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UPDATED: Bison head coach Klieman announces Saturday's starting QB

FRISCO, Texas -- There will be one more game in the college football career of Carson Wentz. The North Dakota State senior and NFL draft prospect will start at quarterback Saturday when the Bison face Jacksonville State (Ala.) for the FCS nationa...

2250088+0109 Wentz Web.jpg
North Dakota State quarterbacks, Carson Wentz, Cole Davis and Easton Stick leave practice Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2015, at the Toyota Stadium complex in Frisco, Texas. (David Samson / The Forum)

FRISCO, Texas -- There will be one more game in the college football career of Carson Wentz. The North Dakota State senior and NFL draft prospect will start at quarterback Saturday when the Bison face Jacksonville State (Ala.) for the FCS national title.

NDSU head coach Chris Klieman made the unexpected announcement Friday at a title-game news conference at Toyota Stadium, the site of today’s game.

The final decision, Klieman said, came this week although he said Wentz has been practicing at full speed since returning from the Christmas break. Klieman said he figured Wentz would be ready about a week and a half ago, provided there were no more unforeseen medical setbacks.

“It’s been a long and frustrating process to say the least,” Wentz said.

The right-handed Wentz broke a bone in his right wrist on Oct. 17 against the University of South Dakota. The original timeline had him out for six to eight weeks, and he still didn’t dress in the FCS semifinal win over Richmond on Dec. 19, which was nine weeks after the injury.

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“We knew if we could get through the semifinal game that there was a great chance he could play,” Klieman said.

Freshman Easton Stick, who led the Bison to eight straight wins, will be the backup.

“I can’t say enough. He and I are best friends,” Wentz said. “I owe him so much. I remember when I got hurt he said it was my job to get you back out there again.”

Wentz said he was medically cleared to play earlier this week after a final CT scan revealed he was fully healed. He said he’s been going full speed with the No. 1 offense for the last two weeks, but he has yet to take a hit. Quarterbacks rarely do in practice anyway.

“The biggest thing is being hit right away,” Wentz said of the game. “For me it’s almost that first game feel again. I feel like I’ve been out a whole year, and it’s a short one-game season.”

The first sight of Wentz throwing a pass came before pregame warmups in the quarterfinal game against Northern Iowa. Wearing a shirt and khakis, he threw a few 10-yard passes to a teammate.

Klieman announced earlier that week that Wentz was returning to practice on a limited basis, with the operative word being his “progress.” The last time Wentz spoke publicly to the media was Tuesday before the last regular-season game on Nov. 17.

“There were a lot of doctors appointments, a lot of things I didn’t want to hear,” Wentz said.

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The news did not surprise Jacksonville State head coach John Grass, who said on several occasions during the week that he expected Wentz to play.

“I’m glad he gets the opportunity. The guy deserves to play his last college football game,” Grass said Friday. “You hate to see a guy get hurt his senior year. He’s had a fantastic career.”

Klieman admitted he debated whether to announce Wentz as his starter and keep the news mum until game time.

“But we wanted to get Carson in front and let him have his day to visit.” he said. “We have two capable quarterbacks ready to play and we’re excited about tomorrow.”

Wentz has been working out consistently with NDSU head strength and conditioning coach Jim Kramer since the first week of November.

“He’s in phenomenal shape. There’s no doubt about that,” Klieman said. “He’s been doing all sorts of running. Every day that kid was out there.”

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