FRISCO, Texas — Dana Mogck was walking around the playing surface at Toyota Stadium on Thursday morning marveling at the turf. He couldn’t help but think if he was standing near one of the greatest golf courses in the world.
The Division I FCS national title game on Saturday between North Dakota State and James Madison may not be the Masters, but it has a big-time feel to it.
“This looks like a fairway at Augusta National,” Mogck said.
The WDAY-TV news anchor is in Frisco this week to help with the station’s coverage and to emcee the NDSU Foundation Pep Fest at Comerica Center on Friday night in Frisco. This weekend will be Mogck’s first involvement with an NDSU championship football game since 1990 when he was part of the broadcasting crew that followed the Bison Division II titles of the ‘80s.
“A 29-year absence, I needed the break,” he said.
Somebody asked Mogck if he was a first-timer at the title atmosphere. The actual answer is the Bison-JMU game will be his seventh having worked NDSU title games in 1983, ‘84, ‘85, ‘86, ‘88 and ‘90. He was the sports director at WDAY until 1999.
Times have changed.
In NDSU’s 1983 title game appearance in McAllen, Texas, Mogck and the WDAY crew borrowed a Winnebago motorhome from his grandfather, Irvin Mogck, and drove it 24 hours to McAllen. NDSU defeated Central State (Ohio) and afterward, anybody and everybody associated with the program was thrown into the swimming pool at the NDSU hotel.
“Mobile home, 24-hour drive, watching the game, getting thrown into the pool, getting out of the pool, climbing back into the mobile home and driving back to Fargo,” Mogck said.
As a token of appreciation for the use of the vehicle, the WDAY crew bought grandpa Mogck a garage door opener for his garage in Kulm, N.D.
His last game was in 1990 when NDSU defeated Indiana University (Pa.), which would be the last Division II championship for the Bison. Search “Tony Satter’s run” on YouTube and you’ll get former sportscaster Ed Schultz and Mogck describing the touchdown run by Satter. Before Satter got in the clear, Mogck was talking about Bison head coach Rocky Hager’s first name, which is Ralph.
“Had to call him Rocky Hager because his grandfather was called Ralph and every time they called Ralph, two guys used to show up,” Schultz said.
A moment later, Satter was in the end zone. Now almost three decades later, Mogck will be back on a football stage. The Pep Fest begins at 3 p.m. Friday with live music starting at 5. The program with Mogck at the microphone starts at 6:45 p.m. with guests including former Bison quarterback Easton Stick.
“That’s going to be an eye-opener from what I hear,” Mogck said, before flashing the Bison horns sign. “If I can get two fingers up in the air somewhere, I think I’ll be accepted.”
Sproles, Hayes back in the lineup
Two NDSU players who were question marks with injuries heading into the title game say they are ready to go. Receiver Phoenix Sproles (shoulder) and cornerback Josh Hayes (lower leg) will start against JMU.
Sproles said his injury that first happened in the second round against Nicholls State (La.) was more of a deep bone bruise to the top of his shoulder. The following week, he fell on the same shoulder three times in the quarterfinal victory over Illinois State and sat out the semifinal win over Montana State.
"I knew my teammates would get it done and I took that week off," Sproles said. "I rehabbed it and I'm ready to go."
Hayes, a junior, was inserted into the starting lineup as a freshman in the 2017 title game against JMU after both of NDSU's starting cornerbacks were hurt in the semifinals.
Players sport variety of hair styles
NDSU players have had some interesting hair and facial hair styles over the years at the FCS title games. This year is no different, with senior safety James Hendricks and senior tight end Ben Ellefson cutting their hair very short.
“Ben and I, neither of us can join in the mustache party so we thought we might as well do something in our last year,” Hendricks said.
Offensive guard Zack Johnson went the other way. In fact, he's been going the other way for four years and wasn’t about to cut his hair now. Johnson said it’s an ode of sorts to former Bison players Joe Haeg and Andrew Bonnet, both of whom sported the long hair when they played.
“They always taught me, don’t cut your hair,” Johnson said. “You have to have fun with that. It’s just a tradition — long hair — and somebody always does it.”
Other players like middle linebacker Jackson Hankey kept their hair normal length on top but shaved the sides near their ears. Last year, Stick took some ribbing for a mustache he grew during the playoffs. It didn’t last long on him after the Bison defeated Eastern Washington in the title game.
Two-point threat always on table
NDSU turned some heads in the season opener against Butler University (Ind.) at Target Field when the Bison executed a two-point conversion after their first touchdown in the 57-10 victory. It was all about making the opponent think about and having to prepare for the play, head coach Matt Entz said several times this year.
Plus, the Bison have a true freshman kicker in Griffin Crosa.
“We knew we were going to be young at the kicker position,” Entz said Thursday at Toyota Stadium. “So what could we do to pull people back, just pinning their ears back and rolling off the football and causing our young kicker some distractions?”
The two-point conversion is orchestrated by the holder Hendricks, with NDSU taking advantage of Hendricks being a former quarterback.
“We kind of sell it to our guys as an offensive play,” Entz said. “At the end of the day, points are the most valuable thing and we need to make sure that we’re converting.”