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Kevin Schnepf, Published November 10 2012

Schnepf: Jensen's running gives NDSU offense another wrinkle

Fargo - Don Morton strolled onto Gate City Bank Field two hours before Saturday’s college football showdown between North Dakota State and South Dakota State.

Morton chatted with SDSU’s 55-year-old head coach John Stiegelmeier, who was once a graduate assistant for Morton when he was the head football coach at Wisconsin.

Morton, now a Microsoft executive, should have warned Stiegelmeier that the Bison were going to run their quarterback as much as his Bison veer-option teams used to in the 1980s.

That’s right. The Bison purposely ran Brock Jensen enough that he almost became the first quarterback to be NDSU’s leading rusher of the game since seemingly back in the days of Jeff Bentrim, Chris Simdorn, Arden Beachy or Kevin Feeney.

With a little help from Jackrabbits mistakes, the strategy worked to produce a 20-17 win in this backyard, defensive slugfest.

So rest easy all you bashers of the Bison offense. Yes, it was unable to close out drives, and yes, it got help from some key Jackrabbits penalties.

But it also scored enough against yet another tough Missouri Valley Football Conference defense.

“We found a way to get it done,” said Jensen, who carried the ball 14 times – most by design – for 67 yards, only eight yards shy of Sam Ojuri’s 75 yards. “Our defense obviously kept us in the game like they have all season. But our offense, whether it’s running the football or throwing the football, we’ll find a way to get it done.”

Struggling as much as it was, the offense found a way with a late-game scoring drive that gave the Bison a 20-10 lead.

A third-down roughing-the-passer penalty kept the drive alive. And a too-many-men-on-the-field penalty scratched a field goal setup and led to Ojuri’s 3-yard touchdown run on fourth down.

“If we don’t have 12 guys on the football field, maybe I’m smiling right now,” Stiegelmeier said. “That’s how fickle this game is.”

And as fickle as some fans may be in questioning the Bison offense, their defending national champions are now 9-1 and poised to host three playoff games again if it wins at Illinois State next Saturday.

And it all came down to Jensen running the ball – including a career-long 56-yard scamper that set up a field goal to give the Bison a 13-10 lead in the third quarter.

“We changed our game plan a little bit,” Bohl said of having Jensen run the ball more. “The quarterback run game … that’s the 11th hat that can be very difficult to defend.”

Stiegelmeier agreed.

“If you line up in a one-back offense and you’re quarterback is as good as your tailback, you have a two-back offense, but you don’t have a two-back defense,” said Stiegelmeier, who insisted the 56-yard run should have never happened. “Our safety should’ve tackled him for a 5-yard gain and our linebacker overran it. But give North Dakota State credit, they did what they had to do.”

And in spite of those who would like to see the offense explode for more points, that has slowly become the mantra for this year’s Bison: They do what they have to do to win.

It’s gotten them a share of their second straight Missouri Valley Conference championship. And it has put them one step closer to playing more games in the Fargodome.


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