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Eric Peterson, Published December 01 2012

Bison roll to 28-3 playoff win over Jackrabbits

FARGO – North Dakota State unleashed a new touchdown machine Saturday afternoon at Gate City Bank Field.

Bison quarterback Brock Jensen likes to refer to him as the Bison’s “Weapon X.”

NDSU senior tight end Garrett Bruhn hauled in his first two touchdown catches this season, playing for the first time since early October. Bruhn’s scores helped vault the No. 1-ranked Bison to a 28-3 victory against No. 19-ranked South Dakota State in the second round of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs at the Fargodome before 18,482 fans.

“It was amazing,” said Bruhn, who had one catch for 23 yards entering Saturday. “I could have never dreamed of that. I feel blessed.”

The Bison (11-1) advance to the FCS quarterfinals and will host Wofford at 2 p.m. Saturday.

Bruhn, one of the team’s seven seniors, has battled to get on the field all season.

“I was beginning to wonder,” Bruhn said. “It’s been a long road.”

Nerve damage in his shoulder threatened to end his season before the first game, but he was able to return for the season opener. At Colorado State, he left the game with a sprained knee that he thought he had blown out. Bruhn suffered a high ankle sprain against Youngstown State on Oct. 6 and hadn’t played since.

“It was great to have him back,” Bison head coach Craig Bohl said. “Garrett brings such a great presence to our team. He’s a guy who has nine lives. They keep on saying he’s done and he comes back.”

Bruhn finished with two catches for 21 yards against SDSU, hauling in his second and third touchdown catches of his career.

The 6-foot-1, 241-pound Bruhn caught a 12-yard pass from Jensen with 14 minutes, 56 seconds remaining in the second quarter. That gave NDSU a 7-3 lead and sparked a string of 28 unanswered NDSU points. Bruhn, who broke wide open on that play off a run fake, credited freshman tight end Derek Lee for that touchdown. Bruhn said Lee saw an opening on film that NDSU could exploit.

Bruhn caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Jensen with 5:27 remaining in the fourth quarter to give NDSU a 28-3 lead.

“It was pretty fun,” Bruhn said. “There is not much you can say about it. It was two big play calls.”

Bruhn sparked a Bison offense that was efficient when needed. The Bison scored 21 points in the second quarter to build an 18-point halftime lead.

Bison wide receiver Ryan Smith scored on a trick end around play with 8:48 to play in the second quarter. Smith hid behind the offense line, took a handoff from Jensen and paused for a moment before racing around the end for a 32-yard touchdown and a 14-3 lead.

“A number of unique plays in my opinion … and they had some success with that,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “When you have to defend something you haven’t seen, it had better be crystal clear.”

The Bison took a 21-3 lead after Jensen scored on a 2-yard run with 3:04 remaining in the second quarter. Bohl credited offensive coordinator Brent Vigen for his play calling during that big second quarter. Bohl said having a bye last week help the Bison add some wrinkles to their offensive scheme.

“We utilized this open week and installed some things and think we did a nice job of scheming some things up,” Bohl said. “They were different plays and they were called in a timely fashion.”

The Bison were 7 of 10 on third-down conversion in the first half and held a nearly 2-to-1 edge in time of possession.

The North Dakota State defense took it from there, shutting out the Jackrabbits in the second half. The Bison held SDSU to 21 yards rushing on 23 attempts. Jackrabbits star running back Zach Zenner finished with 46 yards on 15 attempts.

“Our guys are vets at the playoffs,” Bohl said. “There is just a different look in their eyes.”

The Bison are 7-1 in the FCS playoffs.

“North Dakota State is a great football team,” said SDSU senior linebacker Ross Shafrath, who had a game-high 18 tackles. “I expect they will go pretty far in this tournament.”


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Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com