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—The final decision for the 24-team FCS playoff field will be unveiled at 10 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 19. But until then, there is plenty at stake at stadiums across the country on Saturday, Nov. 18. Four teams have already won conference titles and earned an automatic qualifier: Wofford in the Southern, Central Connecticut State in the Northeast, Jacksonville State in the Ohio Valley and San Diego in the Pioneer. It's probably safe to say another nine teams are a sure bet to make the field even if they lose on Saturday.
FARGO—When the three buses carrying the North Dakota State football team drive up to Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill., on Saturday, Nov. 18, it will be the second-straight road game in which the Bison will play in a new or renovated facility. Illinois State invested $26 million into a project that NDSU has yet to see. The last time the Bison played at ISU was in 2012.
FARGO—The two-time defending champions are back at it again in the North Dakota Class A state volleyball tournament. Bismarck Century displayed a combination of front row power and a defense that never rested in sweeping Devils Lake 25-20, 25-10, 25-20 in the first round Thursday, Nov. 16. The Patriots improved to 32-8 with their 12th straight win, and avoided the upset bug that plagued pre-tournament favorite West Fargo earlier in the day. Century's last loss was to the Packers, a team that beat Century three times this season.
FARGO — It's been a popular Twitter post this week by former North Dakota State football players still trying to live their NFL dreams. It included a care package of Bison swag like a stocking cap, a cup and a T-shirt delivered to their door. It's a nice touch to keep the alums engaged. Another former NDSU player now in the NFL got his care package in person last weekend in Fargo. Jerry Rosburg, the current associate head coach for the Baltimore Ravens, took advantage of the team's bye week to attend a reunion of his 1977 Bison North Central Conference title team.
FARGO—Opening night at Illinois State this season was a Sept. 2 non-conference game against Butler University (Ind.), with the first 2,000 fans in attendance receiving a Brock Spack "bobblehead." There was some foreshadowing in that. The Redbirds have bobbled up and down, at times looking like a top 10 FCS team and at other times like a bottom feeder in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The bottom line is they most likely need to beat North Dakota State on Saturday afternoon, Nov. 15, to reach the 24-team FCS playoff bracket.
FARGO—It's not certain how flexible James Hendricks' neck is, but the North Dakota State sophomore must have a pretty good rotational aspect to it. He did so many jobs in practice last week that it would make most players' head spin. The backup safety, and also the team's backup quarterback, played 55 snaps at linebacker in the 49-14 win against the University of South Dakota. The kicker: Hendricks had never played linebacker in his life until last week in practice.
FARGO—There's been the hopscotch of dealing with injuries to key players, which North Dakota State has had its share. There's been the constant attention of five or six Missouri Valley Football Conference teams ranked in the top 25 FCS polls. There was the fall-back from failing to win the Dakota Marker for a second straight year, followed by last week's resurgent running game and a 49-14 convincing defeat of the University of South Dakota.
FARGO—North Dakota State is on the stretch run toward another Missouri Valley Football Conference title. But there's also more than Illinois State on the minds of the coaches this week. The new early signing period is a little more than one month away. And, in something the NDSU athletic department has done on a regular basis, it recently emailed a list of "NCAA compliance reminders" to its fan base. Essentially, it's a snapshot of items that boosters are not allowed to do for prospective student-athletes.
FARGO—It was the spring of 2016 when Ty Brooks was wondering where he was going to fit into the North Dakota State lineup. On the first day of spring practice, for instance, he was playing cornerback. It wasn't too much longer when he was moved back to running back, where he spent his redshirt season on the scout team. Offense. Defense. Offense. Kick return guy. Where was the Fargo South graduate going to play? "We didn't know what he was going to be," said head coach Chris Klieman. We found our answer on Saturday, Nov. 11.
FARGO—It was during practice in North Dakota State spring football when Keenan Hodenfield went up for a ball and came down wrong on his foot. Really wrong. His cleats stuck in the turf while his body continued to twist. The result was something you don't want to see—and nobody on the team did, either. Tight end Jeff Illies said he saw the replay on tape. And? "You don't want to know," Illies said. "Let's just say that it was pretty gruesome."