After 2 years of hardships, RB Crockett can celebrate
FRISCO, Texas -- North Dakota State running back John Crockett spent two years getting his academics in order. Saturday afternoon, with confetti flying and Bison celebrating fans yelling, he got his reward.
The sophomore was part of a Division I Football Championship Subdivision title and he did it on a day when two Bison running backs went over 1,000 yards rushing for the season.
"Well, it's been a journey that I'm so happy that I had privilege to take," Crockett said. "If you really want success, you have to go get it."
Junior Sam Ojuri had success last year and went over 1,000 yards for the second straight season. Heading into the 39-13 win over Sam Houston Saturday, Crockett had 956 yards rushing and Ojuri 955.
Crockett picked up two milestones on one carry in the first quarter. His 57-yard run was the longest of his season and it also put him over 1,000 yards for the season.
The Bison appeared to pick up another first down on the drive, but a five-yard pass from quarterback Brock Jensen to receiver Ryan Smith was overturned by replay official, leaving NDSU with fourth-and-2.
The Bison went up 3-0 on Adam Keller's 32-yard field goal.
That was just the start.
Ojuri finished with 92 yards and two touchdowns and Crockett 82 yards averaging 7.5 yards per attempt.
He was also 1 for 1 passing thanks to a trick play. Leading 25-13 and the Bison facing third-and-1, Crockett took a handoff up the middle, but stopped before hitting the line of scrimmage.
He then jumped up and threw a pass to a wide open Kevin Vaadeland who reached the 5-yard line.
"It was a well-designed play," Crockett said. "We had three weeks to prepare for these guys. At end of the day, (Sam Houston) is a great team. You have to bring some tricks out of your bag and today we did that. I've been telling coach all year to let me throw, let me throw."
Bison linebackers play through aches and pains
It wasn't an easy day for NDSU's three starting linebackers.
"They were at the Alamo," said head coach Craig Bohl. "They kept on playing."
Travis Beck played despite separating his shoulder again. Carlton Littlejohn suffered a "stinger" during the game but didn't come out. And middle linebacker Grant Olson played the entire game despite being hospitalized Monday with an appendix issue.
"G.O. was in pain, you could tell the entire game," said linebackers coach Steve Stanard. "What a warrior he is."
Littlejohn finished with 11 tackles to lead the Bison. Beck had five stops and Olson had a season low two.
"The level of toughness those guys have is remarkable," Stanard said.
Olson thinks he may have lost five pounds in the hospital, but said he felt physically fine against the Bearkats.
"I'm just so thankful just to play," Olson said. "I didn't think I was going to be able when the doctor came in and said if I have to operate, you're not playing."
Olson was more of a role player last year backing up Preston Evans. Being a captain and helping his team to a title made this one a little better.
"I took it upon myself to work extra hard in the offseason," he said. "I wanted to be that guy that other guys can depend on."
Bison assistant coach relishes first title
Stanard, by the way, spent several minutes getting a picture of him and several family members with the national title trophy. He was one of the last to leave the stage where the trophy was awarded following the game.
The first-year Bison assistant wasn't with the team last year. It was the first national title of his career.
"After 24 years of coaching, it doesn't get any better than that," Stanard said. "It's the first one and I can't think of a better place to do it than here. These fans. These players. These coaches. What an awesome place. I'm so glad and fortunate to be here. I appreciate them letting me be a part of it."
Stanard last coached at Tulane University where he was the defensive coordinator, but wasn't retained when the head coach was fired. On Saturday, he gave thanks to Bohl and the defensive assistants "for letting me into their family."
Extra point turns into an adventure
NDSU defensive end Mike Hardie will go down in the final 2012 statistics as an offensive contributor. It was a strange play that was part of NDSU's third-quarter onslaught.
After Ojuri scored from two yards out on a fourth-and-1 play, a botched snap and hold made the extra point an adventure.
"It looked like a disaster waiting to happen," Bohl said. "We do work on a two-point play when there is an errant snap but quite frankly it was not drawn up how we practiced it. I thought it was pretty resourceful by Adam Keller to take the ball."
Keller said he yelled for the ball from holder Ben LeCompte, who obliged.
"Then I saw (Hardie) so I just heaved it," Keller said.
The last pass he remembers throwing was a trick play in high school when he was a tight end. Later, Keller said quarterback Brock Jensen came up to him and said, "Hey, I'm done, you go in there."
The two-point conversion gave NDSU a 25-10 lead.