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Eric Peterson, Published September 07 2013

Bison defeat Ferris State as Bohl ties Hager for coaching wins

FARGO – One head coach allowed his players to watch North Dakota State raise its national championship banner Saturday afternoon at the Fargodome. That coach wasn’t NDSU’s Craig Bohl.

“I wanted our guys to see the championship banner go up,” Ferris State head coach Tony Annese said.

The Bison came out like champions, scoring touchdowns on their first four possessions. NDSU used that fast to start to roll to a 56-10 victory against Ferris State in nonconference college football before a sellout crowd of 18,979 fans at Gate City Bank Field.

“There wasn’t a point in the game where I thought our offense wasn’t in control,” Bohl said. “I thought it was a clean game on offense.”

The two-time defending FCS national champion Bison (2-0) won their 15th consecutive home opener. Division II Ferris State was playing in its first game this season. The victory was a historic one for Bohl, who reached 91 victories with the Bison, which tied Rocky Hager for the most in program history.

“I didn’t even know that,” Bohl said.

Bison senior quarterback Brock Jensen, who had to wear No. 18 because his No. 16 jersey was stolen before the game, was quick to praise his head coach.

“He’s a great leader,” Jensen said of Bohl. “We’re so fortunate to have him as our head football coach. He is one of those guys who make you want to run through a brick wall.”

Bohl didn’t allow his players to watch the banner raising. Annese let his players stand in the tunnel to watch the ceremony so his team could “internalize the vision” for being a champion.

“The pregame was one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen,” Annese said. “Kudos to the way they do things here. … It’s first class.”

The Bison dominated the first quarter, scoring three touchdowns and gaining 215 yards on 22 plays. Ferris State was limited to 16 yards and no first downs on seven plays in the opening 15 minutes.

“It was an uphill fight the whole time from a communication standpoint,” Annese said of the loud Fargodome crowd. “I don’t know how anybody can be prepared for that.”

Jensen was precise in the first quarter, completing 8 of 9 passes for 160 yards and one touchdown. Bison junior wide receiver Zach Vraa caught four passes for 100 yards in the opening 15 minutes. Vraa capped his strong start, catching a 43-yard touchdown pass from Jensen that gave the Bison a 21-0 lead with 29 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

“I thought there was a good flow,” Bohl said.

The Bison continued to roll into the second quarter, scoring two more touchdowns. Senior fullback Andrew Grothmann, from Hillsboro, N.D., gave NDSU a 35-0 lead after catching a 4-yard touchdown with 2 minutes, 41 seconds to play in the first half.

That was Grothmann’s first career touchdown.

The Bison finished with 426 yards on 60 plays and had 20 first downs. The Bison avoided a letdown in the wake of last weekend’s 24-21 victory at Kansas State, an FBS program and defending Big 12 champion.

“It’s big to not plateau and keep moving forward,” Vraa said.

Jensen said Bohl wouldn’t let the team bask in the victory at Kansas State.

“He brings us back down to where we should be,” Jensen said. “He got us ready to play a great Division II team in Ferris State.”

Ferris State moved the ball against the Bison defense as the game progressed. The Bulldogs finished with 343 yards, including 228 rushing yards on 47 attempts.

“I really appreciated Ferris State’s competitive nature,” Bohl said. “We would have liked to have gotten some (younger) guys in earlier. It’s not a perfect world.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com