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Jeff Kolpack, Published September 29 2012

Kolpack: Crockett carries the load for Bison

Cedar Falls, Iowa - There is no assistant coach of the week award in the Missouri Valley Football Conference, so just give some sort of honorable mention nod to North Dakota State offensive coordinator Brent Vigen.

The guy who took a licking by Bison fans but kept on ticking two years ago pushed the right buttons Saturday night. The ones that detonated an explosion inside the UNI-Dome were the running calls to John Crockett.

NDSU defeated Northern Iowa 33-21 before 16,008 fans who witnessed the best player on the field in a battle of heavyweights. And it wasn’t even close.

It will be interesting to see just how good this guy can get because NDSU head coach Craig Bohl said Crockett is “still learning his way” after two years away from football. I’ve seen enough of the Big Ten Conference this season to come to this conclusion: Most of those teams would kill to have No. 23 on their team.

He showed some glimpses of flash in NDSU’s first three games, but when the stakes were raised in the conference opener for the Bison, Crockett was all in.

He rushed for 122 yards on 19 carries, but it was three carries to start the second half that showed the Panthers who was boss. Leading 13-7 at halftime, the Bison got the ball at their 21 to start the third quarter.

“It was a chance to take their heart,” Crockett said. “We talked about that. We were persistent and we wanted to do that.”

Crockett took a basic handoff around the right side, made one fake and 43 yards later the Bison were at the Panthers’ 37. The UNI crowd, which at times showed a dome-like presence that NDSU fans know so well, was never to be heard from again.

Crockett later gained seven yards to the Panthers’ 15. He scored on first-and-goal from the 6 and just 3:09 into the second half, NDSU led 20-7.

Two-possession leads in big games on the road are like finding dollar bills in your recently cleaned laundry: an unexpected bonus.

“They came out with the long run,” said UNI safety Garrett Scott. “Just from a defensive standpoint, we needed to get the ball back to our offense.”

The long run, which put an NDSU back over 100 yards for the first time this season, was a basic run play that Crockett said was set up with good blocking.

“They hit the perimeter,” said UNI head coach Mark Farley.

Bison quarterback Brock Jensen was also hitting everything, finishing 22 of 31 for a career high 243 yards. He was money on third down.

Jensen throwing. Crockett running. The offensive line blocking. Remember two years ago when Vigen had to call plays without the aid of a passing attack? Some questioned his job security.

Maybe it’s time for Bison fans to deliver a collective apology.

Maybe it’s time to put Crockett in the starting lineup, although it really doesn’t matter because the Bison will always use a two-back attack with Sam Ojuri. Bohl said that’s something that will be evaluated, just like any other position.

It was interesting that Crockett started the second half anyway.

“You sometimes go with the guy with the hot hand,” Bohl said, “and right now John Crockett has the hot hand.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia