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Jeff Kolpack, Published October 03 2012

NDSU, Youngstown boast winners at quarterback

FARGO – There is no Merriam-Webster definition for “FCS quarterback,” but if there was, a picture of North Dakota State’s Brock Jensen or Youngstown State’s Kurt Hess would suffice. The similarities between them are striking.

Both juniors are about the same size at around

6-foot-3 and 225 pounds. Both have thrown for eight touchdowns without an interception this season. And both possess off-the-field traits that cannot be measured on a stat sheet.

“He’s a winner and he’s a leader,” Hess said of Jensen. “Look at his record. You can say anything about his stats, but Brock has done a great job of leading his troops.”

The same could be said for Hess, who like Jensen has been a starter since his redshirt freshman season. Hess leads the Division I Football Championship Subdivision in passing efficiency, completing 55 of his 83 attempts and carries a rating of 175.49. Jensen is fifth, completing 69 of 98 passes and has a 169.43 rating.

Moreover, it’s the intangibles that also make them valuable, said YSU head coach Eric Wolford.

“Obviously two great quarterbacks, they do a great job of managing the game,” he said. “At key times in big games, when you need to make something happen and when the heat is on, I can see both of these guys doing it.”

Both quarterbacks have also turned around 3-8 seasons. NDSU had that record in 2009, the year Jensen redshirted. Playing hurt for a good chunk of 2010, he still led the Bison to the FCS quarterfinals and then a mostly healthy Jensen led NDSU to the FCS title last season.

Hess had to endure the 3-8 pain himself as a freshman in 2010. It was Wolford’s first season in what was the ground floor of a rebuilding job.

“Coach Wolford came in here, cleansed the program and turned it into something the community can be proud of,” Hess said. “It’s about work ethic. When we’re out in the community, we make sure we do the things every day that champions do.”

Jensen has been a model student from his first day. Now the unquestioned leader of the offense, he’s brought clutch into his vocabulary this season, especially on third down. The Bison have converted 31 of 56 of those situations, with many of the killer variety against Northern Iowa and Colorado State.

“A lot has to do with the play calling,” Jensen said, referring to offensive coordinator Brent Vigen. “We have complete trust in him, and he has a lot of trust in us to execute the plays.”

Jensen said that Vigen has given him more freedom with the offense this year in terms of calling audibles at the line of scrimmage. There are still restrictions, he said, but not near as what it once was.

It’s part of Jensen just having a better grasp of the entire playbook. He is 18-1 in his last 19 starts, throwing for 22 touchdowns against four interceptions in that span.

“Every year it gets better and better,” Jensen said. “I’m a year older and a year wiser.”

So is Hess.

“I’ve talked to our defensive players and they say they have their work cut out for them this week,” Jensen said, “so give credit to their offense for being great. We have to be great, too.”

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia