU because of an injury but has since returned.
“I think they have more continuity at the quarterback position than they probably did earlier,” he said. “But I’ll try to treat it as much as I can like a normal week.”
Entz said running back Seth Wilson, who tore his ACL last spring, has been running patterns with head strength and conditioning coach Jim Kramer. There was some swelling but Entz said an MRI revealed no issues and the hope is for him to be cleared for spring football. He will not be available this season.