The Bison playoff football run that almost didn't happen

The 2010 NDSU team is largely forgotten, but set up a decade of dominance.

Brock Jensen
Photo by Dave Wallis/The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead/Forum Communications Co. North Dakota State freshman quarterback Brock Jensen reacts to his touchdown in the fourth quarter of the Saturday playoff game against Robert Morris. Jensen knows he is today's starter against Montana State, which he said took pressure off him.

FARGO - The scenes of seeing thousands of Bison football fans gather in Frisco, Texas has become customary over the last decade.

None of these celebrations would have been possible without a team that has largely been forgotten. Ten years later the 2010 Bison football team may finally be getting its due. But it wasn't without its bumps. North Dakota State entered the final game of the regular season with a 7-3 record. A win over lowly Missouri State would guarantee a first playoff berth into the FCS postseason.

A strange thing happened that day in Springfield. NDSU used three quarterbacks and none of them could register any points. The Bison lost 3-0. They haven't been held without a point in a game since. And now they would have to wait. The FCS selection committee would determine their fate with a 7-4 record.


'We were a better team than this and especially leading up into the year coming off a 3-8 year. I don't think anybody expected us to even have a chance to make the playoffs. And anyways, so you go to bed and you're like man this stinks and then you wake up Sunday morning and all of a sudden, just a miracle it felt like." NDSU linebackers coach and freshman linebacker at the time, Grant Olson said.

Surprisingly; NDSU had received an at-large bid to the FCS Playoffs and what seemed like a bonus, they would actually host a game. It would be the first playoff game in the history of the Fargodome, a building that happened in 1993, a year before the Bison last hosted a game. NDSU would face the champions of the Northeast Conference, Robert Morris, also making its playoff debut.

November 27th, 2010. A crowd of over 12 thousand were on hand on Thanksgiving weekend to witness history.

"For us to be in the Fargodome at home in front of our fans in the playoffs, you know for the first time, it was a buzz around the stadium, within our locker room, everything. It was really an exciting time. We were just excited to play another football game." NDSU defensive tackles coach Nick Goeser said. Goeser was in his first year coaching at NDSU at the time.

The Bison fans saw NDSU go to the halftime locker room down 7-6. But the offense woke up in the second half, thanks to two Brock Jensen touchdown passes. NDSU led 27-17 when the defense made a game changing play.

"The play I remember, I remember Matt Gratzek getting a safety, and they ran a quarterback play and we had practiced it all week and we were just working on it and were like, 'Are they going to run this thing? Are they gonna run this thing?' And certainly they ran it at about the one yard, the two yard line maybe and Matt Gratzek was obviously one of the better players I've had the privilege to coach here, made that big TFL in the endzone. Excitement hit top notch in the stadium.


The stadium was extremely loud, felt like there was 100,000 people in the dome. So, I remember that play and something that will always be kind of etched in my mind." Goeser said.

NDSU went on to win 43-17 that day, starting a memorable playoff run. The Bison traveled to Montana State the following week and blew out the Bobcats, 42-17. They nearly knocked off the eventual national champions from Eastern Washington, falling in overtime. But the seeds of future national championships were planted that year.

"When you talk about the ground work that had been put in here and the foundation that had been laid here, and the success that we've had; that season, that 2010 season of what we experienced, all of that stuff that we went through, no doubt built our confidence." Goeser said.

"The 2010 senior class does not have a national championship ring, but the NDSU Bison would not have as many of these national championships rings if not for the 2010 class." Olson said.

Dom Izzo is the Sports Director at WDAY-TV. He began working for WDAY in 2006 as the weekend sports anchor and was promoted to Sports Director in 2010.
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