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NDSU, Montana are familiar with each other

FARGO -- It's a long drive from Fargo to Missoula, Mont. North Dakota State and the University of Montana play in different conferences in different time zones and both have yet to play against each other as Division I opponents. But both are als...

Zach Vraa
FNS Photo by Dave Wallis North Dakota State wide receiver Zach Vraa finds some running room against the University of Incarnate Word Saturday at the Fargodome.

FARGO - It’s a long drive from Fargo to Missoula, Mont.
North Dakota State and the University of Montana play in different conferences in different time zones and both have yet to play against each other as Division I opponents.
But both are also all too familiar with each other. And when the teams hook up Saturday afternoon at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome, there probably won’t be too many secrets.
“They have a lot of film on us, we have a lot of film on them so we should know what each other is doing,” Bison tight end Kevin Vaadeland said.
Both run power-based offenses that don’t put much stock into trickery. There has been plenty of connection between the two programs already this year with the University of Wyoming.
The Grizzlies opened the season with a 17-12 loss to the Cowboys, a team coached mostly by former Bison coaches including head coach Craig Bohl and offensive coordinator Brent Vigen.
Montana could probably just as well pull the preparation from that game and use it again this week. Wyoming and NDSU both run the West Coast offense that hasn’t changed much over the years.
“Potentially that could be an advantage for them,” NDSU offensive coordinator Tim Polasek said. “But we’re not at all concerned about that. If you paid attention to NDSU for eight or nine years now, the offense is pretty similar. The wrinkles change a little bit and the personnel changes but it is what it is.”
On the flipside, NDSU can watch the Montana-Wyoming tape and get a feel for how the Grizzlies defend the West Coast. That doesn’t happen very often because most of NDSU’s opponents run a multiple or spread offense.
The Bison offensive coaches have had to adjust on the fly more than usual the first three games. Iowa State, Polasek said, stayed mostly true to its defensive scheme from past years and NDSU adjusted its blocking scheme.
It worked. The Bison ran off 34 straight points from the second quarter on. But Weber State, with a new coaching staff, threw some looks at the Bison that they didn’t prepare for in the 24-7 NDSU win, a game in which the Bison offense played well enough.
“I think the mark of a great program is you do what you do and you try to get your kids schooled up on what your opponent is doing,” Polasek said. “And then you just go out there and play.”
Montana defensive coordinator Ty Gregorak has been with the Grizzlies for 11 years, the last three as defensive coordinator. NDSU head coach Chris Klieman said there’s been some conversation between his staff and the current Wyoming staff.
“The guys truly doing the game planning,” Klieman said. “But they’re going to know what we do on defense simply from watching a lot of the Wyoming film. And vice versa. It’s going to come down to execution.”
So for two teams that haven’t played since 2003 when NDSU was still a Division II program - they’ve only played six times overall - there probably won’t be much in the line of on-the-fly adjustments.
“We practice all week to what they’re going to do and if we see some new stuff, we’re going to have to adjust,” Bison safety Christian Dudzik said. “But it’s really going to come down to execution and who does that better between the two teams.”

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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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