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Searching for 3-peat: NDSU arrives Frisco for FCS National Championship

FNS Photo by David Samson North Dakota State defensive lineman Brian Schaetz gears up for practice on Wednesday in Frisco, Texas.1 / 2
FNS Photo by David Samson North Dakota State senior linebacker Grant Olson gets his room key at the Westin Stonebriar on Wednesday in Frisco, Texas.2 / 2

By Jeff Kolpack and

Eric Peterson

Forum News Service

FRISCO, Texas — The Ryan Smith bullet train went for a test drive at a Toyota Stadium practice field on Wednesday afternoon. All systems are go.

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The North Dakota State wide receiver, who missed most of the semifinal game against New Hampshire with a hamstring strain, ran at full speed for the first time in advance of Saturday’s Division I FCS title game against Towson University (Md.).

“He’s been real close,” head coach Craig Bohl said of Smith’s health status. “We were going to look at it today, see where he’s at and make sure he didn’t pull anything. He looked full go to me.”

Both Towson and NDSU arrived in Frisco on Wednesday. The Bison worked out first on a nice, sunny day with temperatures in the mid-60s.

“Our guys had a great look in their eye and it should be a good ballgame,” Bohl said.

It’s the third straight year NDSU has reached Frisco. It is staying in the same hotel for the second straight season and the team generally is well-versed with the north Dallas suburb.

The familiarity is all good, Bohl said, to a point.

“You certainly can’t get complacent or take something for granted,” he said, “but our guys are in a routine — everything from the equipment to the surroundings, and that certainly helps. Players usually function better in a routine. You take them out of a routine and sometimes that can cause problems.”

Players take Moore’s message seriously

The NDSU players have been reminded this week of an appearance last spring by former Appalachian State head coach Jerry Moore. His team was the last to win three straight FCS titles, coming from 2005-07.

Bohl brought Moore to campus to give his players some insight to the feat. Moore’s message: to achieve something like that, you have to be willing to sacrifice something.

Just what did they sacrifice?

“That’s a difficult question to have just a single answer,” said offensive coordinator Brent Vigen. “I think they sacrificed the ability to be complacent and content. They went back to work like they hadn’t won anything before. It was a clean slate. You sacrifice that mindset. We probably pushed them harder than before and they sacrificed not resisting that.”

Quarterback Brock Jensen said Moore’s talk “touched a lot of us.”

“That just really penetrated our hearts,” he said. “He touched on sacrifice and I know a lot of the guys have taken that into account and have just formed that throughout the year.”

Burnett says Bison are ‘great ambassadors’

One of the first people to great the Bison team when it arrived at its team hotel was Southland Conference commissioner Tom Burnett, whose conference serves as the host league for the title game.

“It never gets old having the Bison here,” he said. “I know all of Frisco is excited.”

The local community has taken an interest in watching thousands of NDSU fans descend on the city. By Friday, the bars and restaurants of Frisco and Plano, located just south of Frisco, will be full.

“There’s a local rooting interest here for the Bison,” Burnett said. “Everyone has had their eye on NDSU for the entire season. In fact, since they left last year.”

Burnett was asked if it’s a good or bad thing that one program has dominated the FCS headlines since 2011.

“I certainly don’t see it as a bad thing,” he said. “People see the Bison at the top of the mountain and they want to get there and emulate what they’ve done. They’re the gold standard, the gold and green standard I guess for this level of football. They’ve just been great ambassadors for all of us. There is nothing better to emulate than what NDSU has done the last few years.”