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 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.
FARGO—Something happened to his knee in practice during the week, Nate Tanguay said, that didn't feel right. Unfortunately, it may have been some sort of precursor for what was to come for the North Dakota State defensive tackle. The play against Youngstown State last Saturday, Nov. 5, wasn't anything out of the ordinary. He was pushing on a Penguin offensive lineman while trying to get to the quarterback. Tanguay turned, sort of twisted. And he just buckled to the turf.
FARGO — The worst-case scenario when it came to the evaluation of Nate Tanguay's knee injury came true when the North Dakota State standout defensive tackle was diagnosed with a torn ACL. It is yet another blow to a Bison defense that also saw its best player, middle linebacker Nick DeLuca, get sidelined for the season.
FARGO—What started as a crowded backfield of at least four running backs is now down to two, with the argument that one is the only true tailback remaining. Lance Dunn said he's up to the task. The sophomore is most likely slated to get the bulk of the carries when the Bison host Youngstown State Saturday at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. Senior King Frazier is out for at least another week with a rib injury and sophomore Bruce Anderson is still sidelined with a sprained ankle.
FARGO — For the second straight week, North Dakota State is spending its week of practice preparing for two quarterbacks. And once again, it's a runner versus thrower proposition. Trying to plan for Northern Iowa last week was spent figuring out the strengths of option quarterback Aaron Bailey and deciding how good of a passer sophomore Eli Dunne was in his first start. Bailey never did play because of a sore throwing shoulder and the Bison did just enough against Dunne to come away with a 24-20 win.