North Dakota State not taking any breaks
FARGO — Labor Day was a work day for the North Dakota State football team on Monday. Not all was rosy in the 34-14 victory over Iowa State on Saturday.
Head coach Chris Klieman said the NDSU special teams “got whipped,” and if it wasn’t for the performance of punter Ben LeCompte and kicker Adam Keller, that it could have gotten worse.
“The effort was good, but we played a lot of young kids and their athletes were much better than our kids in space,” he said. “We have to upgrade.”
The next opportunity to upgrade is Saturday night when the Bison travel to Weber State and play in Ogden, Utah, for the second time in the Division I era. The first was a 31-17 victory in 2004 — NDSU’s first season with a Division I schedule.
Weber State dropped its season opener 45-14 at Arizona State. The Bison (1-0) moved up one spot to No. 1 in The Sports Network top-25 media poll and remained No. 1 in the FCS coaches poll.
Their 25th straight win broke the FCS record of 24 set by Penn in 1964-66 and Montana in 2001-02.
NDSU has the top active Division I winning streak ahead of Florida State’s 17 straight. The Bison will take their streaks — including an impressive 19 straight road victories — to Stewart Stadium for the 7 p.m. kickoff.
“I can’t remember the last time I’ve gone back to back on the road to start a season off,” Klieman said. “I talked to our captains yesterday. Our big focus is we have to make sure we go back to work today because we’re going on the road to a Big Sky opponent. We have to stay focused, stay sharp.”
It appears NDSU may be without starting defensive end Mike Hardie, who injured his groin in the Iowa State game. The senior was scheduled to undergo an MRI on Monday.
That means sophomore Brad Ambrosius will get his first career start with redshirt freshman Jarrod Tuszka making the two-deep depth chart for the first time behind senior Kyle Emanuel at the other defensive end spot. Ambrosius had two tackles and Tuszka had one against the Cyclones.
That’s about it for the Bison injury situation on a weekend when two Missouri Valley Football Conference teams lost their starting quarterbacks. South Dakota State’s Austin Sumner will be out six to eight weeks with a broken foot and South Dakota’s Kevin Earl will be sidelined for a about six weeks with a broken thumb.
Both were hurt against nationally ranked FBS opponents — the Jacks lost at Missouri and the Coyotes lost at Oregon. It appears both will be back when each team plays the Bison. USD hosts NDSU on Oct. 25 and the Jackrabbits travel to the Fargodome on Nov. 1.
Klieman said he was pleased with the way the NDSU offensive line improved as the Iowa State game wore on. Although they won’t start, freshman offensive guard Austin Kuhnert and sophomore guard/tackle Jack Plankers will be part of seven-player rotation up front.
“The sixth and seventh guy played significant snaps,” Klieman said. “We wore on them probably a little bit. They gelled really well throughout that game and all of them played really well. We want to make sure we have a comfort level with those seven guys before we get into conference.”