College football: Bison's Crazy '8'

Running back D.J. McNorton has been around the North Dakota State football program for four years. But really, he made his formal introduction to 18,248 fans on Saturday night.

D.J. McNorton
North Dakota State running back D.J. McNorton is trailed by teammates as he makes a long run in the fourth quarter against South Dakota on Saturday at the Fargodome. Dave Wallis / The Forum

Running back D.J. McNorton has been around the North Dakota State football program for four years. But really, he made his formal introduction to 18,248 fans on Saturday night.

Yes, that was a running back going up and down the Fargodome turf. Yes, that was an offense putting up yards and subsequently points, a second-half blitz that left the University of South Dakota stunned. The 38-16 victory was more than the 18th-ranked team in Division I Football Championship Subdivision beating the 20th-ranked team.

It was McNorton skipping 100 yards and going right to 200 in his first three-digit rushing night. He finished with 250 yards on 20 carries and almost broke Tyler Roehl's school-record of 263 yards set against the University of Minnesota in 2007.

"Holy buckets, 250 yards, that's a lot," said Bison head coach Craig Bohl, when first looking at the statistical sheet. "It was a good night for D.J."

It was a good night - all in all - in the first start for freshman quarterback Brock Jensen. Like last week, he started slow, but made up for it and then some. He was 5 of 7 passing in the second half for 141 yards and directed a Bison offense that was unstoppable in the third quarter.


"The second half really showed what the Bison offense is capable of this year," Jensen said.

NDSU improved to 3-1 and a pair of one-play drives turned this game around.

McNorton's 53-yard touchdown run midway in the third quarter came with the Bison leading 14-13. Then came NDSU's most important defensive stand of the night.

Defense end Coulter Boyer sacked Coyotes quarterback Dante Warren for a 10-yard loss at his own 4. USD ran three plays and punted, which did nothing to slow the NDSU momentum.

"That's tough, especially when they're getting that feeding frenzy defense going," said USD head coach Ed Meierkort.

Jensen and receiver Warren Holloway went deep on the next play for 58 yards and it was 28-13 with 3:16 left in the quarter. NDSU's explosion took just over two minutes.

"We were on a roll like that and with our crowd, that hurt them," Holloway said.

McNorton put it out of reach with his third touchdown, a 21-yard run with 8:52 left in the game that made it 35-16. As a bonus, his career-long 67-yard run led to a 28-yard Ryan Jastram field goal just over four minutes later to conclude the 31-point second half.


"In the second half, we just played tough, physical Bison football," Jensen said. "When we get four quarters of that, that's when we'll get things rolling."

It appeared the Coyotes had most of the roll in the first half. Warren showed the Fargodome what fans at TCF Bank Stadium at the University of Minnesota saw two weeks ago on USD's first drive. The key play: his 12-yard scramble on fourth-and-3 that reached the Bison 20.

He scored from the 6-yard line six plays later and the Coyotes had a 7-0 lead on a drive that took about half of the quarter.

The Bison responded the second time they got the ball. Getting good field position at the USD 47, McNorton's 26-yard run was the big play in a drive that ended with his 1-yard touchdown run.

USD came right back, however, The Coyotes overcame a first-and-19 after a penalty, converting a third-and-7 on a 17-yard pass to Will Powell to the Bison 29. Warren, again, scored from 6 yards out, but Kevin Robb's extra point hit the upright and the Coyotes took a 13-7 lead into halftime.

It was a shaky two quarters for Jensen, who was 4 of 12 passing for just 41 yards. His receivers dropped a couple of balls, but a few other throws were well off target, too.

That changed in the second half.

"We're feeling good, but we want to do that for four quarters," Holloway said.


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.
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