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Associated Press, Published August 30 2012

Bison plan to put championship season behind them

FARGO — It wasn't that long ago, North Dakota State coach Craig Bohl says, that BIson football fans were complaining to athletic director Gene Taylor about spectators standing up during games and blocking their view.

No longer is the atmosphere inside the Fargodome like a dog show.

Fresh off their first Division I football championship, the Bison have sold out every home game for the first time in school history. They open the season Saturday against visiting Robert Morris, after a brief ceremony planned to commemorate the Championship Subdivision title.

"It's going to be really loud. The dome is going to be rocking," NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen said.

Bohl, now in his 10th year, guided the team through a transition from NCAA Division II to a national title in their fourth year of eligibility. He has a 75-31 record, including 16-8 against nationally ranked FCS teams and 5-3 against Bowl Subdivision clubs.

The most surprising number for Bohl, perhaps, is 18,700. That's roughly the number of tickets sold for six regular-season home games, culminating on Nov. 10 against rival South Dakota State.

"Did I think we would sell out every game? No, that's unheard of," Bohl said. "It's where we strive for. But now all of a sudden you get here and it's, wow, we're really here."

The Bison return six starters on offense, seven on defense and their game-breaking kick returner. The only unproven positions are offensive line, with two new starters, and special teams, with a new kicker and punter.

Jensen, the junior quarterback, has started 19 straight games and 22 overall. He led the Bison all the way last year despite a nagging case of turf toe. He's healthy this year.

"I'm one year older. I'm one year wiser," Jensen said. "I feel good and I can't wait to go to battle with the guys."

The Bison have won 11 straight season openers.

Robert Morris and NDSU last played in the opening round of the 2010 playoffs. It was a tight game until the Bison scored 23 points in the last 9 minutes to win 43-17.

"We're expecting a really spirited, close ballgame," Bohl said.

Bison players say they may take a minute during the banner raising ceremony to reflect on last season, but then it's back to business.

"I know the fans will be really excited, but we're just ready to play football again," linebacker Grant Olson said.

"I can see talking about it at our 10-year reunion, but as far as last year goes ... put it in the past," tight end Garrett Bruhn added.


Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.