Bison players, fans alike use annual spring game as a tune-upFARGO — A cloud hovered over the west parking lot at the Fargodome on Saturday morning. It was a haze of smoke from a bevy of grills from North Dakota State football fans.
By: Jeff Kolpack, The Dickinson Press
FARGO — A cloud hovered over the west parking lot at the Fargodome on Saturday morning. It was a haze of smoke from a bevy of grills from North Dakota State football fans.
The school opened the annual spring game to tailgating for the first time, and the scene was reminiscent of every home Saturday game in the fall. Build it up, and they will come.
Under his tent, Dilworth resident Mike Bakken and friends test-drove their new outdoor deep-fat fryer with an assortment of foods like chicken wings and fried liver.
“This is the Green vs. Gold Tailgating Scrimmage,” said his brother, Derek Bakken. “We’re testing everything. We don’t want to go into game day next year unprepared.”
Put it this way: Cholesterol levels were challenged all over the lot. NDSU associate athletic director Troy Goergen estimated the turnout to be about half of a normal fall game day, or about the same as a typical tailgating day two or three years ago.
Inside the Fargodome, a pregame championship ring ceremony turned into a pep fest of sorts with a couple of standing ovations.
The Gold team defeated the Green 3-0 on a 43-yard field goal by Adam Keller in the fourth quarter before a record spring game crowd of 5,842. Many of those fans came early to the annual rummage sale that saw mostly used Bison merchandise like jerseys, warmup coats and bags and new T-shirts sell like crazy.
People waited in the checkout line for around an hour early in the sale.
“It was like Black Friday,” said Brian Gordon, the NDSU equipment manager and director of football operations. “We’re calling it ‘Green Saturday.’”
Two Bison fans wearing orange Sam Houston State “national championship runner-up” T-shirts posed in front of the national championship trophy. They found it ironic NDSU’s opponent in January sold them, so they purchased a couple online.
That game is really what drove Saturday’s all-day affair. After the players got their championship rings, they went about knocking each other around for four abbreviated quarters.
The defense did more of the knocking.
It appeared to pick up this spring where it left off in January. If there were any missed assignments, they weren’t immediately evident. The No. 1 defense, the Green team, did it without three regulars on the defensive line. Nose guard Ryan Drevlow, tackle Justin Juckem and end Cole Jirik sat out because of injuries.
Still, the Green couldn’t pitch the shutout after Gold linebacker Alex LaVoy recovered a fumble by Green quarterback Ryan Stanford near midfield. It was the second straight productive Saturday for LaVoy, a freshman from Mahnomen, Minn.
“I learned a good work ethic from my coaches in Mahnomen, came here and that carried over,” said LaVoy, who led the Gold team with seven tackles.
The old Spring Game record crowd was 3,051 set last year. The entire production, including a state-wide television audience, was quite a contrast from the first few years under head coach Craig Bohl, who started in 2003 in NDSU’s last year as a Division II school.
“Sometimes I sit back and remember a few years ago when I would be out here in sweatpants and there would be a couple hundred people in the stands,” Bohl said. “It sends a message to our players.”
Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.