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Kolpack: Miller runs his way into Bison history book with five TDs

North Dakota State put the QB run game into full force in win over UND

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North Dakota State’s Cam Miller takes a 7-yard touchdown into the endzone against North Dakota’s Kadon Kauppinen during their football game on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum
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Christian Watson returned to Fargo this weekend and spent Saturday afternoon hanging out with his old teammates on the North Dakota State sideline. It’s been a breakthrough last two weeks for the Green Bay Packers receiver, who has five touchdowns in that span.

Watson after scoring his third touchdown a week ago against the Dallas Cowboys used his fingers to count one, two, three — which was replayed many times on national television for all to see.

At Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome, quarterback Cam Miller could have done Watson two fingers better.

One. Two. Three. Four. Five.

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North Dakota State’s Cam Miller and his teammates celebrate his 5th rushing touchdown of their game against North Dakota on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

As in five touchdowns, which tied a long-standing school record set first by Paul Hatchett in 1968 and 1969 and equalled by Mark Speral in 1977 and Kevin Feeney in 1996. It was the most in the FCS by one player this season.

The historic effort sparked the Bison to a 42-21 win over the University of North Dakota before 18,806 fans that didn’t exactly re-ignite the old “Fire and Ice” Division II rivalry. Kind of another day at the office, really.

But not for Miller. NDSU has had some A-plus running quarterbacks over the years, from Jeff Bentrim and Chris Simdorn in the Division II days to Brock Jensen, Trey Lance and Easton Stick in the FCS era. None of those guys scored five in a game.

“I just think of some of the unbelievable quarterbacks who have played here,” said NDSU head coach Matt Entz. “I’m not talking just Division I. Going back to Division II and the inside outside veer-oriented scheme, I thought the record would be more than five. It’s pretty unique. Cam continues to be very professional in how he prepares.”

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North Dakota State alum and current Green Bay Packer Christian Watson poses with a fan after NDSU’s win against North Dakota on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

The preparation against UND didn’t necessarily mean he was going to carry the ball as much as he did.

“I knew they were going to run me a little bit more, usually I have like three to five rushes a game,” Miller said. “I had no idea that I would have scored five.”

Miller came into Saturday with 55 rushing attempts in 10 games, an average of 5.5. He had 16 attempts against the Fighting Hawks, which led to a question on teams underestimating his running ability.

“I think so, yeah, and part of the reason why the coaches don’t run me much is just the physical part of it, they don’t want me taking a lot of hits, which I understand,” Miller said. “But I think for myself, I’m more engaged in a game when I can run the ball more and take hits, it kind of helps me get into the game more.”

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North Dakota State’s Cam Miller makes a 4-yard touchdown run into the end zone against North Dakota’s Devon Krzanowski during their football game on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022, at the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

Miller seemed pretty sure the most touchdowns he ever scored in a game was two. Four of the TDs against UND were seven yards or shorter, runs that all looked similar in that Miller started them with an ounce of patience, found the right hole and then the end zone. The fifth was more like Lance, Stick or Jensen.

On second-and-9 from the UND 30-yard line, and the Bison on a drive where the longest play was a 10-yard pass from Miller to Eli Green, Miller found a seam to the left, cut it back toward the middle and scored. That made it 42-21 late in the third quarter.

The 30-yard TD was the longest scoring run in his life, Miller said.

“All of them have been like inside 15 yards, so that was pretty cool,” he said. “I know I’m not the fastest.”

With standout fullback Hunter Luepke out with a shoulder injury, NDSU had an opening for another offensive ground threat besides TaMerik Williams and Kobe Johnson. They didn’t go deeper into the roster; the Bison went deeper into the playbook and put Ground Miller more into the game plan.

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Miller finished with 93 yards. His previous high this season was 40 against Illinois State and his previous long run was 20 yards against Youngstown State. He almost doubled his season rushing touchdown output with six coming into Saturday.

“He’s a good player, he just made plays and we didn’t fit the runs as well as we wanted to,” said UND cornerback C.J. Siegel. “Shout out to him, but at the end of the day it’s on us. We didn’t do what we wanted to do.”

The conventional theory against a 3-4 defense like UND’s is to beat it with short passes, which the Bison did against Illinois State. Miller was 20 of 30 in that game. He was 8 of 12 for 159 yards against the Fighting Hawks.

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But UND appeared to give NDSU a different safety look. And Miller turned into the hardest guy for the Hawks to take into account.

So he started counting ... touchdowns. This in a program where Bentrim set the career all-time, all-division rushing touchdown record of 64 against UND in the 1980s.

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