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North Dakota State Bison defense picked up pace after meeting Kyle Emanuel

FARGO -- The statistics were pretty good that first game for the North Dakota State defensive ends, but other factors from Aug. 29 until somewhere around the end of September told otherwise. It just wasn't up to snuff.Even former NDSU defensive e...

FARGO - The statistics were pretty good that first game for the North Dakota State defensive ends, but other factors from Aug. 29 until somewhere around the end of September told otherwise. It just wasn’t up to snuff.
Even former NDSU defensive end Kyle Emanuel got into the mix.
It was the weekend of Sept. 27 when Emanuel’s San Diego Chargers were in Minneapolis for a game with the Minnesota Vikings. As luck would have it for the Bison, it was a bye week.
So through mostly text messages, Emanuel told a few NDSU defensive linemen to meet him outside the visitor locker room near the team buses at TCF Bank Stadium. It was more than just a hi, how-are-you get-together. It turned into a 20-minute football seminar.
“Kyle’s like that, he’s really cool about it,” said junior defensive end Brad Ambrosius. “If you want to talk to him, you can text him or call him anytime. He told me what I was doing wrong and told me a few things I can do better. It was about football in general and how to become a better player.”
Emanuel wasn’t the only one in Ambrosius’ ear.
“I wasn’t happy with him earlier in the season because he was kind of just out there,” said NDSU assistant coach Jamar Cain, who works with the defensive ends.
Cain said he got after Ambrosius in practice. So did defensive coordinator Matt Entz. Nobody expected Ambrosius to display the flash of Emanuel or the tough-guy consistency of Mike Hardie, but expectations were certainly greater than what the defensive end position brought in the first month.
Starting defensive ends Greg Menard and Ambrosius had nine and four tackles respectively, but they didn’t do much when it counted in Missoula, Mont., like provide a game-changing play in the fourth quarter when the Grizzlies rallied. They’ll get another chance Saturday when Montana comes to Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome for a second round FCS playoff game.
“It’s funny, you go back and watch that game now and everybody is quiet - like an eerie-type of quiet,” Cain said. “Like nobody wants to talk about it. You go, ‘Greg, can you do better here?’ He’s like, ‘yeah.’ Or, ‘Brad, can you do better here?’ Everybody gets madder and madder the more they watch that film, knowing that wasn’t them on the film.”
It was the first career start for the sophomore Menard, who leads the Bison with eight quarterback sacks and 12.5 tackles for lost yardage. It was the first game as an upperclassmen leader for Ambrosius, who admits he wasn’t very good at that role early in the season.
“The first six games weren’t very big for me and the rest of the defense,” he said. “I’ve probably grown a lot as a person. Coach Cain is always on me, it doesn’t matter good or bad but he’s just that kind of coach. It’s all out of love; he’s just trying to make you a better person and it’s helped me become a better player.”
It’s more than those two now, too. Cain said he’s learned to trust the abilities of backup freshmen Stanley Jones and Caleb Butler, with sophomore Jarrod Tuzska getting back into the mix, too. Those players could see 10 to 15 snaps on Saturday. Butler tied for the team lead with six tackles in NDSU’s last game against Missouri State.
By then, the post-game meeting with Emanuel had paid its dividends.
“I think that was kind of a turning point for those guys,” Cain said.

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