MCFEELY: Short-handed Bison find a way to cover for missing Morlock, fullbacks

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. -- The North Dakota State offense played extremely short-handed in the fullback department against Missouri State Saturday. As in, the Bison had zero true fullbacks make the road trip.

North Dakota State's King Frazier goes up against Missouri State's Darius Daniel in Springfield, MO on October 8, 2016. Bruce Stidham / Special to The Forum
North Dakota State's King Frazier slips in for a touchdown against Missouri State in Springfield, MO on October 8, 2016.

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - The North Dakota State offense played extremely short-handed in the fullback department against Missouri State Saturday. As in, the Bison had zero true fullbacks make the road trip.

They weren't complaining. The situation wouldn't allow it.

With starter Brock Robbins already missing with a broken foot, NDSU also lost backup Garrett Malstrom to a knee injury last week. He'll be sidelined for a few more weeks.

This is football. Injuries happen.

Sometimes, real life happens.


That would be the case of Chase Morlock, the do-everything senior from Moorhead who fills in wherever he's needed. He was slated to play a great majority of snaps at fullback against these much-improved Bears.

Morlock also did not make the trip. His father, Paul, has been battling cancer for some time and it was decided late in the week that Chase would remain back home to be with his family.

This left the Bison to face one of the better run defenses in Football Championship Subdivision without a key piece to their powerful running game - an experienced fullback to help open holes, aid with pass blocking, carry the ball a few times or slip out of the backfield to become a receiver.

No problem. Well, sort of a problem. It took the Bison a half to figure things out, but once they got rolling the result was familiar. NDSU rushed for 269 yards, including 126 from King Frazier, as the top-rated team in the nation won again. The Bison beat MSU 27-3 in a game that will not be long remembered for much except that NDSU got out of town with a victory.

"It really hit home with me that Chase wasn't here today and I felt like I had to step my game up for him and for what he's going through back home. I just took myself to the next level today, it felt like," said Frazier, the Missouri native who had about 40 family and friends show up at Plaster Stadium. "Any time one of our brothers go down or can't come with us on a trip for some issue, we all hurt. We all feel his pain. We all tried to step up our game for him."

If covering for Morlock's absence helped in the inspiration department, it was a little more difficult in execution.

The Bison gave defensive lineman Caleb Butler some reps at fullback during Thursday afternoon's practice and again on Friday. Tight ends Jeff Illies and Connor Wentz also moved into the backfield.

It was as makeshift as could be, on short notice. It showed in the first half. MSU defensive end Colby Isbell ran wild in the first two quarters, using his speed to elude blockers on runs and getting to know Bison quarterback Easton Stick on a face-to-face basis. The Bears' middle linebacker, Dylan Cole, was a force, too.


The Bison led just 13-3 at halftime and had only 52 rushing yards. It was a typical, ugly rock fight the Bison have every time they play in Springfield.

Then the second half happened, just like it has happened in almost every second half for nearly six years now. NDSU's offensive line took over, pounding the Bears like a sledgehammer until Frazier, Bruce Anderson and Lance Dunn were sprinting into the secondary faster than Republicans are running away from Donald Trump.

The plays that went for three yards in the first half began to go for six yards. And then eight yards. Then 11 yards. Soon enough, one play after Bison nose tackle Aaron Steidl scooped up a Bears fumble and rambled 20 yards, Frazier was bursting untouched for 22 yards and a touchdown that gave NDSU a 20-3 lead.

The rest of the game was more of the same, real fullback on the field or not.

"We did impose our will with our offensive line and the running backs," Bison coach Chris Klieman said. "I thought we did a phenomenal job in that third and fourth quarter of running the football. ... We really controlled the game and controlled the clock in the second half."

The Bison finished with their second-highest rushing total of the season, behind the 280 gained against Eastern Washington, and by the time the middle of the fourth quarter rolled around, the MSU defense was offering little resistance.

"This one feels like a classic Bison victory," offensive lineman Jack Plankers said. "We get into halftime, make some adjustments and dominate the second half. ... Eventually Bison football just kind of took over. We kept pounding the rock, pounding the rock and eventually they wore down at the end."

It was the formula the Bison love to use. In this case, with no fullbacks on the field and the versatile Morlock back in Moorhead tending to real life, it was a formula they badly needed.


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