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 role call of standout running backs at South Dakota State in the Division I era is pretty steady—a list from A-Z whether it was Anthony Watson or Zach Zenner. It's a philosophy that head coach John Stiegelmeier used to build his program over the years. Ground and pound on the old grass at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium.
ROSHOLT, S.D.—The angus bull owned by George Knudsen back in his farming days was named "General Patton," a big ol' cow who found a great scratching post for his neck: A border marker monument. It's entirely possible that Gen. Patton got itchy when he was straddling the North Dakota and South Dakota state line, wondering if he should be a Bison or Jackrabbit fan. There are not many man-made small structures that could withstand a bull, but the boundary marker would be it.
FARGO — It was almost a year ago when Easton Stick took his first snap as a North Dakota State quarterback. He scored on a 29-yard run at Indiana State and his career was off and running. It hasn't stopped since. The sophomore is now 13-0 as a starter heading into Saturday's Missouri Valley Football Conference showdown against South Dakota State at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. In a sense, Stick probably has ownership of an unofficial team record: most wins as a starting quarterback to start a career, certainly in the Division I era.
FARGO — North Dakota State began the season with a young defensive secondary and considering the schedule the Bison played, there was no easing into it. They were thrown into the proverbial fire and after five games lived to tell about it. Sophomore cornerbacks Jalen Allison and Jaylaan Wimbush, sophomore strong safety Robbie Grimsley and junior free safety Tre Dempsey had to learn how to defend the triple option of Charleston Southern and then deal with a trio of teams with heralded receivers in Eastern Washington, Iowa and Illinois State.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Finding healthy fullbacks on the North Dakota State football team is getting to be a chore these days. So in looking for other options, one Bison sophomore gave his team an on-field audition against Missouri State on Saturday: Aaron Steidl. He's no Refrigerator Perry yet, but the NDSU noseguard picked up a fumble and ran 20 yards, which almost doubled the longest run by any Bears back all day. It was the signature play by a Bison defense that had the Bears playbook written in their minds before a play seemingly started.
SPRINGFIELD, Mo.—North Dakota State was the decisive victor in the turnover margin against Missouri State on Saturday, Oct. 8, and because of that cruised to a 27-3 college football win over Missouri State. The Bison recovered two fumbles and intercepted two more in improving to 5-0 overall and 2-0 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The No. 1-ranked team and the five-time defending champion in FCS did it by holding the Bears to 176 total yards in front of 10,462 fans at Plaster Stadium.
Fargo—It's the high school game of the week in the state of Missouri, a Friday night lights showdown between Blue Springs High and Blue Springs South. Over the years, Blue Springs head coach Kelly Donohoe has done a Thursday practice ritual called "Winner's Manual" where life's lessons are often the topic. This week's guest: Darrius Shepherd. The North Dakota State receiver taped a video on teammate Eric Bachmeier's smartphone and sent it to his old high school. "It was part of the program when I was there and it's a pretty cool deal," Shepherd said.
FARGO — One of the biggest kids in the school, Garrett Malstrom was an offensive lineman by trade for the Frazee (Minn.) High School football team. More than that, he was better known as an undefeated state champion wrestler for the Hornets. So how he went from there to a fullback with the North Dakota State football team is a testament in both parties making it work. The Bison liked him when Frazee brought some kids to their summer team camp, but at 6-feet tall he wasn't a prospect in the offensive line. They did, however, ask him about fullback.
FARGO—The connection between a Jensen from Waupaca, Wis., and North Dakota State football was almost too good to be true for the Bison, even if the last names have a different spelling. Quarterback Brock Jensen left NDSU as the all-time winningest quarterback in FCS history. Bison sophomore tight end Nate Jenson grew up in Waupaca watching Jensen lead the high school team. Moreover, Nate's older brother was the quarterback before Jensen at Waupaca and his middle brother played high school ball with Brock. "I was at every game since I was probably 7 years old," Nate said.
FARGO—It's 775 miles and about a 12-hour drive from Fargo to Springfield, Mo., and last year, Missouri State head football coach Dave Steckel had to ride in a car with the immediate thought of a 55-0 beating by North Dakota State. Certainly, tough times indeed. Eye surgery meant he couldn't fly with his Bears' players and assistant coaches and the Bison loss ended his first season at 1-10.