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Jeff Kolpack, Published November 28 2012

History suggests bye week should benefit Bison football team

FARGO – Many North Dakota State football players went from one family (their team) to their own homes over the Thanksgiving holiday last week. It was their first break from each other since mid-September.

The first-round bye in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs after nine straight games was a welcomed sight.

“We had our bye week a little early this year,” said NDSU center Joe Lund. “It took a grind on us. It was good to relax and get our minds off of football, and now we have a new mindset coming in.”

The mindset is on South Dakota State, which comes to Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome on Saturday for a second-round game. The trend in FCS playoff rematch games may favor the team that lost the first game, but NDSU also has a trend in its favor: Its record after a bye week.

The Bison are 10-1 under head coach Craig Bohl.

“The proof is going to be on Saturday,” he said.

The only after-bye-week loss was in 2005 when California-Davis took a 20-14 win at the Fargodome.

Seven of the games were at home and four on the road, with only two of those 11 games coming against vastly outmatched teams – Indiana State in 2009 and Prairie View A&M this season.

Asked what his formula is, Bohl sarcastically said to make sure not to play somebody good the following week. It was obvious he didn’t want to share NDSU’s off-week details.

“He obviously knows the formula to win coming off a bye week,” said Bison quarterback Brock Jensen. “None of us players and none of the coaches second guess his strategy. We just go with what he says and follow his lead.”

At heart, of course, is resting players without taking the pedal off of the season. In NDSU’s case the last few weeks, several starters have been playing with unreported, nagging injuries. To have a weekend away from the physical toll of a game is helpful, Bohl said.

“Bye weeks can be really healthy and helpful when you handle them that way,” he said. “But they can also be detrimental if you lose your timing, focus and not playing football for a week. There are times when teams don’t handle it well. It’s been our experience in the past that we’ve handled it well, and we’ll need to handle it well this Saturday.”

Jensen said all of the players needed a week off “in some sort of way.” Eight straight Missouri Valley Football Conference games were tough, he said.

“I was proud of the way we fought through the regular season,” Jensen said. “Now it’s time to step it up a notch and move on in the playoffs.”

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