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Juices flowing for Bison-Coyotes game
A good chunk of the North Dakota State and University of South Dakota football players were still in junior high the last time these teams played. For some coaches and fans, it seems like yesterday.
USD head coach Ed Meierkort said he’s gotten a lesson on Dacotah Field and Jeff Bentrim, the former the old NDSU stadium and the latter the first Harlon Hill Trophy winner that goes to Division II’s best player.
“It’s amazing how the old juices get flowing,” Meierkort said. “Our kids don’t know much about it and I’m sure their players don’t know much about it. But as far as fanfare and media, it helps stir it up a little more.”
The Coyote fans got a big stir two weeks ago with a 41-38 win at the University of Minnesota. Now in its third year of a five-year Division I reclassification, it was more than a booster for USD’s Division I life.
It was a rocket ship.
“It just boosted the morale of everybody,” said Jeff Nelson, the president of the Howling Pack booster group.
But nothing beats getting on Interstate 29 and playing NDSU, University of North Dakota and South Dakota State, he said. NDSU and SDSU — which declared Division I status in 2003 — are members of the Missouri Valley Football Conference and UND and USD are in the Great West Football Conference, which doesn’t appear to have much life left.
Great West members California Poly and California Davis are going to the Big Sky for football only.
“The conference issue is a big thing for us,” Nelson said. “If you play North Dakota State, it’s a four-hour run up there. Then there’s UND and SDSU and it’s a better gate for all of us. If we could all ever be in the same conference, I can’t imagine it being more exciting for everyone in both states.”
Nelson goes back to the early ‘70s with NDSU and USD. As a student at USD, he came to the 1973 game in Fargo, where his brother was a student at NDSU.
“I remember it was rainy and snowy and we won in the last 17 seconds,” he said. “It was one of the few times we did win.”
NDSU, in head coach Craig Bohl’s first year, beat the Coyotes 35-3 in 2003 — the last meeting between the two. In his weekly comments in the Missouri Valley Football Conference coaches call, Bohl talked about the past relationship of the two programs noting they met for a Division II national title in 1986.
“Certainly I know our fan base does, but I imagine the Coyote fan base appreciates the game,” Bohl said.
Nelson said USD had about 2,000 fans at the Minnesota game.
“But in the final analysis, this is a more exciting game for me,” he said of the NDSU matchup. “NDSU and UND; that’s because those games go back so far.”
By: Jeff Kolpack, Forum Communications Co.