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Schnepf: NDSU relaxed as title game approaches

FRISCO, Texas -- Craig Bohl saw the figure standing behind a fourth-floor motel window as plain as day. He could tell the figure was peering through a set of binoculars, observing his North Dakota State football practice being held about 200 yards away.

Was it a spy from Sam Houston State -- the team NDSU will play in Saturday's Football Championship Subdivision national title game?

Bohl, good friends with Sam Houston State head coach Willie Fritz, didn't think so. Nonetheless, a Bison official went running to the motel's front desk to check it out.

False alarm. It was only a curious Bison season ticket holder.

Bohl had a good laugh over the situation one day later after Thursday's practice. In fact, as serious as football coaches can come across sometimes, Bohl was in a pretty jovial mood Thursday.

During the Thursday-morning team photo shoot at FC Dallas Stadium, he joked that the finely-manicured grass was smoother than the No. 5 fairway at the Fargo Country Club. During the outdoor media interview session later that morning, he chuckled when running back John Crockett hammed it up for a video that will appear on the scoreboard Saturday.

"They need to enjoy this experience," Bohl said. "You can't be walking around on pins and needles when it's Thursday."

Yes, there is a time for lightheartedness -- even for a football team that is focused on winning its second straight national title. But it won't last too long.

Tonight, when more than 8,000 Bison fans will be whooping it up at a pep fest at Dr Pepper Ballpark, more than 80 Bison football players will be watching film, taking notes and going to bed at 10:30 in its hotel five miles away.

"I'll make sure I'm relaxed so I'm not so amped up when I go to bed," said Bison All-American cornerback Marcus Williams. "This is a business trip but we'll go out and have a good time too."

Like Thursday afternoon when Bohl and Bison players Billy Turner, Joe Lund, Garrett Bruhn, Carleton Littlejohn, Kyle Emmanuel and Cole Jirek visited the Children's Medical Center in nearby Plano.

They handed out Bison pillow pets to kids being treated for cancer.

"What's your favorite subject?" Lund asked 15-year-old Romeo Hernandez.

"Chemistry," Hernandez answered.

"Chemistry?" Lund said. "My favorite subject was lunch."

That brought a smile to Hernandez' face.

"These kids are dealing with stuff the goes beyond sports," said Lund, NDSU's senior center.

"It really puts things in perspective realizing what these kids are dealing with," said Bruhn, NDSU's fullback-tight end. "And we're just here to play a football game."

But a pretty big football game that will be played before a 20,000-fan sellout and in front of a national ESPN2 television audience. A football game Bison players and coaches will get real serious about today.

"Friday is the calm before the storm," said Bison quarterback Brock Jensen. "You don't want to get too high strung because you know you will need to use as much energy as you can for the game. We'll cross all the 't's' and dot all the 'i's' on Friday. Then will come out Saturday with a nasty look on our face."

More nasty than if a real spy were caught peering through a fourth-floor motel window.

Schnepf is the sports editor of The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum News Service. He can be reached at