Hazelton’s defense faces another testFARGO — The last few weeks would not have been a good time for Scottie Hazelton to take a physical. The doctor may have had a few questions with stress levels.
By: Jeff Kolpack, Forum Communications Co.
FARGO — The last few weeks would not have been a good time for Scottie Hazelton to take a physical. The doctor may have had a few questions with stress levels.
But that’s been the lifestyle of the North Dakota State defensive coordinator, who has had to deal with more offensive alignments than the president of the United States. He’ll get another one this Saturday when the Bison face Sam Houston State (Texas) for the Division I Football Championship Subdivision title.
The second round of the playoffs featured the read option offense of James Madison University (Va.). The quarterfinals presented the passing game of Lehigh University (Pa.) and the semifinals brought the challenge of preparing for the rare triple option attack of Georgia Southern in just a few days.
“It’s been really hard,” Hazelton admitted.
All three efforts were successful. NDSU gave up an average of just 7.0 points in those three games including a shutout of Lehigh.
Now comes Sam Houston, which Hazelton said poses combinations of all three of NDSU’s playoff opponents.
Running back Tim Flanders rushed for 287 yards against Montana in the semifinals. Brian Bell is a dual-threat quarterback and the Bearkats also bring in Richard Sincere at quarterback to run the “Wildcat” series.
“The coaches are always saying we’re something they’ve never seen because we have so many personnel packages and so many options,” Sincere said in a teleconference last week. “You can’t key in on one player because we have so many players that can do different things.”
Said Flanders: “We have a lot of motions and a lot of different personnel and we can come from any angle anywhere.”
So many different personnel options that Hazelton wonders how the Bearkats could possibly practice all of them. What hurt Montana, he said, was the Grizzlies had only a few days to prepare for the Bearkats.
It’s the same theory on how Georgia Southern ripped through a lot of teams; teams just don’t see that offense very often.
“It’s been a grind for all of us on defense,” Hazelton said. “We’re working harder than ever.”
It helps that the championship game is three weeks after the semifinals. For instance, Sam Houston ran some offensive personnel at Montana that it hadn’t done since early in the season.
“Then they gashed Montana with that personnel group for 150 yards,” Hazelton said. “Now you have to start game planning on the sideline and you have to get that through to your players right there.”
The defensive staff includes defensive tackles coach Nick Goeser, defensive ends coach A.J. Cooper, secondary coach Chris Klieman and defensive graduate assistant John Richardson. Their cars have rarely left the Fargodome parking lot.
They did take three days off over the Christmas holiday.
“I enjoyed it as much as I could,” Hazelton said. “It was great. Had a chance to stay with my family and hang out with the kids. We didn’t go anywhere, I just wanted to see my kids for three days.”
Then, on Dec. 26, it was back to the stress test.
“I’d like to get in their offensive coordinator’s mind and say, ‘How do you practice all of this?’” Hazelton said.
Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.