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Jeff Kolpack, Published January 04 2013

Glory within reach as former 1965 players cheer on 2012 squad

Frisco, Texas - A copy of the 1965 North Dakota State football team’s national championship roster was making the rounds at a Friday practice by the 2012 team. The differences between the two teams were almost striking.

The heaviest players in 1965 were three linemen who weighed 225 pounds. NDSU’s starting quarterback for today’s Division I Football Championship Subdivision title game – Brock Jensen – weighs 225.

The Bison brought their entire roster to Frisco, around 89 players. The ’65 team had 49 players.

There are other differences, mostly due to bigger and faster players and a level of football. But there are similarities that are becoming timeless within the Bison football program, most notably winning. And the manner of which each team has gone about success.

“The one thing that I really see in this team compared to us was the determination of playing hard every play and going all out,” said Ardell Wiegandt, an offensive guard in 1965, while watching the current Bison work out. “I admire this team for their tenacity, their work ethic and what they do.”

The 2012 and 1965 teams are also alike in they found almost instant success – the ’65 team was just three years removed from a winless season while the Bison won an FCS national title last year in just their fifth year of Division I eligibility.

The reason for the fast rise in the ’60s, said Gene Gebhards, was the school hired the best coaching staff available in small college football. Darrell Mudra started the turnaround and Ron Erhardt maintained the dominance.

There were no shortcuts.

“That first year, we never had a day off and that included Sunday,” Gebhards said. “And on Sundays we practiced three times. There weren’t many colleges at that time that were working that hard. We bought into it, and the coaches made us what we were.”

Well over 100 former players were on hand for NDSU’s Friday practice with hundreds of fans lining a fence outside of a practice field just north of FC Dallas Stadium, which is expected to have a partisan NDSU crowd today. At the conclusion of practice, like he did last year, NDSU head coach Craig Bohl had all former players huddle with the current players and Bohl gave about a two-minute speech.

“I can speak for everybody that it was really cool seeing everybody out there,” said Bison linebacker Grant Olson. “It’s not something where you come, play for five years, leave and never come back. It’s a family and once you’re a part of it, you’re always a part of it. I can say everybody is blessed, privileged and honored to be part of it.”

Wiegandt said he saw Bison fans at every meal and gas station stop from Fargo to Frisco.

“I live in Florida but right now, I feel like I’m in North Dakota,” Gebhards said.

They came from all over, like brothers Kevin Kresbach and Keith Kresbach from San Antonio. Both were standout NDSU defensive backs in the early 1970s.

“I was at the Minnesota game last year, and I just love seeing all the support,” Keith Kresbach said. “It’s a great atmosphere.”

He made note of a story he read that about 2,000 Gophers fans traveled to the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston last week. NDSU sold out its 8,500 tickets for the Friday pep fest and is expected to have at least 12,000 to 14,000 at FC Dallas Stadium today.

“Bringing the first national championship to NDSU was a great honor,” Wiegandt said. “To see the extent of where they’re at today and how they have enhanced this program is a great thing. It’s really an unbelievable thing.”

Wiegandt, by the way, was a 5-10, 200-pound offensive guard in 1965. He and Gebhards were the team captains, with Gebhards being one of those three players that weighed 225.

“This is just terrific for North Dakota,” Gebhards said. “Just fantastic.”


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