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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 01 2012

Kolpack: Zenner stuffed by Bison run defense again

Fargo - First, a pronunciation guide. The team coming to Fargo next weekend for the Division I Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals is pronounced “Wah-ford”. Not “Woe-ford”.

Second, a guide in how to stop South Dakota State running back Zach Zenner: Just ask North Dakota State, which this season wrote the book on it.

The Jackrabbits sophomore chewed up almost everybody this year with the combination of speed and power. He could have gone over 1,000 yards in one game alone last week in the first-round win against Eastern Illinois if SDSU gave him the ball enough. He had a school-record 295 as it was.

Saturday, in almost a virtual sequel of three weeks ago, he was closer to 29.5 in a 28-3 Bison win at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome that sent them on to take on Wofford College (S.C.).

The Terriers run the triple option, which means it’s back to the studying room for the Bison defense. It certainly did its work on Zenner.

He had 43 yards in the regular-season victory, a feat that was considered almost sub-human considering what Zenner did against most of the rest of the Missouri Valley Football Conference.

And then after he tore through Eastern Illinois like they were a midget football team, paranoia surfaced this week that stopping him twice would be twice as hard.

He had 46 yards.

Game, set, match.

“I definitely didn’t have my best games here,” Zenner said. “And I have to credit their tackling as well.”

His longest run was 17 yards on the first play of the third quarter. But he got one yard in each of the next two plays and the Jackrabbits were forced to punt.

“You have to tackle Zach when he gets to the hole, and we did that well today,” said Bison defensive end Cole Jirik.

SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said the offense tried a couple of different formations to get him some open lanes. But there’s only so much you can do for a running back scheme-wise when the line of scrimmage is like a clogged drain.

SDSU finished with 21 yards rushing on 23 attempts. It was a feat that Zenner only lost three yards total all day considering the number of Bison defenders in the backfield.

“I thought the coaches did a great job of scheming it up,” said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl. “I thought the defensive line did a super job of maintaining the line of scrimmage and the linebackers played real disciplined. The runs that popped out against Eastern Illinois, we made sure we had somebody there. That was going to be a real critical part of this game plan.”

Critical because if the Bison can force a team to go strictly to the air, it usually doesn’t work out too well for the opposing quarterback. Or the opposing team.

Now comes Wofford, a Southern Conference team that started a unique punting scheme a few years ago that NDSU uses. Next week, NDSU fans will get another education of an FCS program.

It’s good to be playing football in December.


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