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Kolpack: Jensen, Bison again prove they know how to win

Photo by David Samson / Forum Communications North Dakota State junior quarterback Brock Jensen scores the game-winning touchdown against Georgia Southern on Friday during the FCS playoff semifinals at the Fargodome.

FARGO -- Well, all those Division I Football Championship Subdivision title tickets that were bought in advance are good to go, cowboy. This time, the suburbs of Frisco and Plano, Texas, will probably be better prepared to handle one massive green and yellow party.

Look out, here comes those northerners again.

They got there Friday night thanks to a quarterback who knows how do to one thing better than anybody else in the FCS: win. Brock Jensen is the Joe Montana of his division.

His five-yard touchdown run on fourth down with just over three minutes remaining was the game winner in a 23-20 thriller over Georgia Southern.

It set an unofficial record for most suspenseful game in the 20-year history of Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. Enjoy the ride Bison fans, Six Flags has nothing on this team.

"Those are the situations you live for," Jensen said. "I'm proud of all of our guys."

For a while, it looked like the Bison wouldn't get there.

GSU quarterback Jerick McKinnon, one man, was the difference from last year's 35-7 NDSU win over GSU in this same game last year. At 5-foot-9 and 208 pounds, his low center of gravity made it difficult for Bison defenders to put a good lick on him.

He finished with 168 yards on 31 carries against a Bison defense that was giving up just 64 yards a game. He fell forward for a couple yards more often than not.

But when it comes to quarterbacks in the fourth quarter, never bet against a guy who led his high school team to an undefeated high school championship and the Bison title last year.

It wasn't all roses this year, either. The Bison passing game had its share of problems in the last half of the season. Once a third down conversion machine, Jensen had more overthrows in the last few games than he had in his career.

But when it counted, he used his legs.

The touchdown came one play after Jensen ran five yards to set up fourth-and-3, a play that at least gave NDSU some leverage whether to throw or run.

"We actually knew it was coming," GSU defensive lineman Brent Russell said of the QB draw. "We read it pretty good but the call just didn't work out and they were able to make a play."

Said GSU head coach Jeff Monken: I thought we had a good call for the situation. We were crashing everybody from the outside and I thought if they handed it off to the back, we had a good call for it. Turns out it was the quarterback draw, and their back got on the linebacker in the box and walked in. It was a great call and well executed."

Take away Sam Ojuri's 53-yard touchdown run and Jensen was the Bison's most consistent runner, finishing with 58 yards on 10 carries.

And he did it when it was sweaty palms time. Joe Cool doesn't sweat with the game on the line.

Head coach Craig Bohl said offensive coordinator Brent Vigen was set on the play, even with the coaches asking over the phones whether the call needed to be changed.

"It was a pretty dicey call," Bohl said. "There was a lot of debating going on but Brent knew exactly what he wanted to do, put the ball in Brock Jensen's hands."

During the last time out, Bohl went into the middle of the Bison huddle near the sideline and told Jensen "you're going to get it done."

Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co. Reach him at and read his blog at