NDSU studies next playoff opponent, New Hampshire
FARGO — It’s finals week at North Dakota State and for the Bison football players that means hours and hours of studying for two opponents: their academic tests and the University of New Hampshire.
The latter concludes the week on Friday night at 7 in the FCS semifinals at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. It’s a matchup of not only two veteran playoff programs, but teams from two of the power leagues in the FCS.
NDSU has put the Missouri Valley Football Conference on higher ground in the last couple of years. The Colonial Athletic Association has two spots in the final four. Towson State plays at Eastern Washington in the other semifinal.
“You coach football long enough, you put in the tape and these guys are where they’re supposed to be,” said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl of CAA teams. “They’re running the football, they’re mixing it up. They’ll come off the ball and hit you. Towson is the same way.”
The Wildcats have won six straight after a 1-3 start. They’re in the playoff field for the 10th straight year, the most of any active FCS team, but have reached the semifinals for the first time in school history.
They’ve beaten two seeded teams on the road to do it, beating Maine 41-27 and Southeastern Louisiana 20-17.
“There are four teams left in the country, they’re all going to be good,” Bohl said. “It’s a fun time for us to be playing football.”
For the second straight year, The Sports Network rewarded Bohl for playing football in December by naming him as the winner of the Eddie Robinson Award, which goes to the FCS coach of the year. It’s the first time a coach has won it in back-to-back years.
On Monday, Bohl recalled being a graduate assistant coach at Nebraska when Robinson, the legendary coach at Grambling State, visited the Cornhuskers.
“What coach Robinson has done for our profession is really special,” Bohl said. “That award comes into play because of a whole lot of other people.”
Also, Bison senior offensive tackle Billy Turner accepted an invitation to play in the Senior Bowl all-star game Jan. 25 in Mobile, Ala.
“That does not surprise me,” Bohl said. “Billy is one of those guys that have just gotten better this year. He hears all the NFL talk and he just keeps working hard. When you get invited to the Senior Bowl, he’ll have a chance to be evaluated by every general manager, every position coach, so it will be a great experience for Billy.”
Bohl said safety Colten Heagle did not practice on Sunday after his shoulder popped out in the Coastal Carolina game, but is expected to play Friday night against the Wildcats.
“Typically once the soreness goes away and the strength returns, those guys can play,” Bohl said.