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Jeff Kolpack, Published September 06 2013

The option returns to the Fargodome today

FARGO – The North Dakota State defense had some homework to do to get ready for Ferris State tonight. It’s a good bet it brought reminders of its preparation for Wofford College and Georgia Southern in last year’s FCS playoffs.

The common theme of all three programs: option football.

“They bring a lot of running backs on the field and they go a bunch of different ways,” said NDSU free safety Christian Dudzik. “You’re never sure. And then they’ll throw it over the top if you’re too aggressive.”

The Bulldogs set a school record for rushing yards in one season last year and it wasn’t even close. Their 3,369 yards in 11 games surpassed the 1995 mark of 2,538 in a year when Ferris reached the Division II semifinals.

Dudzik said it’s hard to compare Ferris’ veer offense to another team that NDSU has faced, saying Wofford and Georgia Southern are about as close as it gets.

“I haven’t seen anything like it,” he said.

Head coach Craig Bohl said the Ferris veer is not like NDSU’s Division II veer of old.

But look for quarterback Jason Vander Laan to handle the ball on most plays. He set a Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference record last year for single-season rushing yardage by a quarterback with 1,338 yards. And that’s in a league where Grand Valley State established itself as a Division II power.

“They have multiple schemes, all kinds of different things,” Bohl said.

Bohl poised to move past Rocky on wins list

A win today and Bohl will tie Rocky Hager as the winningest coach in Bison history. Now in his 11th season, he’s 90-32.

Hager was 91-25-1 from 1987-96. Both Bohl and Hager have two national titles to their credit, with the former head coach winning Division II titles in 1988 and 1990.

Hager, by the way, is the defensive coordinator for Division III College of New Jersey, located in Ewing, N.J., just north of Trenton and about halfway between Philadelphia and New York. The Lions, who last made the playoffs in 2007, play in the New Jersey Athletic Conference. Hager spent last year as the defensive line coach at Bryant University (R.I.).

NDSU hopes to avoid post K-State letdown

The obvious question of how to address any letdown in the wake of last weekend’s 24-21 win at Kansas State was addressed almost immediately, Bohl said. He said the coaching staff took advantage of the extra day of preparation after the rare Friday game in Manhattan, Kan.

The fact NDSU has 26 seniors, Bohl said, is also a plus.

“That’s not a 100 percent safeguard for letdowns,” he said earlier this week. “I would be surprised and disappointed if they didn’t get some good work done.”

Said offensive guard Zack Johnson: “We have to be humble, and we can’t let up at all. We have to go out and play hard like we did against Kansas State.”

Win puts NDSU in elite company in some polls

The victory against K-State was followed by mentions in several polls around the country. For instance, CBS college football writer Dennis Dodd put the Bison 15th in his power poll.

Dodd also put FCS teams Eastern Washington at No. 22 and McNeese State at No. 25 after their upset wins over FBS programs.

NDSU was also named the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team of the Week and joined Appalachian State as just the second FCS team to get that distinction since the award started in 2002. It’s voted on by a committee from the Football Writers Association of America.

The Bison were 35th in the Sagarin USA Today power ratings, although Kansas State was eighth.

Etc. etc. etc.

NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen needs 30 completions and 17 attempts to pass Steve Walker on the all-time school charts in both categories. Walker completed 535 of 841 passes from 2004-07.

The Bison have lost only one home opener since they moved into the Fargodome in 1993 – a 23-21 loss to Emporia State (Kan.) in 1998.

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