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Jeff Kolpack, Published November 08 2012

Kolpack: Winning ways make Jensen a coveted quarterback

Fargo - It was hard to tell how long Colorado State head coach Jim McElwain looked at the statistics. When talking about North Dakota State quarterback Brock Jensen, that wasn’t his point anyway.

In the wake of his team’s 22-7 loss to NDSU in September, he pointed to Jensen as the kind of player CSU needs to recruit, and it wasn’t because Jensen is 6-foot-3, 225 pounds with a strong arm.

“He’s a winner,” McElwain said.

Winners get that distinction because of the way they perform in big games. It was as if McElwain studied Jensen’s resume, which includes an unbeaten Wisconsin high school state championship, a once-beaten Division I Football Championship Subdivision national title and a record of 40-5 as a starting quarterback since his senior year at Waupaca High.

There have been two subpar outings this year, but this is also a guy who has the school record for most consecutive passes without an interception with 142.

NDSU didn’t recruit him to be Dan Marino, who was all stats and no Super Bowl. They prefer somebody with a reputation for rings.

They prefer somebody who shines when a trophy is on the line. And that’s what you have Saturday when NDSU and South Dakota State collide at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

The winner clinches a share of the Missouri Valley Football Conference title. For Jensen, it’s big-game time again.

“Oh man, they’re a lot more exciting maybe,” he said. “Every game is exciting, but these ones are always fun to get up for. Whenever there’s a little bit more riding on one game, you feel that excitement. There’s a lot of tradition going into this Saturday, a lot of history between these two teams, and I’m looking forward to the opportunity to be a part of it.”

Football may be a team game, but big games start with the quarterback. The last time a winning QB threw an interception in this series was 2004 when SDSU’s Brad Nelson was picked off once.

Last year, Jensen was 20 of 25 with no interceptions. Two years ago at the dome, SDSUs’ Thomas O’Brien threw four picks with two returned for Bison touchdowns. The final was just a 31-24 Bison win.

“Anytime you enter a game like the one we’re about to, it’s extremely important to take care of the football,” Jensen said. “Turnover margin doesn’t always dictate how a game ends up, but you look at the percentages and it’s definitely in favor of whoever wins that turnover margin. That’s one thing we’re going to have to do on Saturday in order to put ourselves in a position to win the game.”

It’s a position he’s been in 40 times since his senior year of high school. Against Colorado State, he was 18 of 29 for 189 yards and some uncanny completions on third down conversions.

Those throws must have left McElwain with a bad case of recruiting envy.

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