Bison offense on defensive

North Dakota State and the University of South Dakota have had their share of well-hyped football games over the years. This week is not one of them.

North Dakota State and the University of South Dakota have had their share of well-hyped football games over the years. This week is not one of them.

At a combined 1-6, each team is looking to change its season around. Quickly.

The Bison offense, for instance, is coming off two stale outings.

"We need to get that jolt of caffeine," said NDSU head coach Bob Babich.

NDSU, 1-2 overall and 0-1 in the North Central Conference, will travel to Vermillion, S.D., with two new starters. Junior Rod Malone will take over at tailback and freshman Travis White will start at receiver.


With Malone, the Bison are hoping to resurrect a running game that has barely walked.

The Bison had 75 yards rushing in a 23-6 loss to Augustana last week.

"Rod adds a little more power to the formula," Babich said. "You have to be able to run the ball. It doesn't matter how much you pass, you can't win without establishing the run."

White, who had his redshirt pulled last week, debuted with nine catches for 96 yards against Augustana. But that was about the only highlight for NDSU.

The result has the Bison analyzing their every move.

"We can't look ahead to Saturday," Babich said. "We can't. We have to get better every day. We had to get better watching film yesterday. We have to get better on every rep on Tuesday."

So, too, do the Coyotes. They are 0-4, 0-2 in the league. They've lost seven straight conference games dating back to last season and have dropped 12 of their last 13 dating back to 2000.

Those are numbers uncommon to the Coyote program, which annually fielded tough teams in the 1980s and 1990s.


"We've had a tough year," said USD head coach John Austin. "But the program is on solid foundation and we've had a lot of supportive people."

NDSU and USD have struggled similarly in two ways this year: weak running games and injuries.

The Coyotes are averaging only 56 yards per game on the ground compared to NDSU's 143. It appears USD has had trouble overcoming the loss of standout Dusty Stamer, who transferred to the University of Nebraska before last season.

"The running game has not been productive," Austin said.

Austin said the Coyotes have lost eight starters for part or all of the season. He did not say whom citing a team policy not to release injuries to the media.

NDSU linebacker Jamie Steffensmeier will probably be the fifth player to be lost for the season for the Bison. He suffered apparent damage to the anterior cruciate ligament in his knee.

The Bison, however, will regain the services of receiver Tim Erickson (knee) and offensive tackle Justin Monson (knee) this week.

In the bigger picture, the Bison hope to regain the services of their confidence. It may have taken a beating after seeing a 22-game home


winning streak disappear.

"That was something that was important to our players," Babich said. "It's like a golf swing. You have a beautiful swing and then you hit a slice and it tears you apart."

Readers can reach Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack at (701) 241-5546

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.
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