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Schnepf: Fargodome, fans do their part in NDSU's victory

FARGO -- Imagine yourself standing in a thunderstorm surrounded by jackhammers and chainsaws. That's what the noise was like cascading down on North Dakota State's football team Friday night in the Fargodome.

When Bison quarterback Brock Jensen scored on a do-or-die, fourth-down, five-yard touchdown run late in the Football Championship Subdivision semifinal game, the Fargodome filled with 18,484 fans erupted like it never has before.

"I've never heard it this loud," said Fargodome manager Rob Sobolik, who was only a few feet away from Jensen's touchdown run that registered a reading of 111 decibels.

Jensen's touchdown run with three minutes remaining ignited the top-ranked and defending national champion Bison to a classic 23-20 win over Georgia Southern.

For the second straight year, the Bison head to Frisco, Texas, for the national championship game. The ears of the Bison may still be ringing by the time they play on Jan. 5.

"This has to be the loudest it has ever been before," said Bison linebacker Travis Beck.

As usual, the dome crowd was at its loudest when the Bison ran onto the field before the game. 110 decibels.

As usual, the dome crowd offered heavy doses of noise when the Bison were on defense. Consistently, the decibel meter read from 102 to 106.

"That's a loud place out there," said Georgia Southern head coach Jeff Monken, who could not hold back the tears while four of his players answered questions in the postgame press conference.

"Every time we got the ball, the volume went up. That's a credit to the fans here and the atmosphere they have created here. This is as good of an atmosphere there is in college football. This is a terrific place."

ESPN-TV sideline reporter Cara Capuano agreed with Monken's assessment. Capuano has covered numerous games in big-time venues at Alabama, Tennessee and Georgia.

"I get the same hum in my ears here as I do at those places," said Capuano, who wears earpieces to keep track of the broadcast. "What a wonderful reverberation of noise."

That noise wasn't done after Jensen's touchdown.

The noise meter read 106 when Georgia Southern faced a fourth-and-11. It read at the whisper range when Zach Walker hauled in a 50-yard pass to the Bison 36.

It read 105 when the Bison defense stopped Georgia Southern quarterback Jerick McKinnon for a four-yard loss. The Eagles faced fourth-and-7 with 47 seconds remaining.

To add to all the drama, they sent out kicker Drew Ruggles to boot a 50-yard field goal. Ruggles just recruited last week from the soccer team to help try to find an answer for the Eagles' kicking woes.

"We've had one field goal in the last six games," Monken said. "We were willing to try anything."

It didn't work. Carleton Littlejohn blocked the kick. After a mad scramble for the ball ended with a completion to an offensive lineman, the officials ruled an ineligible receiver downfield.

The Fargodome erupted one more time. 106 decibels. It reached 103 decibels when Jensen came trotting toward the exit ramp, where he hugged his offensive coordinator Brent Vigen.

"I've never heard it that loud," Vigen said. "And I'm up in the booth during the game."

Jensen then got a big hug from NDSU president Dean Brescani as he made his way into the joyous locker room. When Bohl arrived, Brescani said: "Coach, let's go to Frisco."

It just might not be as loud as the Fargodome was Friday night.

Schnepf is the sports editor of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications.