Senior center Lund rides off into sunset with a title
FRISCO, Texas -- With about five minutes to play in the fourth quarter of Saturday's national championship game, North Dakota State senior center Joe Lund trotted off the field for the last time in his career -- cheers rained down from the Bison crowd.
Lund earned the pseudo curtain call.
The Bison offensive front took over the game in the second half, helping vault NDSU to a 39-13 victory against Sam Houston State for the Division I Football Championship Subdivision title.
"It feels amazing just to have a group of guys to work with and pound the rock," Lund said.
The Bison rushed for 166 yards in the second half on 30 carries. They finished with 300 rushing yards on 45 attempts.
"I loved it," Bison offensive line coach Scott Fuchs said with a smirk. "That's Bison football."
The 6-foot-2, 303-pound Lund, from Bloomington, Minn., is the lone senior starter on the Bison offensive line, and one of just seven seniors on the team.
The Bison scored score four touchdowns in the second half on their first four possessions after halftime. All five NDSU touchdowns were scored on the ground.
"At halftime they told us we were going to take it and start pounding it," said junior offensive tackle Billy Turner. "Next thing you know, the score ended up like it was."
Bison junior Sam Ojuri rushed for 92 yards on 14 attempts against the Bearkats. Sophomore running back John Crockett added 82 yards on 11 carries. Ojuri and Crockett both surpassed 1,000 yards rushing for the season in the title game. That marked the second consecutive season the Bison had two 1,000-yard rushers. Ojuri and D.J. McNorton both reached that mark last season.
Junior quarterback Brock Jensen said it isn't by chance the Bison are good on the offensive front.
"Those guys are probably the most highly recruited guys on the team year in and year out," said Jensen, who rushed for three touchdowns. "With the run game, you obviously want good and big offensive linemen. That's just part of NDSU and who we've always been; ground and pound."
Junior wide receiver Ryan Smith got into the Bison running mix, too, finishing with 47 yards on five attempts. Smith's runs were sweeps that helped stretch the edge of the Sam Houston State defense. Those runs eventually helped open running creases between the tackles.
"They had some new wrinkles," Sam Houston State head coach Willie Fritz said. "They just kind of out-populated over there with their blockers. When you pull a bunch of people, you have a whole new bunch of gaps. We didn't do a good job of filling those gaps."
Fuchs liked the way his offensive line meshed at the right time. Junior guard Tyler Gimmestad and freshman guard Josh Colville and freshman Joe Haeg were the other three starters in the title game along with Turner and Lund.
"The progression started back in the spring, there was some work to do," Fuchs said. "It wasn't like this was something thrust on them. They took as something they wanted. They owned it."