Walk-on Butler makes difference-making play right away

FARGO - North Dakota State honored 14 seniors before its final regular season home game on Saturday. Four of them were walk-ons who have made a difference, and that didn't stop with the older players against Missouri State, either.

FARGO – North Dakota State honored 14 seniors before its final regular season home game on Saturday. Four of them were walk-ons who have made a difference, and that didn't stop with the older players against Missouri State, either.

Bison in position for high playoff seed after 55-0 win over Missouri State

Freshman Caleb Butler, a walk-on defensive end, recovered a fumble for a touchdown on the Bears' third play from scrimmage and the rout was on in a 55-0 win at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

NDSU defensive end Greg Menard forced the fumble by MSU quarterback Brodie Lambert, although a few of his teammates were about to hit Lambert also. The ball squirted free in the end zone and Butler emerged with it.

"Really exciting, love Caleb, he's a great guy and he's grown," said Bison defensive tackle Brian Schaetz, a former walkon himself. "He's a strong kid and has tremendous work ethic. He reminds me of myself and I had a big smile on my face. It's really amazing seeing these young guys develop and seeing a walkon like Caleb become the football player he is today."


The Bison made it 14-0 on their first offensive possession after defensive end Brad Ambrosius picked off a pass by Lambert, who appeared to be trying to throw it away under heavy pressure. King Frazier scored from the 1-yard line 11 plays later.

"First of all, when you have a turnover for a touchdown it changes the dynamics very quickly," said Missouri State head coach Dave Steckel. "I think at times, because of that, we played the victim, dug ourselves a hole and it was hard to get out of it."

All in all, it was a banner day for the Bison defensive line. Butler tied linebacker M.J. Stumpf as the leading tackler with six. Noseguard Nate Tanguay had two tackles for lost yardage and defensive end Greg Menard had two quarterback sacks.

"Our front four are playing fast and effective," said Bison head coach Chris Klieman.

Said Steckel: "Quite frankly, I think they're very, very powerful, very tough and very, very relentless when they play."

Menard said the plan all week was to use the crowd noise to the defense's advantage and try to jump the snap count, which he said he did on the forced fumble.

"I just went in unblocked," Menard said.

Smith, Champion held out with injuries


NDSU played without starting cornerbacks C.J. Smith and Jordan Champion because of injuries. Smith had his knee scoped earlier in the week, but Klieman said he'll be ready for the first FCS playoff game on Dec. 5. Champion has been bothered by a hamstring injury - he warmed up but didn't play.

"We tried to hold him and we were able to," Klieman said.

Their absence meant the first career start for redshirt freshman Dakota Reid with freshman Jalen Allison getting the nod at the other cornerback spot.

"I'll have to look at the tape but I was pleased, they kept things in front of them," Klieman said. "I saw a couple of good tackles. That's the future as well as a couple of guys that are redshirting."

Tight end Wentz has another good day vs. Bears

Bison tight end Connor Wentz probably wouldn't mind playing Missouri State every day. Last year, both of his touchdown receptions came against the Bears. On Saturday, his four-yard scoring catch from quarterback Easton Stick gave the Bison a 20-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Wentz, who had one reception for 15 yards coming into the game, had three on Saturday for 49 yards, including a long of 33 yards.

That came in NDSU's ensuing possession, a two-play drive that ended with Dimitri Williams' 27-yard touchdown run that made it 27-0. It was the freshman Williams' first career touchdown.


In another career note, senior fullback Jedre Cyr had the first two carries of his career, with the first one going for eight yards late in the fourth quarter and he followed that with a one-yard gain that reached the 9-yard line.

Etc. etc. etc.

Lance Dunn's 60-yard touchdown run in the second half equaled the longest run from scrimmage by a Bison player this season. Quarterback Easton Stick had a 60-yarder against Southern Illinois. ... The crowd of 18,624 was the 35th straight time NDSU has drawn at least 18,000.

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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