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Kevin Schnepf, Published October 06 2012

Schnepf: Turnover margin has sparked recent Bison winning streak

Fargo - A turnover ended the 2010 season for North Dakota State’s football team. Since then, turnovers have been as rare as finding an empty Fargodome seat for a Bison game.

In their last 20 games, the Bison have finished 11 of them without a turnover. Amazing.

It explains why the defending national champions have a 19-1 record since a fumble ended NDSU’s overtime playoff loss at Eastern Washington.

It also explains why the top-ranked Bison steamrolled No. 3-ranked Youngstown State 48-7 on Saturday before a record crowd of 19,065.

“If we take care of the football, we know we will always give ourselves a chance to win the game,” said Bison quarterback Brock Jensen.

With this team – as talented as it is – playing error-free football not only gives itself a chance to win, but a chance to win big.

For the second straight week, the Bison defense created three turnovers while the offense had none. That’s been par for the course since that heartbreaking loss on Eastern Washington’s red turf.

Since then, the Bison have lost the ball only 16 times – four interceptions and 12 fumbles. Meanwhile, their opponents have coughed up the ball 44 times – 26 interceptions and 18 fumbles.

NDSU’s No. 4 national ranking in turnover margin will no doubt improve after Saturday’s performance.

“We know how good of a football team we can be if we play clean football,” said Jensen, who as the starting quarterback in these last 20 games has a 19-1 record, 24 touchdown passes with only four interceptions.

The only loss in that span came against Youngstown State last year in the Fargodome. It marked the only time during this 20-game stretch in which the Bison lost the turnover battle (2-1), and that resulted in a 27-24 loss.

It was Jensen who was singled out for his turnover in NDSU’s playoff loss at Eastern Washington. There are still many who feel it wasn’t a fumble when the ball popped loose as his hands hit the red turf one yard short of the goal line. An official review upheld the call, ending NDSU’s season.

Ever since then, Jensen has become the leader of this team. A leader by example: Not forcing things and taking what the defense gives him.

“It starts and ends with Brock in a lot of ways,” Bison offensive coordinator Brent Vigen said, referring to the coaches’ endless preaching about ball security. “If we can win that turnover battle, we are going to win. Our kids really understand that.

“And for Brock, that’s just the way he is. He gets it. Rarely do you see him throw a ball that you think is going to get picked off.”

Jensen entered Saturday’s game ranked fifth nationally in passing efficiency.

His Youngstown counterpart, Kurt Hess, was the best in that category. That was until he threw two interceptions that resulted in 14 Bison points.

One of those was Marcus Williams’ 98-yard interception return that gave the Bison a 21-7 lead. The rout was on.

“Anytime a quarterback throws a pick six, that’s really hard for a quarterback to overcome,” said Bison head coach Craig Bohl. “Very rarely do you win a game when you throw a pick six.”

And very rarely do you lose a game when you win the turnover battle. The Bison are proof of that.

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