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Jeff Kolpack, Published April 24 2013

Bison get lesson in keeping focus from title-winning coach

FARGO – Jerry Moore won 242 games as a football coach, with most of those coming in a legendary run at Appalachian State (N.C.). His final game was last December when the Mountaineers lost in the second round of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

This week, he stood before a group of college players for the first time since his Appalachian tenure ended. Instead of it being in Boone, N.C., it was in a state he’d never been in: North Dakota.

His message to the North Dakota State players had little to do with the Xs and Os of the game. If NDSU is going to win three straight FCS titles, he said, the program needs to take care of matters outside the lines.

“Distractions,” Moore said.

Bison head coach Craig Bohl, who’s known Moore from long ago when both were at the University of Nebraska, asked him at the annual coaches convention in January if he would consider talking to his team. Nobody is more qualified than Moore, who led the Mountaineers to three straight FCS titles from 2005-07.

It could have been more – he said his ’08 team was talented enough for four straight – but other things got in the way. The focus wasn’t there.

“I got complacent myself about not talking to them,” Moore said. “I thought, they know, they know, they know. It’s like talking to children, you have to keep talking, keep talking and telling them about it.”

It was a message Bohl emphasized last year after the Bison won their first title in 2011. It’s a message that this week came from somebody else.

“The message he sent to our players was outstanding,” Bohl said. “He’s been there, done that and he has a lot of wisdom.”

Moore said he wouldn’t have taken Bohl up on his offer if Appalachian hadn’t recently announced its move to the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Mountaineers will play an FCS schedule this year, but will be ineligible for postseason. In essence, they’re already in a different division than NDSU.

“I wouldn’t have felt comfortable being around Appalachian people,” he said.

It’s been a different, but fulfilling, last couple of weeks for Moore. Two weeks ago, he addressed the U.S. Army Special Forces at Fort Bragg (N.C.). He got to experience field maneuvers and watched the soldiers in training.

He brought some of that experience to the Bison players.

“I told them you have to be willing to give up something,” he said. “I watched the Special Forces and you talk about giving up something. … It’s been a good trip for me just to be around football in the spring, particularly at this level. At this talent level, you’re talking to kids hungry to win championships.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia