Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.
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FARGO—There was a time when the North Dakota State home football season was looking more bad and ugly than good with Fargodome games against Mississippi Valley State, Robert Morris, Missouri State, Western Illinois, Northern Iowa and South Dakota. History wasn't on the season ticket holders' side. It was looking to be the UNI rivalry game and the other five at Gate City Bank Field. That line of thinking, however, has taken 180-degree turn with the upward surge of Western Illinois and USD. The Coyotes are ranked fourth in the latest FCS Division I top 25 coaches poll.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio—The 16,000-plus fans were filing out of Stambaugh Stadium in the wake of an intense 27-24 North Dakota State University victory over Youngstown State on Saturday night, Oct. 14. Bison linebacker Jabril Cox was emerging from a locker room in the lower level of the facility. In a sense, the freshman was taking a curtain call for the assembled NDSU fans still soaking in the overtime win. "This was a coming-out party for Jabril Cox," said head coach Chris Klieman.
YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio — The North Dakota State running backs were like the visiting fans tailgating around Stambaugh Stadium on Saturday. There wasn't much room to roam and they ran into more folks in red than they're used to at home. That didn't apply to the quarterback in the 27-24 overtime win against Youngstown State.
FARGO — If you want a lesson in Murderers' Row football scheduling, try being Don Morton in 1981. The North Dakota State head coach faced road games at Northern Michigan, Northern Arizona and Northern Colorado to open the season and then the home opener against North Dakota.
FARGO—It's one thing to have older players on the team, which the North Dakota State University football team has this year with large senior and junior classes. It's another to play like a veteran team and there's no better evidence of maturity than what the Bison have done in the first half in each of their five games. They're not waiting around to put their signature into a opponent. They've outscored their competition 95-7 in the first quarter.
TERRE HAUTE, Ind.—North Dakota State started early, kept the hammer down through three quarters and pounded Indiana State Saturday afternoon, Oct. 7, at Memorial Stadium. It wasn't close from the get-go. Quarterback Easton Stick threw four touchdown passes and the Bison rolled the Sycamores 52-0. The win on a windy, warm and sunny day before 4,743 fans at Memorial Stadium boosted the No. 2-ranked Bison to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and kept the Sycamores winless in five games.
Terre Haute, Ind. — Pick a tight end, any tight end. It doesn't matter with the North Dakota State offense anymore. Find a guy, any guy, who is about, say 6-foot-3 and 250 pounds who can run, block and catch a pass, and just throw him in the lineup. "We have so many guys who can do so many things," said Connor Wentz, the elder statesman of the tight ends. It was the senior Wentz who put an early dagger into Indiana State on Saturday afternoon, Oct. 7, and the Bison went on a seek-and-destroy mission from there to take a 52-0 win at Memorial Stadium.
FARGO—North Dakota State turned to an old Great West Football Conference fellow member to complete its 2018 football schedule. California Poly will open the season with a Sept. 1, 2018, date at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. It will also be the first time in NDSU's Division I existence that it will have seven regular-season home games. The Bison also have nonconference games against North Alabama and Delaware and will not hit the road until an Oct. 6, 2018, conference game at Northern Iowa.
FARGO—The first sign of victory came when the lights were out and the live video of the Bison players coming out of the locker room during their "Thunderstruck" introduction was in full swing. After two steps, head coach Chris Klieman gave senior linebacker Nick DeLuca a fist bump. The significance: North Dakota State University had its best defensive player back from a knee injury.
FARGO — There probably isn't a county road in North Dakota that North Dakota State assistant football coach Randy Hedberg hasn't driven. It's his job, after all, to search all corners of the state to find the next Bison players. But in the case of five offensive linemen from rural North Dakota, even Hedberg's GPS had to be challenged in getting from Point A to Point B. Some of those Point Bs are out there. It's turned into a gold mine of sorts for NDSU football, which is making an art of taking raw, strong kids and turning them into polished college football players.