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College football: Steffes out for season, Bison drop to No. 5

For the second straight week, the North Dakota State football coaches will need to find a replacement for a starter. Freshman running back Kyle Steffes was diagnosed with a broken bone above the left ankle and will be sidelined for the season. He...

For the second straight week, the North Dakota State football coaches will need to find a replacement for a starter.

Freshman running back Kyle Steffes was diagnosed with a broken bone above the left ankle and will be sidelined for the season. He was injured late in the game in a 28-21 overtime loss at the University of North Dakota.

The Bison lost starting offensive guard Justin Monson two weeks ago against Nebraska-Omaha.

Steffes and senior Rod Malone shared the ball-carrying duties all season. Steffes' injury vaults Malone into perhaps more solo duty. But competition for the backup spot will probably be intense heading into a road game at Augustana College Saturday afternoon.

Bison head coach Craig Bohl said junior Keontay Jackson, redshirt freshman Mark Moore and true freshman Cinque Chapman-Pratt are the contenders.

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All three are unique in their presentations.

Jackson, who started three games last season, is trying to prove that a knee injury suffered late in the year is sufficiently healed. Moore is simply trying to prove he is capable of prime time and the dilemma with Chapman-Pratt is whether to take the redshirt off him with four regular season games to go.

Jackson already has missed one full season after tearing his Achilles during 2001 spring practice. Although listed as the No. 3 back most of this season, he has yet to see a carry.

Asked if Jackson is 100 percent, Bohl said:

"He's not back to the exact percentage he was before the injury. He hasn't had a lot of opportunity to perform. His reps have been limited in practice."

Moore, 5-9, 210 pounds, ran for 780 yards in his senior year at Sherwood High in Milwaukee two years ago. Last year, the 5-10, 190-pound Chapman-Pratt averaged 12.1 yards per carry at Chicago Morgan Park High School. He's been impressive as a Bison scout team back this fall.

Pulling his redshirt will hinge on several questions, such as:

- How much will the Bison want Malone to carry the load?

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- Will the offense go to more of a passing attack?

- Are Moore and Chapman-Pratt ready for prime time?

- Is a less-than-100 percent Jackson a better option than the two freshmen?

"There are a lot of variables to consider," Bohl said.

NDSU has no variables to consider as for its post-season hopes. The Bison, most likely, have to win all four remaining games to qualify for one of four Midwest Region spots.

The loss to UND dropped the Bison to No. 5 in the region poll at 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the North Central Conference.

They will have to win all four without Steffes, the best short-yardage back between he and Malone.

"What you always find with a good team is that somebody steps up to the plate and a new player emerges," Bohl said. "Over the course of this week, we'll be addressing that."

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Bohl said Steffes should be back for spring football. He'll be immobilized for eight weeks, Bohl said, and should be back to 100 percent before next spring.

"He has resolve and he'll bounce back," Bohl said.

Augustana will need to bounce back from a disappointing season. Despite being 2-5, they have led or been tied in every game except one going into the fourth quarter. The one exception was UND, a game in which the Vikings trailed 6-3 heading into the final period.

"Inexperience has shown late in the games," said Augustana head coach Jim Heinitz.

The fact the Vikings are perhaps due to turn that around is another factor NDSU will have to deal with Saturday in Sioux Falls, S.D. Add a possible post-UND letdown, the Bison could be out of the playoff picture by Saturday night.

Bohl said NDSU does not control its own fate anymore. But he also warned against counting the Bison out.

"I know this, in college football, something crazy will and usually happens," he said. "I feel we have a great deal to play for."

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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