Advantageous Jackson takes on bigger role
Cedar City, Utah As promised, North Dakota State got Shamen Washington more involved in its offense Saturday.
Cedar City, Utah
As promised, North Dakota State got Shamen Washington more involved in its offense Saturday. Shamen had a couple of passes thrown his way, took two handoffs as a tailback and ran a reverse after lining up in the slot.
In the end, all the action for the dynamic little halfback netted a grand total of 7 yards.
Nick Jackson, meanwhile, became an important part of the Bison offense.
Yes, the biggest stories of NDSU's uneven 37-21 victory over Southern Utah were an opportunistic defense and - after an exhaustive search that left no stone unturned - a power running game led again by workhorse Kyle Steffes.
But a quieter sidebar was the contribution of Jackson, a redshirt sophomore receiver who replaced Marques Johnson in the Bison's lineup.
Was Johnson, the senior, in coach Craig Bohl's doghouse?
Sorry, conspiracy theorists.
"Marques had a groin pull," Bohl said. "He said he could go, but I was watching him in pregame warmups and it looked like he was pulling a truck behind him. His mind was willing, but his body wasn't."
Enter Jackson, who came to NDSU as a quarterback and switched to receiver during his sophomore year. He entered the Southern Utah game without a college reception and had seen limited time this season after separating his left shoulder early in the season against Weber State.
What is it they say about necessity being the mother of receptions?
Seeing the first substantial playing time of his career, Jackson made two important catches in the first half. One went for 15 yards, the next for 20. Both were good for first downs on a drive that ended in a touchdown and a 20-14 NDSU lead.
The Bison, desperate for a receiver who can get open and make plays, needed the boost.
"Every athlete has his time and I was just waiting for my number to be called," Jackson said. "I want to do whatever I can to help the team."
If there were questions about Jackson's shoulder, he answered them on his second catch. He ran an inside slant and had to stretch out over the middle to catch a slightly high and slightly wide pass from Steve Walker. It came on second-and-20 and got the first down by the exact yardage.
"He made a very athletic play. He's a big-time receiver," Walker said. "I put the ball out there where only he could catch it and he went out and got it. That was a big-time play."
In the spirit of full disclosure, Jackson "big-time" moment came exactly one play after a Walker pass clanged off his hands, costing NDSU a 7- to 10-yard gain.
Hey, nobody said the kid is the next Jerry Rice.
"He dropped the one pass, but it was great to see him rebound and make a play," Bohl said. "He went over the middle on the next play and made a great catch. It was enjoyable to see a young man get in the game and do some good things."
Jackson's contribution in the receptions department ended midway through the second quarter, but he aided the Bison's cause in other ways.
A key block thrown by Jackson on NDSU's final drive of the first half turned a 10-yard Walker scramble into a 21-yard Walker scramble on second-and-19. That drive ended with a 1-yard Steffes touchdown run, giving the Bison a comfortable 27-14 lead.
And in the fourth quarter, a Jackson post pattern turned into a 15-yard pass interference penalty on Southern Utah cornerback Jon King. Cory Vartanian capped that drive with a 45-yard field goal.
"I was glad to be able to get on the field and do whatever I could do," Jackson said.
Does his performance mean Jackson will be on the field next Saturday against Northern Colorado as much as he was on the field against Southern Utah? Bohl didn't exactly seem sold.
"Ask me Monday," he said.
Forum sports columnist Mike McFeely can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 10 a.m.-noon on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5580 or email@example.com