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NDSU finding ways to win
When North Dakota State hosts Western Illinois Saturday afternoon, it will be its third straight Division I Football Championship Subdivision opponent that is showing up in national rankings. Throw the University of Kansas in the mix and the Bison have fashioned a 3-1 record against fashionable competition.
And this from a team that is coming off a 3-8 season, is starting four freshmen and was pegged to finish in the lower half of the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
“I learned a long time ago that you need to be consistent week to week,” said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl. “But it’s unrealistic you’re going to hit a high point every game. You just have to realize you have to have a workmanlike attitude out there and figure out a way to win the next game.”
NDSU, ranked 13th Monday in the FCS coaches poll, figured out a way last week against 21st-ranked South Dakota. Down 13-7 at halftime with an offense that struggled to move the ball, the Bison outscored the Coyotes 31-3 in the second half. The only loss was at Northern Iowa, which was ranked 22nd in Monday’s poll.
The Panthers’ play was so impressive that Bohl said it wouldn’t have surprised him if UNI went through the season undefeated. It was also a game where the Bison had what is considered a modern day school record minus 40 yards rushing.
Two weeks later, NDSU running back D.J. McNorton ripped off 250 yards against USD and threatened the single game school record.
“Just like that football game changed at halftime, teams change during the course of a game,” Bohl said, referring to the USD game. “Teams change drastically during the course of the season. Teams may start out strong and peter out because of a lack of focus, discipline or injuries. The same thing goes the other way. Teams change, get strong and get in a groove.”
The Bison host a team in Western Illinois that is in a groove, especially offensively. The Leathernecks, who just missed a top 25 poll spot on Monday, have scored at least 40 points in three games including a 56-14 win over Sam Houston State, a Southland Conference team that beat NDSU last year.
Following Western, the Bison play at Youngstown State and Illinois State, both of which sit atop the Missouri Valley. Say what you want about NDSU – the national ranking and the win over a Big 12 Conference team – the Bison are still 0-1 in the conference.
“Right now, we’re right in that pivotal point,” Bohl said. “We need to start putting the pedal down and keep on improving and have a concerted effort to make improvement this week.”
By Jeff Kolpack, INFORUM