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Kolpack: Steidl provided signature play in another signature defensive performance

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:...

North Dakota State's Stanley Jones picks up a Missouri State fumble in Springfield, MO on October 8, 2016. Bruce Stidham / Special to The Forum
North Dakota State's Greg Menard picks up a Missouri State fumble in Springfield, MO on October 8, 2016.

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.

It was almost a shutout, with the 27-3 win at Plaster Stadium being the third straight workmanlike effort in a 5-0 season. The Bears had 30 yards rushing. Last week, Illinois State had 37 yards and before that Iowa finished with 34 yards on the ground.

Steidl's recovery, a turnover created by defensive end Jarrod Tuszka on MSU quarterback Brodie Lambert, was returned to the Missouri State 22-yard line. King Frazier scored on the next play and it was 20-3 with 13:08 left in the fourth quarter.

Game over.

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"I was about to go smack Tuszka on the back of the head," Steidl said in reference to congratulating his teammate on the play.

That's when he immediately saw a black marker on the turf, which was thrown by a referee signifying a fumble.

"So I picked up the ball and started running," said Steidl, from Carlos, Minn. "All I could see was the end zone but no way I was getting closer."

It was pure athleticism for a 6-foot-2, 288-pound guy with the agility to scoop it up almost on the run and sprint toward six points. Head coach Chris Klieman said his first thought was for Steidl to go down so he would not get tackled from behind and stripped of the ball.

I'm not sure what his 40-yard dash time is but when you're a noseguard who battles in the trenches all day and you get a chance to score, you turn into an NFL running back pretty quick - at least in your mind.

"We were jacked after that play, that's for sure," said linebacker Matt Plank.

Asked if he's going to volunteer his services at fullback, Steidl smiled at the thought.

"It would be fun, I would have to drop a couple pounds," he said. "I bet coach Kramer could do it in two weeks."

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That would be head strength coach Jim Kramer, who has to be taking some joy in the last three defensive efforts. It's hard to score in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, or any league for that matter, if the running game is rendered useless.

It wasn't like Missouri State came in with no credibility, either. The Bears diced and sliced Indiana State last week for 194 yards in a 45-24 win on the road, scoring on runs of 29 and 64 by Calan Crowder.

He had 10 yards on five carries against the Bison.

"We saw what they did last week - they ran some of the same plays over and over and Indiana State struggled with it," said NDSU defensive coordinator Matt Entz. "We had a plan and the kids bought into it. It was something they felt comfortable with so they could play fast."

They also must be buying into the team concept thing. The Bison are developing so much depth on the defensive line that half of them could play a lot more at other places. Sophomore Stanley Jones, for instance, recovered a fumble deep in Bears territory, which should have led to more points if the Bison offense was more opportunistic. Jones had four tackles and a tackle for lost yardage.

Entz said nine to 10 players are in the mix for the four positions up front.

"Those four up front, any combination is as good as anybody in the conference," he said.

Missouri State wouldn't argue.

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"They're a good team, a good defense," Lambert said. "There's a reason they've won five straight championships. They're a physical team with discipline. I give them props, they played well."

The one burning question still wasn't answered as the Bison players were mingling with parents and friends outside the locker room. Steidl for fullback?

"Come on, he's as good of a nose as we got, we need to keep him there," Entz said. "I'm not worried about that."

North Dakota State's Stanley Jones picks up a Missouri State fumble in Springfield, MO on October 8, 2016. Bruce Stidham / Special to The Forum
Aaron Steidl

Related Topics: MATT ENTZCHRIS KLIEMAN
Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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