Jeff Kolpack, Published August 31 2013
Kolpack: Thrilling win on national stage nothing new for NDSU
It was a mystifying journey.
For one, his team was wearing green pants. For two, the opponent was Kansas State – not the doormat K-State of yesteryear but the one that raised a Big 12 Conference championship flag on Friday night at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.
It was quite the battle, too.
Right down to the final minute. And when that happens, everybody with a yellow or green shirt knows who will run the show.
Quarterback Brock Jensen, of course. Joe Namath. Joe Montana. He’s the FCS version of those Joe Cool.
“It was one of those moments where you to gut it out,” Jensen said. “We were tired. They were tired on defense. It was the most gutty performance I’ve seen in my entire life at any level.”
Gutty translated into a one-yard touchdown run by Jensen with 28 seconds remaining to give the Bison a 24-21 win over the Wildcats. It’s getting to the point where Jensen has come through so often in his Bison career that you have to wonder if it’s some kind of a school record for clutch performances.
The fan wondered what the heck happened in Fargo in the last 11 years, but explanations will have to come later. First, what happened on Friday night before a national television audience?
“We have a remarkable group of seniors,” said head coach Craig Bohl. “We’ve had these types of wins but never over a program like this. I don’t know if our players fully understand the type of program that we played but I knew.”
It came down to the final drive, in front of a crowd of 53,351, like nobody 11 years ago would ever have imagined.
Starting from their own
20-yard line with 8:58 left, Jensen got NDSU out of an early third-and-11 hole with an 11-yard pass to running back Derrick Lang, who made a few big plays on this night.
It was second-and-13 one play later. No problem, one pass and a John Crockett four-yard first down run kept the chains moving. It was second-and-11 one play later. No problem. A first down pass to receiver Zach Vraa got NDSU in Wildcat territory.
A short pass to Andrew Bonnet got a first down at the 36 with 2:41 remaining. Everybody in the stadium was standing, but the home crowd really wasn’t a factor.
It was if they had that “who are these guys” look.
“The play calls were really good,” Bohl said, “and the players executed them. It was an 11-man effort.”
Another third-down conversion, this one a five-yard pass to Vraa made it first-and-goal at the 8 with 42 seconds left. The team in green pants was knocking on the door of a major upset, at least in the minds people except Lou Holtz, who predicated a Bison win.
Jensen kicked it in, just like he did in the FCS semifinals against Georgia Southern last year.
There wasn’t a whole lot difference in the physical makeup of the FBS Wildcats and the FCS Bison. NDSU had the better running game and it wasn’t even close – K-State’s star John Hubert finished with just 23 yards on 10 carries.
A senior who has hopes of topping 1,000 yards, he has a long way to go now. The Bison, meanwhile, piled up 215 yards and had the better of the bursts like Sam Ojuri’s 66-yard run that led to a late third quarter field goal and a 21-17 NDSU deficit.
The Bison left Manhattan the better team. The man in the time machine went back to 2002 with a story that nobody would believe.
“They would think they were probably dreaming,” said NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor. “Where we have come the last 10, 12 years … I never fathomed that.”
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found