Bison notebook: Fans can't miss Willson's name after Saturday's win

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Not much was known about North Dakota State linebacker Chad Willson before Saturday night. Most Bison football fans probably didn't realize the spelling of his last name had an extra letter.

North Dakota State defensive tackle Matthew Gratzek
North Dakota State defensive tackle Matthew Gratzek (70) adds to the pile formed by teammates Preston Evans, left, and Brandon Jemison as they stop Kansas running back Angus Quigley on Saturday in Lawrence. Quigley was held to 15 yards rushing on seven carries as the Bison defense limited the Jayhawks to just three points.Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

LAWRENCE, Kan. - Not much was known about North Dakota State linebacker Chad Willson before Saturday night. Most Bison football fans probably didn't realize the spelling of his last name had an extra letter.

His introduction was smashing. The transfer from Snow College (Utah) was all over Memorial Stadium leading his team in tackles with 12. More than that, it was a stellar night for the Bison defense in a 6-3 victory over the University of Kansas before 48,417.

"Great way to start as a Bison," Willson said.

He had one pass breakup and one quarterback hurry. Linebacker Preston Evans had 10 tackles and a forced fumble and linebacker Matt Anderson had seven tackles and an interception.

"We had a game plan, we knew what we were supposed to do and that allowed us to play fast," Willson said. "We owe a lot to our coaches because we were ready for everything they threw at us."


Anderson was ready in the third quarter in what turned out to be a game-turning play. With KU facing third-and-6 from the Bison 7, Anderson stepped in front of a Kale Pick pass in the end zone and any KU momentum was stalled.

It was NDSU's first interception since last October against Western Illinois. That was also a Bison defense that had only three interceptions all season.

This one looked more like the one of old. Then again, Willson wasn't part of the one of old.

North Dakota State survives 105 yards in penalties

It didn't take Bison head coach Craig Bohl long to look ahead. His third sentence in his comments to the media was, "Obviously anytime you beat a Big 12 opponent, that is a big win. But quite frankly, we have a Missouri Valley opener next week. We are going to enjoy this for 20 hours and get ourselves ready for Northern Iowa."

There are a few things to clean up, like 13 penalties for 105 yards. Two personal foul penalties early in the fourth quarter gave a dead KU team life.

Roughing-the-punter and late-hit infractions on Warren Holloway and Brandon Jemison, respectively, got the Jayhawks out of a hole to their own 42.

The drive reached the Bison 21, but NDSU survived when Jacob Branstetter's 42-yard field goal attempt was wide left with 6:50 remaining.


Bison defense finally gets stingy on third down

The Bison defense said a point of emphasis this season is to get off the field on third down, something that was a major problem last season. It didn't start out promising. KU converted on a third-and-6 and a third-and-18 on its first possession.

But Matthew Gratzek's quarterback sack, combined with blitzing cornerback Freddie Banks' pressure, on third-and-7 near midfield started a trend the other way. The Bison stopped the next six third-down tries by the Jayhawks in the first half.

KU finished 4 of 15 on third down.

Etc etc. etc.

Mike Sigers' blocked punt in the second quarter was the fourth in the last seven games for the Bison, which included blocks against Northern Iowa, South Dakota State and Missouri State. It was the sophomore Sigers' first stuff. ... The 48.417 in attendance was the fourth largest the Bison have played in front of, behind the two Minnesota games and last year's Iowa State opener. ... For a change in recent years, every Bison player who was expected to travel to KU did so. The Bison reported no new injuries in the last couple of weeks of practice. ... In the fashion department: Kansas wore white pants for the first time since 2003, white shoes for the first time since 1998 and did not have names on the back of their jerseys for the first time since 1981. ... John Prelvitz's 52-yard punt in the fourth quarter was his 12th career over 50 yards.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 9-11 a.m. on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack's NDSU media blog can be found at

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
What To Read Next
Get Local