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Jeff Kolpack, Published August 08 2013

Bison need to remain focused to continue reign in MVFC

FARGO – It was just a handful of years ago when North Dakota State first played a game in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The Bison weren’t exactly welcomed with opened arms.

Some teams objected to the No. 1 preseason ranking the Bison got in 2008. They were right: NDSU went 4-4 in the conference that season.

Times have changed.

There are no objections to the No. 1 ranking heading into this season. The Bison are coming off their second straight FCS national title and return more starters than anybody else.

It means for the second straight year, head coach Craig Bohl has had to answer the complacency question on more than one occasion.

“The best way I know how to guard against it is to take care of business every day and make sure you have good competition within your football team,” he said. “We have a clear vision of what we need to accomplish. While it’s important to celebrate past victories, to sit and meander in all of that is a proven ground for complacency.”

The Bison haven’t lost on the road since the 2010 playoff loss at Eastern Washington. They are 30-2 in the last two seasons, with those two losses coming at home against Missouri Valley teams that didn’t make the playoffs.

“That’s a real case in point of the competitive nature of Missouri Valley football,” Bohl said. “We know we’ll have our hands full in the Valley.”

On offense, the Bison return the likes of quarterback Brock Jensen, wide receivers Zach Vraa and Ryan Smith, running backs Sam Ojuri and John Crockett and four of the starting five on the offensive line.

On defense, the starting four defensive linemen and a few key backups are back. All three linebackers return as well as most of the defensive backfield. About the only hole to fill is departed cornerback Andre Martin.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong talking about our goals and what we want to accomplish,” said linebacker Grant Olson. “The problem is if we start looking ahead to that, and that’s when you’re going to have an Indiana State or a Youngstown State beat you. As long as we keep that in mind, I think we’ll be OK.”

Youngstown and the Indiana State own the last two wins over NDSU. Outside of the Valley, NDSU is 14-0 including 8-0 in the FCS playoffs.

“We know the expectations this year, and that’s not a surprise,” Jensen said. “I hope people realize how hard it is to win even one (title). To go back-to-back and to try for three in a row is incredibly hard to do. You have to have the right players and the right coaching staff and if they all buy into it, things can happen.”

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia