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Jeff Kolpack, Published October 19 2010

Bison football: Bohl says quick start needed for win

The starts have looked like something out of a half marathon rather than a 200-meter sprint. In football, the fast pace is preferred.

That’s the trend North Dakota State has been facing this season and head coach Craig Bohl said Monday the coaching staff has done “all kinds of stuff” to try to change it.

“We’re still searching for the right formula,” Bohl said, before turning to sarcasm. “I may eat a worm in the locker room to get them cranked up. I don’t know. We’ll see about doing something.”

NDSU’s opponent has scored first in six of the seven games with the exception of a six-yard run by D.J. McNorton in the first quarter against Morgan State. And even in that game, the Bears came back to take a 9-7 lead in the second quarter.

Last week, the Bison offense was in prime position when Justin Howard returned the opening kickoff 58 yards to the Illinois State 38.

But McNorton was stopped on fourth-and-1.

“We failed to execute on fourth and short and that’s disappointing,” Bohl said. “We have to change that.”

Still, the Bison defense held on three plays, only to get right back on the field four plays later when the Redbirds picked off a Jose Mohler pass. A 25-yard touchdown pass three plays later and Illinois State had the early advantage at 7-0.

Two weeks ago, Youngstown State dominated early in taking a 10-0 advantage.

The Bison fumbled early against Western Illinois and the Leathernecks responded with a 72-yard drive for a 7-0 lead.

The University of South Dakota returned the opening kickoff 35 yards and the Coyotes took 13 plays to cover 50 yards for their 7-0 lead. Kansas and Northern Iowa both opened the scoring with field goals earlier in the season.

“Certainly, we’ve talked about starting faster,” Bohl said. “That’s been a point of emphasis and we’re going to continue to emphasize it. Some of it comes down to getting ready to execute right from the start.”

Through it all, NDSU is still 4-3 and ranked 24th in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision coaches poll.

“There’s a belief and resiliency within our team that we’re never out of a game,” Bohl said. “But we like to think we play better when we’re ahead. Although last week we were ahead at halftime and came out pretty flat in the second half. Probably just need to put 60 minutes together.”

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