Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. 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.
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FARGO—It's been more than a month now since North Dakota State University football fans have been able to shout the first name of running back Bruce Anderson. You don't have to remind the Bison sophomore of that, either. There is no quick remedy for a high ankle sprain, with the healing process so seemingly slow that it seems like getting back in the lineup is years away, not weeks. "I think it's just tough mentally, especially when you're a 19-year-old kid who just wants to play football," Anderson said.
FARGO—In a season where injuries have mostly resulted in dark results, North Dakota State University may have finally found a glimmer of light on Monday, Nov. 21. The knee injury to standout linebacker Pierre Gee-Tucker may not sideline him for the season. NDSU head coach Chris Klieman said Gee-Tucker suffered a sprained knee ligament, in this case to his MCL. He said there was minimal "structural damage" and said his availability is on a week-to-week status. "So that's good," Klieman said.
VERMILLION, S.D. — If he wasn't wearing a No. 44 jersey, you would have sworn Matt Plank was having a bad arthritis day the way he was walking in his North Dakota State football uniform. Blood on the knee, the result of a gash from getting spiked so deep a physician had to clean it out twice. Saturday's 28-21 win over the University of South Dakota was over for about a half hour and Plank needed more than a locker room to rejuvenate. How about a week off?
FARGO — North Dakota State University moved into the top spot in the FCS Playoff Committee rankings earlier this week heading into the last regular season game. The Bison are also tops in another, less official, category: Most domed stadiums played. NDSU plays at the University of South Dakota today, which will be its eighth indoor game this season. The Bison haven't played outdoors since an Oct. 22 trip to Western Illinois University.
FARGO — It's been a season of close football games for North Dakota State, with seven of them not being decided until late in the fourth quarter. That includes a couple of overtime games. The Bison, however, have nothing on the University of South Dakota in that department. Eight of the Coyotes' last nine games have gone to the final minute and that includes three that went to double overtime. You can coach a lot of years and not have more than one overtime game in a season, much less three that go two extra periods.
FARGO — When defensive tackle Blake Williams first got to North Dakota State, he weighed 235 pounds. "You're not going to play in the Valley at that weight," he said. After his true freshman season, he came in for his second year weighing 260. "You're not going to play in the Valley at that weight either," Williams said. Add to that issues with his knee such as a torn meniscus and just getting into position to get on the field was a chore for the once highly recruited Williams. He appeared in one game in 2015.
FARGO—At 6-foot-3-inches tall and bigger than almost everybody else on a North Dakota 9-man football field, there was no mistaking the go-to player for Wyndmere-Lidgerwood. That all changed for Jeff Illies the first day he walked into a North Dakota State locker room full of Bison football players. He looked around and it didn't take long to notice he wasn't in Wyndmere or Lidgerwood anymore. "It was definitely a reality shock seeing that everyone was bigger than me," Illies said. "It was like the first day of high school all over again."
FARGO—Strength of schedule evidently came into play in the final FCS Playoff Committee rankings before the actual postseason field is released this weekend. North Dakota State moved up to the top spot in an announcement made on ESPNU's college football "Power Hour" show Tuesday night, Nov. 15.
FARGO — There have been many more highs than lows for the North Dakota State football team, spanning from last-second wins to injuries to a couple of its best players. But after 10 games, the annual No. 1 team goal is still in the Bison's grasp: a Missouri Valley Football Conference title. NDSU heads to the University of South Dakota on Saturday, and a win would clinch at least a share of the conference championship. The Bison and South Dakota State are each 6-1 with the Jackrabbits traveling to Northern Iowa for their regular season finale.
FARGO — The usual plan for North Dakota State punt returner Darrius Shepherd is to return a kick only if it looks like he won't get immediately tackled. In other words, play it safe. He heeded that plan to perfection, and then some, Saturday afternoon. Shepherd brought a punt back 84 yards for a touchdown and the Bison never looked back in stomping Indiana State 41-17 at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.