Game Day notebook: Bison TE Gindorff invited to all-star game, ready to give NFL a shot
NDSU senior tapping into advice from former Bison tight end Ben Ellefson.
FARGO — North Dakota State’s two-headed tight end monster is going their separate directions after this season, but the hope is both will still be playing football. Senior Josh Babicz will return to the Bison in 2022 and utilize the extra year of NCAA eligibility because of the pandemic.
Senior Noah Gindorff will be giving the NFL his best shot. He’s off to a good start after being invited to the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl set for Jan. 29 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif. Originated in 2012, it’s the same game that former Bison offensive lineman Zack Johnson participated in in 2020.
“Seeing where the road can take me,” Gindorff said. “If that doesn’t work out, then I’ll have some decisions to make in regard to what I want to do, but as of now I’m planning on football after college.”
Gindorff said he’s still hoping for an invite from either the East-West Shrine Bowl or Senior Bowl. But for now, the priority is his final season at NDSU and the Missouri Valley Football Conference regular season finale against the University of South Dakota at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
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Gindorff is one of 11 NDSU seniors who will be honored before the game.
“There are a lot of things this class had to put up with — the pandemic — and it’s different from the usual class,” he said. “I’m proud of the way we stood together and kept this team together.”
At 6-foot-6 and 266 pounds, Gindorff has NFL size. He’s also from a program that has a former Bison tight end in the NFL in Ben Ellefson. The Minnesota Viking has been a good source of advice for Gindorff.
“He’s been really good to me through this process,” Gindorff said. “Just a good mentor and I can ask him any questions that I have. He’s someone who I’m very familiar with and good friends with who has recently been here, done that.”
Big weekend for the Entz family
It was a winning weekend for the Entz family last weekend. Kellen and Konner Entz, the sons of Bison head coach Matt Entz, played on the West Fargo Sheyenne football team that won a North Dakota Class 11AA state championship on Friday night. The Mustangs defeated West Fargo High School 27-7.
On Saturday, NDSU defeated Youngstown State 49-17 to earn a share of the Missouri Valley Football Conference title. When Matt Entz got home Saturday night, one of the first things he saw were two trophies on a living room mantel.
“It was a good day,” Matt Entz said. “I didn’t have any trophies to brag about or show. They were super excited.”
Matt Entz watched parts of the state title game on inforum.com between pregame Friday night meetings in Youngstown.
“The one who probably rides the emotional roller coaster the most is mom and wife,” Matt Entz said, in reference to Brenda Entz. “She does a tremendous job of keeping all of us going in the right direction.”
USD vying for 1st MVFC crown
South Dakota can clinch a share of its first Missouri Valley championship with a victory against NDSU. The Coyotes have won two consecutive games and five of their past six, and are coming off a dramatic 23-20 home victory against South Dakota State.
USD scored a touchdown on a 57-yard “Hail Mary” pass from quarterback Carson Camp to wide receiver Jeremiah Webb on the final play of the game. The ball was tipped multiple times by SDSU defenders before Webb caught the ball near the goal line and leaned in the end zone for the winning score.
The highlight garnered national attention, but Coyotes head coach Bob Nielson said his team is ready to move forward after the emotional victory with a game at the Fargodome against the Bison having conference title implications.
“I think that’s exactly why it’s easy to move past it because we’ve got a big game that has a tremendous amount of meaning,” Nielson said. “We’ve played good football, we’re going to play great football on Saturday. That’s going to be our focus. Our guys have a goal of competing for and winning a conference championship and that comes down to this game for us and beating, if not the best in the country, certainly one of the best in the country in North Dakota State.”
Coyotes two-back attack
The Coyotes have relied on running backs Travis Theis and Nate Thomas to lead their ground game. The 5-foot-11, 215-pound Theis, a redshirt freshman, has rushed for 653 yards and seven touchdowns on 144 attempts. He leads the team in rushing.
The 5-foot-8, 220-pound Thomas, a true freshman, has rushed for 602 yards and five touchdowns on 90 attempts. Thomas is averaging 6.6 yards per carry,
“The ability to keep freshness among those backs gives them a little bit more ability to break tackles later in games,” Nielson said. “That’s always been something I believed in in the running game, to have two guys and those two have been pretty good in combination.”
Thomas rushed for 90 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts in the victory against SDSU at the DakotaDome.
“For a true freshman to be playing at the level that he’s playing is a credit to him and how hard he’s worked in his development,” Nielson said.
The Coyotes are averaging 184.1 rushing yards per game. The Bison are limiting opponents to 83.9 rushing yards per game.
USD improved vs. the run
The Coyotes have an improved run defense this season, allowing 97.4 rushing yards per game.
“It's certainly the best that we’ve played against the run since I’ve been here,” said Nielson, in his sixth season at USD.
The Bison are averaging 268.7 rushing yards per game and are coming off a dominant run game performance against Youngstown State last weekend. NDSU rushed for 454 yards on 45 attempts against the Penguins.
Nielson said that USD worked on defensive packages to be able to play better against run-heavy teams like NDSU, which often feature multiple tight ends and fullbacks in its formations.
“It’s really helped develop packages and our guys have played in those situations with a lot more physicality and a lot more confidence,” Nielson said. “We specifically and intentionally … spent some time looking at ways to defend these heavier-personnel types of teams.”
Coyotes senior linebacker Jack Cochrane leads the team with 83 tackles and sophomore linebacker Brock Morgensen is right behind with 68 tackles.
Odds and ends
- In somewhat of an oddity, the entire NDSU offensive line was named the Missouri Valley “Offensive Lineman of the Week” for its performance against Youngstown State. The Bison rushed for 454 yards behind 10 offensive linemen who played, the most yards for an NDSU team since 2008. It was the fourth time in league history an entire unit was honored with the award.
- The 2020 game that was to be played in 2021 in Vermillion, S.D., was canceled because of COVID-19 protocols. The Bison were dominant in the last game, 2019 at the Fargodome, in a 49-14 win that included 700 yards of total offense — the third most in school history and most by an NDSU team in the Division era.
- It’s the annual Harvest Bowl at NDSU and the Bison will wear their green harvest helmets. In addition, they’ll wear their alternate gold jerseys for the first time since the 2019 national title game against James Madison. The Bison are 30-0 in those jerseys since their 2011 debut and 20-0 in the harvest helmets since the debut in November of 2015. The Bison are 14-0 in the gold jersey/green helmet combination.