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Kevin Schnepf, Published September 01 2012

Schnepf: Defending champion Bison open season in style

Fargo - How could North Dakota State possibly top a season opener like the one it had Saturday night?

Outside, there were 10,000 tailgaters soaking up the warm September sun (and whatever was in their liquid containers).

Inside, a sea of 19,000 yellow-clad fans blew the roof off the Fargodome when the national championship banner was raised to rafters.

And, by the way, the defending national champions won 52-0.

“It was unbelievable,” said Bison running back John Crockett, who experienced his first pregame run through the inflatable Bison helmet. “Running out that

tunnel and seeing all that gold up there, it’s just an experience you had to be a part of.”

Could it have been any better?

Possibly.

Instead of opening the season against a Robert Morris team without an offense, how about opening the season against a North Dakota team without a nickname?

That’s right. An NDSU-UND reincarnation.

Imagine the demand for tickets. Imagine the buzz on the 10½-acre concrete tailgating plot west of the Fargodome. Imagine the noise bouncing off the Fargodome’s new 250,000-pound state-of-the-art carpet.

Imagine a season opener in which a victory is not guaranteed – unlike UND’s 66-0 win over Trinity Bible College (I mean, School of Mines). Or unlike the Bison’s solid win over a team that didn’t look anything like the playoff team it was in the Fargodome two years ago.

Imagine it all you want. It ain’t going to happen.

First of all, listen to Gene Taylor explain NDSU’s philosophy on season openers.

“It’s always the luck of the draw, but we try to give us a game to work out the kinks if we can,” the Bison athletic director said. “You don’t want to make it too difficult. The ultimate goal is always getting those seven or eight wins so you can get into the playoffs.”

The Bison will face far bigger challenges during their next three season openers: at Kansas State, at Iowa State and at Montana.

Now, listen to Taylor explain his stance on playing UND, if at all – something the Bison haven’t done since 2003 when they lost 28-21 in the Alerus Center.

“It’s not off the table,” Taylor said of discussions that last spring had UND athletic director Brian Faison saying the two rivals will play in 2015.

Nothing has been scheduled yet. And because UND wants to play NDSU every year, it may not be scheduled for a long time.

“That’s the challenge. We want six home games every year,” Taylor said. “We’re filling the Fargodome every week, so every time we go on the road, we are losing money.”

Meanwhile, NDSU will be cashing $400,000 checks from Kansas State and Iowa State for its next two season openers.

Meanwhile, UND will open next season at home against Valparaiso – the same team the Bison beat 52-0 in its first Division I game back in 2004.

Meanwhile, NDSU will prefer spending more than $200,000 to bring in a team like Robert Morris for a season opener. As long as the Fargodome remains full, you won’t see UND in there anytime soon.

“You can’t beat an atmosphere like the Fargodome,” said Bison quarterback Brock Jensen.

Even without UND.


Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549 or kschnepf@forumcomm.com. Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com