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Jeff Kolpack, Published November 29 2012

Kolpack: Bison were in similar playoff setting in 1995

Fargo - The last conference playoff rematch of this magnitude ended when a man, presumably a North Dakota State fan, jumped on the goal post at Memorial Stadium in Grand Forks before the game ended. He got a blast of mace in the face.

That was in 1995 when NDSU turned the tables on the University of North Dakota to take a 41-10 Division II football playoff victory. The Bison got the Nickel Trophy and the fan apparently got arrested.

Now that’s rivalry spice.

On Saturday, the potential for NDSU and South Dakota State to take out the machetes existed when Bison defensive tackle Leevon Perry tore his ACL in the last SDSU game, the result of a low block by an SDSU offensive lineman.

It caused eyebrows to be raised because it came behind the play. Others called it a cheap shot.

Bison head coach Craig Bohl shied away from the topic this week. SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said it’s not a story. There weren’t any Bison players holding “Win One for Leevon” signs around practice this week.

No player had a direct comment associated with the injury, although offensive lineman Billy Turner, when asked if the Bison wanted another shot at SDSU because of the Perry injury, said, “In some instances, yes, but in a lot of other instances, just the fact it was a tight game and we thought the game should have been a lot different than what it was.”

In 1995, that kind of playoff story line would have blown up all across the state. In 1995, the big story heading into the game was whether deserving NDSU players were left off the all-conference team.

On Saturday, you have to believe there will be some win-one-for-Leevon locker room talk, but the big story is all playoff business. Win and advance; lose and the season is over.

The Dakota Marker trophy will not even be up for grabs, the result of bylaws between the student groups from both schools that control the rock. That really doesn’t matter anyway. In ’95, it was more about the playoffs than the Nickel.

“I don’t remember necessarily thinking about UND,” said former Bison quarterback Kevin Feeney, now the head coach at Moorhead High. “It was about advancing in the playoffs, and that’s another deal.”

Most likely, Feeney said, the same goes for both teams on Saturday. The bigger deal is reaching the quarterfinals, not beating the rival.

“The first goal is the conference championship, but I’m sure there’s not a guy on that team who wouldn’t trade a conference championship for a national title,” Feeney said. “I’m sure South Dakota State feels the same way. Ultimately, there’s a bigger prize advancing in the playoffs and reaching the national title game.”


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