Kevin Schnepf, Published November 05 2011
Schnepf: Jensen proves he can play through pain
Jensen’s completion percentage of 75 was as impressive – if not more so – as the 53 percent shooting Bird achieved during his college basketball career here at Indiana State in the late 1970s.
Jensen’s accuracy took somewhat of a hit Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
But he left Terre Haute with three things the legendary Bird would have been just as proud of: playing through an injury, committing no turnovers and producing a win.
Dealing with a turf toe that caused him pain, Jensen led the top-ranked Bison to a 27-16 win over No. 16 Indiana State. It left the Bison with a 9-0 record. And it left Jensen with a smile – even though the big toe on his left foot felt as if one of this town’s giant Sycamore trees fell on it.
“It doesn’t feel good right now,” said Jensen, a sophomore quarterback from Waupaca, Wis. “It’s just one of those things I had to battle through. I had to be resilient. It’s something that may be with me for the rest of the year.”
And what a year it has been for Jensen and the Bison, who with two regular-season games remaining have put themselves in a good situation to receive a first-round bye for the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs that begin Thanksgiving weekend.
Jensen entered Saturday’s game completing 75.3 percent of his passes – a figure that equals the FCS season record set by Northern Iowa’s Eric Sanders in 2007 and nearly as good as the FBS record of 76.7 percent set by Texas’ Colt McCoy in 2008.
But perhaps more importantly, Jensen and the Bison played error-free ball for the sixth time this season. In fact, the Bison have turned the ball over only four times, an amazing statistic for this late in the season.
“I would say no way, no how,” Bison head coach Craig Bohl responded when asked if he imagined that few of turnovers this late in the season.
“I have never seen anything like that,” said Indiana State head coach Trent Miles, who has coached college football since 1987 at 12 different schools. “They didn’t make any mistakes and we made too many mistakes.”
Jensen still completed 57 percent of his passes, connecting on 17 of his career-high 30 pass attempts. And there were a couple of dropped balls, including Warren Holloway’s gaffe on a flea-flicker bomb that could’ve produced a score in the third quarter.
But Jensen not only continued to play error-free ball, he continued to come up with big plays. None was bigger than a third-down pass he made on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Facing a third-and 12 and the Bison nursing a 17-10 lead, Jensen – feeling the throbbing of his big toe the longer the game went on – also felt the hands of Indiana State defensive lineman Ben Obaseki. He had one of Jensen’s legs wrapped up. But somehow, Jensen was able to rifle a completion to tight end Garrett Bruhn for a first down.
The play set up a field goal that gave the Bison a 20-10 lead.
“What a great play by that kid,” Miles said of Jensen. “And that was Ben Obaseki hanging on him, arguably one of the best defensive linemen in the country. What a great play.”
About five minutes later, Miles saw his team turn the ball over when Coulter Boyer pressured quarterback Ronnie Fouch into a fumble. Linebacker Chad Willson scooped up the loose ball, setting up a D.J. McNorton touchdown that gave the Bison a 27-10 lead.
While Jensen’s offense has lost the ball only four times, the Bison defense has forced 19 turnovers. That’s a turnover ratio Bird would be proud of.
“I believe in turnovers, I’m a defensive guy,” said Bohl, who was a defensive coordinator at the University of Nebraska before becoming NDSU’s head coach nine years ago.
And Jensen is an offensive guy who has turned the ball over only twice this season with an interception and a fumble.
“That was our main goal this year, to take care of the football,” Jensen said.
Now, Jensen has that big toe to take care of, too.
Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549
Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com