Blocked punt keys Cal Davis' road victory: Stopping run game pays off for Davis CB

Staving off the California Davis defensive linemen and linebackers wasn't the only blocking problem for North Dakota State on Saturday. The Bison had trouble on one punt.

Staving off the California Davis defensive linemen and linebackers wasn't the only blocking problem for North Dakota State on Saturday. The Bison had trouble on one punt.

And it was crucial.

Nolan de Graaff's blocked punt and subsequent recovery inside the 1-yard line keyed the Aggies to a 20-14 victory at the Fargodome. Quarterback Jon Grant's sneak on the next play gave Davis a 10-0 lead midway in the third quarter.

"In close games like this, plays like those are usually the margin of victory," said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl.

Bohl said he believes the punt protection broke down on the left side.


"I think it broke down between the up back and the guard," Bohl said. "We identified it and corrected it. I would be surprised if the tape changes that."

Davis head coach Bob Biggs credited his special teams coach, Greg Chapla, with orchestrating the block. Biggs said Davis had the punt block on most of the game.

"We thought all week that we could get to it," Biggs said.

NDSU running back Kyle Steffes had more carries than yards on Saturday - something that was a shock to the Bison running back.

"I just have to make more plays and make more guys miss," he said.

Steffes, however, had little room to run against a Davis defense that stacked the line of scrimmage. The Aggies' focus in practice all week was to stop the Bison running game - something that hurt Davis in a 25-7 Bison win last year - and make quarterback Steve Walker throw down field.

"We knew that if we stopped the run they would have to put it in the air and we knew their quarterback tries to throw it into coverage a lot," said Davis cornerback Nevan Bergan.

He had two interceptions, including one that led to a field goal late in the first half.


Steffes had a minus 6 yards rushing in the first half and finished with eight yards on 13 carries.

NDSU had trouble sustaining any scoring threat in the first half, mostly because of a stingy Davis defense and Bison mistakes.

A pass interference infraction on NDSU cornerback Bobby Babich negated an interception return for a touchdown by freshman Nate Agbetola. Later, a holding penalty erased a pass for a first down to Kole Heckendorf in Aggie territory.

NDSU was penalized eight times for 81 yards.

"That's really disappointing," Bohl said. "We're the type of team where we're not made up to call a bunch of third-and-18s."

Senior receiver Marques Johnson passed Stacey Robinson on the NDSU career reception list with 89 on a first quarter catch. ... Davis receiver Tony Kays broke the Aggie single season record for receptions. He has 58 with four games remaining. ... John Majeski's fourth quarter touchdown reception helped the Bison avert their first shutout since a 34-0 blanking against St. Cloud State in 1995. ... Steve Walker's 22 completions and 42 attempts are both career highs for the sophomore.

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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