Kolpack: College football is back and we missed you
NDSU welcomes back the traditional game day atmosphere in win over Albany
The familiar barbecue smells circulated through the west parking lots in perfect weather on Saturday morning and afternoon. Fans, thousands of them, brought their array of North Dakota State clothing out of storage.
Inside, the lights went out at Gate City Bank Field and the traditional intro was played. The roar returned for that. The visitors, the University of Albany Great Danes, discovered that communication on offense is difficult when 15,156 fans use their voices.
Yes, college football is back.
We missed you.
We know, it didn’t leave in the FCS with the spring season, but the atmospheres around the country with restrictions were more like a yawning festival. COVID-19 isn’t gone, but there’s enough freedom now to play some ball.
NDSU head coach Matt Entz before the game was at the intersection of Albrecht Boulevard and 17th Avenue North, the southeast corner of tailgating, and took it all in.
“I just took a good breath and looked at tailgating,” he said. “We had a number of recruits here today and I told them the tailgating lot was probably the third- or fourth-largest city in North Dakota. And that’s pretty impressive when you can talk about the volume of people that were there. The crowd was outstanding today. They didn’t forget what they were doing. On third down, they’re supposed to get loud and they did today.”
The Bison defense played it to near perfection. The NDSU offense did enough and the 28-6 victory over the Great Danes made for a successful opener for the home team.
Home sweet home. It had been awhile.
It had been awhile for the NDSU quarterback to start a game as the No. 1 guy. Quincy Patterson wasn’t expected to be Carson Wentz, Easton Stick or Trey Lance, NDSU’s last three fall starting quarterbacks. Not on his first day in the office. But he did finish 12 of 16 for 115 yards and a touchdown.
Those are typical West Coast offense numbers.
“If I were to grade — a B-minus,” Patterson said. “Not terrible, but not an ‘A.’”
That’s a fair self-assessment. There is no questioning his strong arm and he was high on a couple throws, probably the result of it being a first game. He didn’t see a lot of running room and the Bison didn’t appear hip on running their QB a lot being a nonconference game anyway.
“I thought he was really solid,” Entz said. “We tried to emphasize the quick game with him and get it to our playmakers.”
Patterson appeared to get more comfortable as the game wore on, specifically a perfect rocket to tight end Josh Babicz for an 18-yard touchdown at the end of the second quarter. That was a Wentz-Stick-Lance kind of throw and made it 14-0.
“That was a big-time catch and a big-time throw from Quincy,” Entz said. “That was really good football there. He put the ball where only Josh Babicz could catch it.”
Meanwhile, Albany’s heralded QB, Jeff Undercuffler, became more uncomfortable as the game wore on, with the Bison defense having shut down the running game and being able to play the pass. Albany running back Karl Mofor came in with preseason All-American credentials.
He left with 21 yards on 11 carries.
Undercuffler, after completing 8 of his first 9 passes, finished 16 of 28 with two interceptions. It’s not an easy place to play.
“I was waiting for this from Day 1 when I touched foot in Fargo,” said NDSU running back Dominic Gonnella. “I couldn’t wait to play in a full dome and it was everything I thought it would be and more. It was awesome.”
There were warts, of course. Patterson fumbled twice, once with the Bison five yards from the end zone.
NDSU left some big plays out there. Patterson and receiver Christian Watson didn’t hook up on a wide open bomb that was a sure touchdown. Jayden Price had a punt return for a touchdown nullified by a penalty.
After two days of college football, it appears the Bison have some catching up to do with South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits destroyed Colorado State 42-23 behind their new transfer quarterback Chris Oladokun on Friday night in Fort Collins.
SDSU looked like the No. 1-ranked Bison of old; stout at the line of scrimmage, a playmaking QB and an FBS victory in September.
The Bison head into their final two September games with college football back the way it should be. It wasn't the all-out standing room dome, but we'll take it.
“Electric,” said Bison safety Dawson Weber. “I love being out there. On that first down, I had goose bumps. It’s exciting to have all the fans back.”