FARGO — The post-college plans for Brandon Westberg are to attend chiropractic school, which shouldn’t be an issue. He’s used to putting a team on his back.

Westberg was a rare Minnesota Mr. Football finalist as an offensive lineman at Cambridge-Isanti High School. He was the school’s first four-year starter since 1965 and set a single-season record with 110 “knockdown blocks.”

Last Saturday was a different animal for the North Dakota State sophomore.

“I really didn’t expect it at first, but the older guys gave me a lot of confidence going in,” Westberg said. “They just said do your job and know your role and they made it a lot easier for me. I was glad to be thrown into an environment like that and it was a lot of fun.”

North Dakota State center Brandon Westberg, center, took over for starter Jalen Sundell during a road victory against the University of North Dakota last Saturday in Grand Forks. David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State center Brandon Westberg, center, took over for starter Jalen Sundell during a road victory against the University of North Dakota last Saturday in Grand Forks. David Samson / The Forum

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The loud environment at the Alerus Center against the University of North Dakota resulted in a 16-10 Bison win. NDSU is expecting a similar atmosphere Saturday against Northern Iowa, only much quieter on offense at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” Westberg said. “The time I’ve been getting ... to get a first snap with our crowd and not having the opposing team screaming like the Alerus Center, but having the Fargodome cheering will be really fun.”

Westberg was inserted into the lineup after starter Jalen Sundell left with an apparent knee injury. The status of Sundell is unknown, but what is known is that Westberg played well in his backup role.

NDSU head coach Matt Entz said the team recognized him as one of the top players of the game on the offensive line.

“He did a good job,” Entz said. “He got thrown in at a solid venue and in a big game.”

North Dakota State center Jalen Sundell, ground, left the University of North Dakota game last Saturday with an apparent knee ailment. Dave Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State center Jalen Sundell, ground, left the University of North Dakota game last Saturday with an apparent knee ailment. Dave Samson / The Forum

UNI's Day gets 1st Fargodome experience

Northern Iowa sophomore quarterback Theo Day, a Michigan State transfer, is making his first start in the Fargodome, which is sold out for Saturday's homecoming game.

"He hasn’t probably been the starter in that kind of environment, but at the same time, he’s probably been in that environment," UNI head coach Mark Farley said. "As long as you have experienced players, you’re going to have an opportunity, but until you experience it yourself, it’s who knows how anybody reacts to that."

The 6-foot-5, 225-pound Day completed 11 of 16 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns with one interception in a 34-7 home victory against Youngstown State last week.

Farley welcomes playing in front of a packed Fargodome crowd after the coronavirus pandemic limited attendance for Missouri Valley Football Conference games played last spring.

"It’s fun to be in that environment after going through last year," Farley said. "I would much rather be in that environment than the stale environment of nobody in the stands. It creates the excitement of the game. That’s why we play the game is for that kind of action.”

North Dakota State head coach Matt Entz, left, and Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley, right, both have strong defenses heading into their Saturday showdown at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State head coach Matt Entz, left, and Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley, right, both have strong defenses heading into their Saturday showdown at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum


Panthers stout against the run

Northern Iowa has been stingy against the run this season, limiting opponents to 80 rushing yards per game with an average of 2.4 yards per attempt. The Panthers are also holding opponents to 10.5 points per game.

Defensive lineman Jared Brinkman leads a salty UNI front seven. The 6-foot-2, 290-pound Brinkman has 12 tackles, one sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery through four games,

The Bison are averaging 317 rushing yards per game, averaging about 7.1 yards per attempt, through four games. NDSU has six different players, including quarterback Quincy Patterson, who have carried the ball at least 16 times this season.

"That’s a fresh back," Farley said. "You’re going to get a fresh back coming at you and a different style of back coming at you every down."

The 6-foot-3, 246-pound Patterson has rushed for 268 yards and three touchdowns on 41 attempts this season.

"I think it starts with their quarterback," Farley said. "They are once again a very good football team and a great rushing attack."

Odds and ends

  • Bison kicker Jake Reinholz was named the Missouri Valley Special Teams Player of the Week after his three field goals were a major reason the Bison defeated North Dakota 16-10. It was the second such career honor for the senior from Fargo Shanley.
  • It's the fourth time UNI has been a Bison homecoming opponent, with NDSU winning the prior three: 42-14 in 1978, 31-28 in 2015 and 46-14 in 2019.
  • NDSU has won nine straight homecoming games after back-to-back losses to Illinois State in 2009 and Western Illinois in 2010.
  • Former Bison offensive lineman Chuck Klabo was inducted into the Bison Athletic Hall of Fame on Friday. The other seven honorees were softball pitcher Lindsay (Graham) Gustafson, track and field athletes Andrew Moen, Andi (Noel) Olsonawski and Jill (Theeler) Schlekeway, wrestler Nick Severson, soccer player Nicole (Vandenbos) Hurt and retired track and cross country coach Don Larson.
  • The Bison maintained their status as the No. 1-ranked rushing team in the FCS with a 317-per game average. NDSU leads all divisions with a 7.08 yards-per-carry average.