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Bison notebook: Toyota Stadium field turns into a slippery slope for FCS title game

Morning rain makes grass surface slick, makes for tough footing for Bison and Bobcats

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North Dakota State quarterback cam Miller carries against Montana State's during the FCS title game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum
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FRISCO, Texas — The playing surface at Toyota Stadium is never perfect, but it was particularly slippery for Saturday's Football Championship Subdivision title game.

A light rain fell most of the morning in Frisco before stopping just before kickoff. It began again near halftime. That made the grass field, which is the home of Major League Soccer's FC Dallas, difficult for players trying to make cuts or accelerate from a standing position.

The Bison beat Montana State 38-10, rolling to a 28-0 halftime lead, so the field likely didn't make a difference in the outcome.

But it was evident from the start it was going to be an issue. NDSU kicker Jake Reinholz lost his footing on the opening kickoff and pulled a low line-drive out of bounds.

"The turf was pretty slippery. I don't know if it was the rain or because it was grass. I'm sure a mixture of both," Bison left tackle Cody Mauch said. "It was definitely pretty slippery out here."

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The play that epitomized the field might've been in the second quarter when NDSU running back TaMerik Williams slipped coming out of his stance, ruining the play's timing. Quarterback Cam Miller, trying to rescue the play, also slipped and went down for a 2-yard loss.

It was the first game on grass this season for NDSU and Montana State.

"It was a little slick, but we all kept our feet for the most part. We got out here early before the game and tested it out a little bit," NDSU fullback Hunter Luepke said.

NDSU's title after the 2013 season, a 35-7 victory over Towson, was marred by the field conditions. Large chunks of turf came up on almost every play because a November ice storm killed the grass and the new turf didn't take root by January.

The FCS title game has been at Toyota Stadium since 2011. It has a contract with the NCAA for the game that runs through 2025.

"It was a little wet, but it was the same for both teams, mother nature wanted to get involved," said NDSU head coach Matt Entz. "We had to change some things up a bit, up front after losing our feet a couple of times. We went to a power rush more than take edges. But I don’t think field conditions had any impact on the outcome."

Bison go to backup QB Patterson early

NDSU didn't waste time in going to backup quarterback Quincy Patterson. Unlike the injury to MSU starting quarterback Tommy Mellott, Patterson was a big part of the Bison game plan in the first half.

Patterson was a good complement to starter Cam Miller, a role that grew as the season wore on for the Virginia Tech transfer.

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"It's like a one-two punch thing. Even when I come in and people know we're running the ball, people still can't stop it," Patterson said. "It's one of those situations where we work harder than everybody else and everything seems to work."

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North Dakota State's Quincy Patterson cruises down the sideline on a big gain in the first quarter against Montana State during the FCS title game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022.
David Samson / The Forum

The Bison went to him on their first series and he responded with a 34-yard run to the MSU 8-yard line. The result of the drive was a Hunter Luepke touchdown run on the next play and NDSU had a quick 7-0 lead.

Patterson was a key part of NDSU's touchdown drive to close the first half. He bulled his way for a first down on third-and-6 to the NDSU 26-yard line.

He added runs of 10 and 20 yards, the latter of which reached the Bobcats 30 with just under a minute remaining. Luepke got his third touchdown and the Bison led 28-0 at halftime.

"The offensive line just creates gaps. I can't even call them holes. Gaps. On every single play it's open somewhere. Every time I was in there I had something open up for me," Patterson said.

Patterson was NDSU's leading rusher in the first half with 87 yards on eight carries. The quarterback run package, he said, had up to 30 plays available for use. Patterson said they only used three of them.

"We could have done it more, but we didn't need to," he said.

Bobcats come up empty early

Montana State moved the ball on its first two drives of the game, but came up scoreless. The Bobcats faked a field goal on its first possession that ended up being a punt into the end zone and Blake Gessner missed a 43-yard field goal on its second possession.

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It likely would not have mattered in the long run considering NDSU's dominance at the line of scrimmage, but the Bobcats had a chance to hang with the Bison early.

"We wanted to be aggressive in this game and knew it would take some plays of that making to come out on top," Montana State head coach Brent Vigen said.

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North Dakota State's Jake Reinholz watches his extra point sail true against Montana State during the FCS title game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022.
David Samson/ The Forum

Montana State took the opening kickoff at its own 35 and drove 37 yards in seven plays to the Bison 28. The Bobcats lined up for a field goal with Glessner, but he took the snap and ran to his right looking to pass. The Bison had it covered and Glessner punted the ball into the end zone for a touchback.

After an NDSU touchdown, Montana State again put together a nice drive, this time led by backup quarterback Tucker Rovig, who had replaced injured starter Tommy Mellott. They went 45 yards in nine plays to the Bison 25, but Glessner's kick sailed wide right.

The Bobcats didn't threaten to score again until their first drive of the third quarter, when Glessner booted a 26-yard field goal to make the score 35-3.

“The ball got rolling and it was really hard for us to stop it today," Vigen said.

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North Dakota State's Jasir Cox pressures Montana State quarterback Tucker Rovig during the FCS title game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday, Jan. 8, 2022.
David Samson/ The Forum

Odds and ends

NDSU safety Michael Tutsie left the game in the second quarter with what appeared to be a lower-leg injury. He was already scheduled to have surgery on an injured thumb. Tutsie has indicated he'll return to the Bison next season. ... Luepke's three touchdowns were a single-game high. Luepke scored five touchdowns in NDSU's last two games. ... Saturday's attendance of 18,942 was the fifth-largest crowd to see the Bison in a championship game at Toyota Stadium. Four of NDSU's first five trips to Frisco drew more than 20,000. ... NDSU true freshman quarterback Cole Payton, a coveted recruit, took a snap in the fourth quarter. It was the third game in which Payton played this year, so he will not lose a year of eligibility per NCAA rules.

Mike McFeely is a columnist for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He began working for The Forum in the 1980s while he was a student studying journalism at Minnesota State University Moorhead. He's been with The Forum full time since 1990, minus a six-year hiatus when he hosted a local radio talk-show.
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