Jeff Kolpack, Published November 03 2012
Kolpack: Plaster Field gives Bison fits again, but NDSU prevails
They may want to play North Dakota State at a stadium that is better for track and field than football. Some places are just black holes for teams, something the Bison head coach has seen over the years in his veteran career.
“This is one of them,” Craig Bohl said. “I don’t know how to describe it. It probably defies science and everything else, but this is a difficult place for us to play.”
It was more than difficult on Saturday, but the Bison escaped with a 21-17 win and woke up this morning in first place in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. It was the second win in three trips for the Bison, who lost two years ago in one of the ugliest games in Bohl’s 10 years at NDSU.
This one wasn’t exactly a glamour shot, either. The Bison got Plastered.
“Sometimes you’re not always going to have a lot of style points for winning,” Bohl said.
But know this about the Valley: It is about the only league in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision that plays defense, and any win is a good win. Three of the top nine scoring defenses in the country reside in the conference, including the top two in NDSU and Indiana State.
After early struggles, Missouri State is figuring out how to defend, too. The Bears had quarterback Brock Jensen’s number, picking him off three times, including returning one for a touchdown. His six interceptions on the season have come in two games, and three have gone the other way for touchdowns.
A statistic of note: MSU had 148 yards in interception returns while Jensen had 152 passing yards.
The most important statistic of note, however, is 8-1. That is NDSU’s overall record, and nobody on the Bison sideline was going to apologize for a win. The Bison shouldn’t in this league, at Plaster Field, either.
“Some games are tough,” said Bison running back Sam Ojuri. “This reminded us of two years ago, but today we kept with it. The defense stood out today.”
Certainly, there will be questions on the Bison offense anytime the quarterback throws three picks. It happens. But Jensen came into the game 10th in FCS in passing efficiency, and he’s been around long enough now to figure out what went wrong.
“We have all the trust in Brock,” Ojuri said. “It’s our job to keep him up and we did that today.”
Jensen can find solace that he’ll never have to return to Plaster Field. He got hurt in the game two years ago. He was uncharacteristically off on Saturday with some throws sailing high and others being late.
He finished 14 of 28. NDSU should have buried the Bears in the first half when they held them to minus-18 total yards and had the ball for almost 22 of the 30 minutes. Yet, the pick-six resulted in just a 14-7 Bison halftime lead.
NDSU got Plastered.
The atmosphere, 6,253 fans, was more high schoolish. Of all the Missouri Valley schools, Plaster offers the least resistance as far as competing in a hostile environment.
NDSU’s best performances on the road this year were at Colorado State and Northern Iowa, where the intensity was high. Intensity was also high in Sioux Falls, S.D., mainly because of NDSU’s large fan following. And maybe that’s it.
Maybe in two weeks, Illinois State should tell half of its fans to stay home.
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia