Bison players ready to tackle 2 seasons in 1 calendar year

Any hesitancy of the thought last fall has been erased with the reality of being able to play a game

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North Dakota State defensive end Logan McCormick rushes the quarterback as teammate Jackson Hankey drops back in coverage against James Madison during the FCS title game in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday, Jan. 11. 2020. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO — A historic two football seasons in one calendar year begins on Sunday for North Dakota State. Initially, a few players expressed hesitancy at the thought of it last fall when the Missouri Valley Football Conference announced it was going to a spring season.

That may no longer be the case. For starters, said junior middle linebacker Jackson Hankey, he had doubts a spring season would happen.

“But coming to a point where we are now today,” he said, “with the reality that it is going to occur, I’m very glad it is.”

That reality becomes real at 2:30 Sunday afternoon when the Bison host Youngstown State at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. The Bison will go into the game 1-0 after beating Central Arkansas in October.

They also haven’t played much in the last 13 months.


“I know there are some concerns about the amount of games being played in a certain month span,” Hankey said. “But in my opinion, we’re here to play football and I’d rather play too many games than not enough. And going without it in the fall for the first time makes you grateful for the games you get to play.”

Hankey went through two offseason surgeries to his hips that have gone well, he said. He had doubts he would have been back for the originally scheduled opener in September against Oregon.

“Because things got pushed back, it was almost more beneficial and more time to recover,” Hankey said. “Through the fall and winter, it’s only continued to progress.”

NDSU has eight games scheduled this spring. If recent history is any indication, there could be more. The fall season is expected to return to normal, meaning 19 regular season games in 2021.

“I’m sure there was some hesitation for some players, I can see where there would be some stress with that,” said junior defensive end Logan McCormick. “Obviously guys putting their bodies on the line playing that many games in a year, we’ve never done that before. But I think people aren’t too worried about it now.”

Moreover, McCormick said head coach Matt Entz made a point to the team that players put in so much time out of season with weight lifting, running and practicing.

“We only get up to 11, 12 opportunities in a regular season, we’re just thankful to be playing this first game on Sunday,” McCormick said. “I’m not too upset about it. I love playing football, love being with the guys as much as I can. Obviously there are some things to take into consideration like keeping bodies healthy and limiting reps for some guys, but we’re looking forward to both seasons.”

If any program knows how to play a lot of games, it is NDSU. The Bison played 16 in 2019. Players who reached the FCS national title game in each of their four years of eligibility played an equivalent of five seasons with all of the playoff games.


NDSU has had several players appear in at least 50 career games.

“In my opinion, just a really good opportunity, especially young guys get more looks and reps so we can evolve our program more,” said Bison tight end Josh Babicz. “It’s going to be rough, but I think we’ll be able to manage.”

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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