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Jeff Kolpack, Published August 26 2013

Heat to factor into North Dakota State's football opener

FARGO – It was a rather routine weekly news conference for North Dakota State head football coach Craig Bohl on Monday. It came after a not-so-routine event: the Bison practiced in the morning.

The heat and humidity and the fact NDSU opens its season on Friday night at Kansas State made for the adjustment. It’s not expected to get any cooler at kickoff: the forecasted high in Manhattan, Kan., is 97 degrees.

“It’s going to be hot and that could be a huge factor in the game,” said NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen. “But we feel like we’re ready. We had a really strong summer and hopefully it will pay off down there.”

Hydration, of course, will be mandatory, which is nothing new to the Bison strength and condition, training and coaching staffs. Getting fluids down during fall practice is a constant, not an option.

“I think our kids are smart enough but it takes constant reminders,” said Scott Woken, NDSU’s director of sports medicine.

As customary, Bison players will be required to finish two sports drink and a bottle of water on the team charter to Manhattan on Thursday. Once landed, players have 24-hour access to either liquid before game time.

And once the game starts, trainers and staff members will constantly be offering water to players the moment they leave the field.

“There may be more encouragement for that in this game,” Woken said.

NDSU will bring its misters, which disperse light moisture that helps cool the skin. Woken said the training staff has already discussed how to handle players who have a history of cramping or heat illness.

“There are a lot of little things we can do that can turn into a big thing,” Woken said.

The big thing with heat over four quarters, however, is depth. It’s the factor that often bites 63-scholarship FCS teams in matchups with 85-scholarship FBS programs. Bohl expects conditioning to come into play at some point.

“We’re doing everything we can,” he said. “We have 22 less scholarships, but you can only play 11 at a time. We need to make sure our guys are fresh.”

In that regard, the recent warm spell was welcomed by NDSU to help acclimatize to heat. The first half of the month was cool by North Dakota August standards.

“We don’t live in the hottest of climates in the world, but the last few days have been tough,” Woken said.

It’s been awhile since NDSU played a game in heat and humidity. It was 91 degrees at kickoff in 2005 when the Bison played at Northwestern State (La.).

The benchmark was probably in 2004 at Nicholls State (La.) when 90 degrees was coupled with high humidity. Yet, the Bison had only one player leave the game because of cramps.

“That was one of the worst games,” Woken said. “The awareness for our guys is tremendous. Our kids are trained well.”

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia