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Jeff Kolpack, Published August 22 2010

College football: NDSU football in 'big win' drought

It’s been 17 games since North Dakota State left a football field with a win that had significance in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision landscape. The Bison won’t have to wait long to correct that.

They’ll have opportunities in the first two weeks of the season to register a confidence-builder, the type of victory that carries swagger in a top 25 FCS poll. NDSU opens at the University of Kansas on Sept. 4 and follows with a road trip to perennial Missouri Valley Football Conference power Northern Iowa on Sept. 11.

Two name opponents, two chances to get back on the FCS map.

“We haven’t won a big game in a couple of years like we used to,” said senior offensive tackle Michael Arndt, “so we think we can make a statement going down to Kansas and doing our best to get a win.”

It will be a tough road for a young team returning from a

3-8 season. Head coach Craig Bohl said he’s more concerned about the day-to-day improvement of his team rather than what constitutes a big win.

But the opportunity is there early in the season.

“It’s good for us,” said defensive end Coulter Boyer. “It’s good for our program and it’s something to look forward to.”

The last major victory likely was a 35-27 win over Southern Illinois in the middle of 2008. It was a stirring homecoming performance. The Bison scored five straight touchdowns after falling behind 20-0 with three of the scores coming in the fourth quarter.

“That was a great time,” Arndt said. “A statement like that goes a long ways.”

But NDSU dropped a disappointing 27-21 decision at home to Western Illinois the following week. The clincher was a 25-24 loss, at home again, to South Dakota State when the Jackrabbits rallied for a touchdown and subsequent two-point conversion with just over two minutes remaining.

Then came the 3-8 season of last year with wins against Wagner College (N.Y.), Western Illinois and Indiana State – three teams that combined for an 8-25 record with Wagner getting six of the victories.

The 17-big game drought, in a subjective look, is the perhaps the longest since the Bison went 12 games after beating Montana in 2003 to winning at a good Nicholls State (La.) team in the heat and humidity in 2004. But the fledgling Division I schedule included the likes of Valparaiso, Montana Tech, Carson-Newman and Concordia-St. Paul.

Sandwiched between the Montana and Southern Illinois wins were major victories at Ball State (2006) and a 2007 season filled with huge wins over Cal-Poly, Minnesota, Central Michigan and Sam Houston State.

Prior to the Montana win, the Bison went all of 2002 without a quality victory and considering a 31-22 win over Nebraska-Omaha at the end of 2002, that streak was also 12 games.

For much of the North Central Conference competition in the 1980s and ‘90s, a win over North Dakota, Omaha or Northern Colorado was considered big. So taking that theory into account, the previous non-big win streak was 19 games from a 1997 first round NCAA Division II playoff win over the University of South Dakota to a victory over Omaha in the middle of ’99.

The current streak could all change in September. The Bison spent a lot of time high in the FCS polls in 2006, 2007 and the first half of 2008.

“We’re working harder than we ever have,” Arndt said, “and I think it will pay off in the end.”

Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the WDAY Golf Show, 10-11 a.m. on WDAY-AM (970). He can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia