NDSU, Sam Houston shaping up to be an even battleFARGO — The North Dakota State and Sam Houston State Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game is shaping up to be an even battle.
By: Jeff Kolpack, Forum News Service
FARGO — The North Dakota State and Sam Houston State Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game is shaping up to be an even battle.
The strength of the Bearkats is their offense. The strength of the Bison is their defense. NDSU’s offense has been effective. Sam Houston’s defense has been good enough.
All things equal, it could come down to special teams and field position and there are no bigger players in that battle than the punters and kickers. In NDSU’s case, the Bison will gladly take punter Ben LeCompte and kicker Adam Keller to FC Dallas Stadium.
LeCompte averaged 48.1 yards per punt in the three playoff games, including four boots against Georgia Southern for a 55.0 average. He’s the same freshman who was averaging in the high 30s in the first few games this season.
His 43.3-yard average ranks him 10th in the FCS national statistics.
“Ben has gotten better and better,” said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl, “and he was at his best against Georgia Southern when we needed him.”
Keller set a team record for field goals made in a season, going 17 of 22 this year. He’s 8 of 8 from 20-29 yards and 6 of 7 from 30-30 yards. His other four misses came from 40 yards or further.
Both Keller and LeCompte are in their first year as starters. Keller was behind Ryan Jastram last year as a redshirt freshman and LeCompte redshirted last year.
“We were concerned coming into the year because we were replacing both of those guys,” Bohl said. “That portion of your game is so critical and it’s kind of like the fire department. You don’t notice them around until you need them. So those guys have done well. Adam has been very accurate kicker and Ben has developed his leg and his been very consistent.”
The kicking game made a difference in last year’s title game. Punter Matt Voigtlander had a key fake for a first down that resulted in an NDSU touchdown. He had 10 punts for a 44.2 average with a long of 66 yards.
Jastram made his only field goal attempt.
NDSU reported no changes to its depth chart on Monday.
Bohl said strong safety Bryan Shepherd, who started earlier in this season before a lacerated kidney sidelined him, will see more playing time against Sam Houston. Shepherd returned for the semifinal game against Georgia Southern, but was too out of shape to do much more than special teams.
“The extra days of practice have made a difference for him,” Bohl said of the three weeks between the semifinal and title games. “I think it makes a difference for a lot of guys, who over the course of the year accumulate a lot of injuries. Now they have a chance to heal up. I’m sure Sam Houston is the same way.”