Kolpack: Bison keep on rolling after FCS powers collision
Fargo - It’s not normally in the nature of football fans, but close your eyes for a few minutes, take a deep breath and think about what North Dakota State has done lately. Yes, people, you are blessed.
I hope you realize it.
This last month alone is more than most FCS programs could ever dream about. The FBS win over Iowa State was a kick-starter.
Then came ESPN’s “College GameDay” for a second straight year, a show so smashing that the network led off its final-segment picks Saturday morning with the North Dakota State and Montana game. Later in the early afternoon, in a matchup that was scheduled in 2009, one of the FCS heavyweights walked into Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome, and the fight was on.
The Bison vs. the Griz.
For a nonconference clash, it just doesn’t get any better than that. It lived up to its playoff atmosphere with NDSU taking a postseason-like 22-10 grinder in front of 18,890 fans.
“That’s just North Dakota State football,” said running back John Crockett. “That’s why you come here, to play in big games and be a part of big events. At the end of the day, we just play football, and that’s the biggest thing is playing with these guys.”
It’s not all perfect with the Bison. Just like the first three games, there were ill-timed penalties that need to be figured out if a Missouri Valley Football Conference title is in the cards.
Against the Grizzlies, the offense had trouble finding the end zone in a remarkable bend-but-don’t-break defensive performance by Montana. It got so unproductive inside the 20-yard line – over the public address it’s announced as the Titan Machinery Case IH red zone – that the company should get reimbursed for its sponsorship this week.
The time of possession advantage NDSU had in the first half defied the score. By the time Adam Keller hit his third of five field goals, the Bison had the ball for 14 minutes, 44 seconds to Montana’s 4:36.
It was 19:09-5:07 when he hit his fourth in the second quarter, but the Griz were still right there trailing 12-7. It’s not often you see that close of a game that shouldn’t have been that close.
NDSU finished having the ball for 39 minutes of a 60-minute game.
“Anytime you control the ball for 39 minutes, you put yourself in position to win the game,” said Montana head coach Mick Delaney. “We took them to task as long as we could and hung on and hung on.”
Bison head coach Chris Klieman said his offensive coordinator, Tim Polasek, was “so mad at himself” for the red-zone performance. But when you have a kicker like Keller and a punter like Ben LeCompte, you might as well use them.
“Frustrating. That’s the way it goes sometimes,” said quarterback Carson Wentz. “Credit their defense, they stiffened up in the red zone.”
If that’s the harshest constructive criticism you can give this program, then life is pretty good. The Bison are 4-0 and put themselves in a good position down the road with the convincing FBS win over the Cyclones and the victory over a top five team in the FCS.
They have next week off and get into Missouri Valley play in two weeks at Western Illinois.
“I couldn’t be happier at 4-0,” Klieman said. “I don’t know if a lot of people outside our room thought we would be 4-0 with all the changes that transpired. I’m happy we’re 4-0 but we have a lot of work to do. One thing: these kids will stay hungry guys, they’ll stay hungry.”