Bison focus on run
The sun came up every morning between Monday and today, but it still didn't dim the memory of last Saturday night. Three yards. That was the extent of North Dakota State's rushing attack. For a program that grew up running the football - a team t...
The sun came up every morning between Monday and today, but it still didn't dim the memory of last Saturday night.
That was the extent of North Dakota State's rushing attack.
For a program that grew up running the football - a team that evolved into the West Coast offense but was still effective on the ground - the total of 3 yards in a 20-14 loss to California Davis was shocking.
"As we all were," said junior right guard Justin Buckwalter.
Obviously, it was a point of emphasis for the Bison this week as they prepared for tonight's Great West Football Conference game at Southern Utah. It started on Sunday in what Buckwalter called a day "of self reflection."
"We have to take something away from it and learn from it," Buckwalter said.
The problem for NDSU in losing three of its last four games is philosophical: opposing teams are stacking the line of scrimmage to guard against running back Kyle Steffes and the Bison haven't been able to find enough deeper passing routes to keep the secondary honest.
NDSU faced a similar look in a convincing 35-7 win at Northwestern State (La.).
The Bison were effective enough on the ground to where quarterback Steve Walker was able to pass off play-action fakes to the running backs.
Lately, he's been asked to take straight five-step drops and throw downfield. Walker is 31 of 60 passing with three interceptions in his last two games.
"Between the (poor) protection and errant throws, he's not as productive as he's been," said Bison head coach Craig Bohl. "I've never feltthe nature of our offense isto get in four wide receiver sets and starting chuckin'it. It's not his forte. He needsto be more patient in the pocket."
Walker has been hindered by poor pass protection at times and dropped balls by the receivers. Ill-timed penalties have stopped drives.
"All elements need to improve," Bohl said. "It's not all on Steve. But he has to play better."
It's been a total offensive breakdown with no position going unscathed.
"The O-linemen didn't play that well and there were other things that went along with that," said senior right tackle Tim Popowski.
Popowski expects Southern Utah to load as many defensive players near the line of scrimmage as it can. That's what Cal Poly and Cal Davis have done the last two games with good success.
"They know we're a running team and they want to make us one dimensional," Popowski said.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546