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Jeff Kolpack, Published September 05 2010

Rock, chalk and awe: NDSU stuns Big 12's Kansas to open season

LAWRENCE, Kan. – KU got KO’d on Saturday night, beaten up by a North Dakota defense that came to the big time – the University of Kansas’ 50,000-seat Memorial Stadium – with a bruised reputation.

The Bison were one of the worst defensively in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision last season. They had as many interceptions – three – as some teams do in a game.

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“We were cold-blooded gentlemen before the game,” said Bison defensive end Coulter Boyer. “We couldn’t have been happier afterwards.”

The 6-3 victory before 48,417 fans was the season opener for both teams and in one fell swoop, erased the memory of last year’s 3-8 record.

“Last year was different because it seemed like we lost the close ones,” said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl. “Our guys came here expecting to win the game.”

The win was provided offensively by an unheralded kicker, junior Ryan Jastram, who was 1 of 4 last season. He was 2 of 2 Saturday night, getting them from 44 and 32 yards.

“Biggest win of my life and the biggest game of my life,” Jastram said. “It feels great coming down here to a Big 12 school and doing this. Not many people get this opportunity.”

The Bison used a similar formula that they’ve stuck on so many teams prior to 2009: strong interior play on both sides of the ball and enough ball control on offense. Quarterback Jose Mohler was 12 of 22 for 95 yards and running back D.J. McNorton made most of his 58 yards rushing go for first downs.

“We always believed it was a winnable game,” said Boyer. “It felt good tonight.”

It came down to the final few minutes.

Bison safety John Pike recovered a Tim Biere fumble after the tight end caught a pass over the middle with 3:10 left. Safety Danny Eaves caused the fumble with a solid hit on Biere.

It gave the Bison the ball at the KU 36, and the only ones standing were the several hundred wearing green and yellow.

KU got the ball back at its own 20 with 51 seconds left, but had no timeouts and a backup quarterback, freshman Jordan Webb, in the game. The Bison held on four downs and the celebration was on.

“You have to hope you score more than three points,” said KU head coach Turner Gill. “Not to take anything away from North Dakota State, they played well on defense. They made the plays when they had to make them. You have to tip your hat off to them.”

You have to tip your hat to Jastram.

His second field goal, a 32-yarder, gave the Bison their 6-3 lead midway in the third quarter. It came after Boyer recovered a KU fumble downfield caused by linebacker Preston Evans. It was that kind of hustling defense that gave the Jayhawks fits all night.

“We had a good game plan coming in and we just executed it,” Boyer said.

NDSU played the first half exactly the way an FCS team needs to against a bigger division foe. Good defense, decent yardage at the line of scrimmage and minimal mistakes.

The only glaring gaffe was a third-down pass into the end zone by Mohler that was picked off by Kansas cornerback Isiah Barfield. It came on third-and-4 from the Jayhawk 5-yard line on a play where receiver Warren Holloway was well covered.

Barfield returned his interception to the 1, but the Bison defense held on three plays and the offense took over at the KU 32. Three plays gained little, but Jastram kicked a career-high 44-yarder to tie it at 3-3.

It was an upset in the making.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be heard on the Saturday Morning Sports Show, 9-11 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

Sept. 6, 2003

North Dakota State 25, Montana 24

The Bison stun the Grizzlies at Montana, rallying from a 24-2 halftime deficit. Montana was ranked No. 3 in Division I-AA, which is now known as the Football Championship Subdivision.

Sept. 23, 2006

North Dakota State 29, Ball State 24

The Bison pull off their first big upset as a Division I program by defeating the Cardinals in Muncie, Ind. “We took them for granted,” BSU sophomore receiver Dante Love said at the time. “We didn’t come to play.”

Sept. 22, 2007

North Dakota State 44, Central Michigan 14

The Bison hand CMU its worst home loss in seven years, defeating the Football Bowl Subdivision team out of the Mid-America Conference. NDSU’s defense torments eventual NFL draft pick quarterback Dan LeFevour, limiting him to just 186 yards passing.

Oct. 20, 2007

North Dakota State 27, Minnesota 21

The Bison’s signature victory as a D-I program comes in their second opportunity at the Metrodome. Just one year after a one-point loss to the Gophers, NDSU – led by running back Tyler Roehl – stunned the Twin Cities crowd. Roehl rushed for a school-record 263 yards.