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Jeff Kolpack, Published September 01 2012

Defense leads way in keeping Robert Morris at bay

FARGO – If North Dakota State and Robert Morris University didn’t switch ends of the field on Saturday night, one side of the new AstroTurf would have gotten a workout.

The Bison defense put up a wall at midfield and the Colonials rarely got through it. They finished with just 88 total yards in NDSU’s 52-0 victory before 18,769 fans at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome – the Bison’s first shutout since blanking Mississippi Valley State in 2006.

The defense was advertised as a strength and it delivered.

“Defending national champions, they’re pretty good,” said RMU quarterback Matt Layman. “We wanted to try and give them a good game. We stuck with them in the first half, but the second half got away from us a bit.”

The Colonials reached NDSU territory just once, getting to the 46-yard line after Adam Keller misfired on a 44-yard field goal. The defense was so dominating that the Bison started drives in RMU territory at the following yard lines: 31, 28, 44, 24, 46, 46, 47 and 35.

“I thought the defense played at a great pace all game,” said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl.

Linebacker Grant Olson led the way with eight tackles. Linebacker Travis Beck added seven.

“Anytime you hold a team to under 100 yards, that’s quite an accomplishment,” said Olson, who then complimented NDSU’s defensive front. “When you play behind four talented players like that, it makes your job a lot easier.”

Freshman offensive linemen have good showing

The Bison started two freshmen on the offensive line and played a true freshman as a backup. All three players received good reviews by the head coach afterward. It was the first starts for left guard Josh Colville and right tackle Joe Haeg, while true freshman guard Zack Johnson played.

“We have good young players, and they played meaningful reps,” Bohl said.

NDSU averaged 6.5 yards per rushing attempt. Quarterback Brock Jensen was rarely in danger of getting sacked in his 23 passing attempts.

The 22 yards rushing by RMU were the least NDSU gave up since allowing 14 to Ball State (Ind.) and minus-14 against Concordia-St. Paul, both in 2006.

Special teams has fine night with new starters

The special teams also received a passing grade from Bohl, saying first-year starters in punter Ben LeCompte and kicker Adam Keller did fine. There was one oddity, however.

Keller left the game in the second half because of cramps, leaving the kickoff duties to LeCompte.

“Thirty-one years I’ve been coaching,” Bohl said. “A kicker had cramps. A kicker had cramps. I don’t know how, but he did.”

Etc. etc. etc.

Bohl said there were no apparent injuries. … It was NDSU’s first home-opening shutout since a 52-0 win over Valparaiso in 2004. … There were several career firsts for the Bison, most notable Ryan Smith and Trevor Gebhart notching touchdown receptions.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546