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Jeff Kolpack, Published October 29 2012

NDSU hopes to avoid repeat of last trip to Missouri State

FARGO – If you want to scare the North Dakota State football team on Halloween, dress up as the 2010 Bison football game at Missouri State. That was frightening.

In need of a win to secure a Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoff spot, the Bison were shut out 3-0 on the last day of the regular season. As it turned out, NDSU got some help and made the playoff field anyway, but the Bears made them sweat it out.

Circumstances are similar this Saturday when the Bison return to Plaster Field. Like two years ago, it’s the last home game of the season for Missouri State, which has won three in a row to rescue what once was a winless and potentially disastrous season.

And like two years ago, NDSU is in the playoff hunt, albeit at 7-1 overall, in a safer position to at least make the field.

“We did play poor down there the last time,” Bohl said, before wanting to escape that question as fast as possible. “That was a long time ago. Bad mojo. We don’t want to talk about it. Plaster Field.”

MSU is good at delivering bad mojo. Last year, the 2-9 Bears overcame a 27-10 halftime deficit to shock Youngstown State 38-34 in the last regular season game. It kept the home-standing Penguins out of the playoffs.

The 3-0 Bison loss is generally regarded as the last time NDSU played a subpar game on the road. It won a playoff game at Montana State and lost in overtime to Eastern Washington in the 2010 playoffs.

The current road winning streak is at nine games, including all six last season and Colorado State, Northern Iowa and South Dakota this season. With its last two losses coming at home – Youngstown State last year and Indiana State this year – the argument can be made that NDSU plays better away from home.

“We’re not going to say that because we like to play here,” Bohl said. “I think some of it is our guys are in a routine and that really helps them. Typically, it is hard to play on the road, but it’s been awhile since we’ve played poorly on the road. It will be important that we play well this week.

“I don’t know what the formula is, but maybe we play better than our opponents do when we play on the road.”

The Bears ended their slide this season with a 27-24 win against South Dakota. The quality win in the last three victories was a 24-17 win at then-11th ranked Illinois State two weeks ago. It’s the program’s first three-game win streak since 2004.

“Football teams change a lot during the course of the year,” Bohl said.

NDSU returned to the No. 1 spot Monday in The Sports Network top 25 media poll and moved up to No. 2 in the FCS coaches poll.

Bohl said backup defensive tackle Brian Schaetz will miss two to four weeks with a torn PCL in his knee. But he said defensive tackle Justin Juckem, out the last few weeks dealing with inflammation in his knee, will return to practice this week.

Leading receiver Zach Vraa, out with a separated shoulder, is also expected to return this week.

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia