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NDSU’s mantra change began in 2010

FNS Photo by Dave Wallis North Dakota State head football coach Craig Bohl celebrates with his team in the locker room after beating South Dakota State on Nov. 13, 2010 at the Fargodome.

FARGO — Nobody can express the exact reasons why, but for some reason, the fall football camp at North Dakota State in 2010 was different. The atmosphere, the chemistry, the team dynamic — all just a little bit different.

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Considering the Bison were coming off a 3-8 season, it was a welcomed feeling by the Bison coaching staff.

Four years later, the makeup of the freshman class — a combination of redshirts and true freshmen — did what really is a tough thing to do in team sports: Change the culture of a team as teenagers.

“Yeah, there was a big difference after that 3-8 year,” said senior defensive tackle Ryan Drevlow, who redshirted in 2009. “I know a lot of us younger guys got together and said, ‘You know what, we don’t want to go through that again. We’re going to be ‘we’ guys, not ‘I’ guys, be there for the team and the team’s success.’”

This is not to reference that everybody on the 2009 team was an “I” guy. That wasn’t the case at all, although it’s safe to assume there were enough problematic players to make a difference for the worse. There was enough anxiety to cause the freshman class to do something different.

“You could just tell,” said senior wide receiver Ryan Smith. “It was a huge recruiting class. You look up the background of all of the guys, and you could tell there were a lot of special players, a lot of good character guys, and you knew something special was going to happen.”

So special that the 2010 team reached the quarterfinals and of course the two FCS national championships of 2011 and 2012. My recommendation for all of you is to take a step back for a moment and realize you’re watching history right before your eyes.

In one fell swoop, what happened in the fall of 2010 has resulted in NDSU marching into FCS history — regardless of what happens in this year’s playoffs. Unless another coach comes in and runs the program into the ground, NDSU is the new Appalachian State and Georgia Southern of the FCS.

The Bison will get top-25 poll votes for just being the Bison.

NDSU opened the 2010 season with a win at Kansas, but that was because of who showed up in the first week of August.

“Something seemed different in that fall camp,” said head coach Craig Bohl. “It’s hard to pin it down. There seemed to be a different mindset and a different mentality.”

Bohl made those comments at his weekly Monday news conference. He reflected on how NDSU changed its practice structure. He reminded the media about the questions it asked, and appropriately so, in the months following the 3-8 season.

“I got asked by men in this room about my job security,” he said. “I said, ‘Hey listen, if this football team doesn’t turn around, you’re not going to have to worry about it. We’re going to be better, and if we’re not better, there will be a new coach and that’s just how it’s going to be.’ And we were better.”

They were better because a group of talented freshmen took team chemistry to a new level. The scrubs get the same treatment as the stars. I’ve heard that many times in the last couple of years.

So it must be true.

Kolpack is the sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum News Service. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at

Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.