Chris Murphy, Published September 21 2013
VIDEO: ESPN on Fargo and NDSU: "A scene that needs to be seen"
Those scenes and comments were repeated over and over during the three-hour show.
Two of the show's four analysts said it was the best show and setting they've had in more than 25 years of doing it.
But host Chris Fowler also took a moment early on to explain to its audience of millions why the popular college pre-game show was in Fargo:
“It’s not a good slate of games,” he said, illustrated by a graphic of the major college football games on Saturday.
Seventeen ranked bowl-eligible teams were playing Saturday against unranked teams favored by an average of 32 points, and only one was favored by less than 17 points. There was one matchup of ranked teams between No. 23 Arizona State and No. 5 Stanford.
It was a good day to be in Fargo, at a perennial power house of lower-division football.
But when well-known ESPN analyst Lee Corso walked the red carpet out of the Fargo Theatre wearing NDSU mascot Thundar’s head with a real baby bison named Corso alongside him at the show's end, NDSU was on top of the world.
It didn’t matter that "Bison" was incorrectly pronounced four times or that Concordia College and the Cobbers were mentioned three times and got a minute worth of coverage thanks to the Troll Trophy it was playing for Saturday.
It didn’t matter that the show mentioned “University of North Dakota” and “Fighting Sioux” two times each and “North Dakota State” was only said nine times by ESPN workers.
It didn’t matter that celebrity picker and former NDSU defensive end Phil Hansen had the audacity to pick South Dakota State over Nebraska as his upset pick, or the feeling of eye-rolling from the entire city of Fargo that came with the inevitable showing of the woodchipper. Nor did it matter that NDSU was talked about less than 30 minutes of the three-hour show.
All that mattered was the ninth uttering of “North Dakota State,” which was said by Corso in his pick over Delaware State, even though he technically picked Concordia over St. Olaf first. It was NDSU's day with the help of a Fargo backdrop, which painted downtown as a college campus.
There’s a reason the thousands in attendance chanted, “Thank you, GameDay,” after it was all over.
BEST MOMENTS OUTSIDE OF CORSO’S PICK
The segment on NDSU coach Craig Bohl felt as though he was in the living room of any high school football player. Bohl’s impression of Lou Holtz was dynamite and brought personality to a man who rarely lets his guard down.
ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi asking an actual bison how to pronounce “bison.”
The best non-area related items were the segments on the death of UCLA wide receiver Nick Pasquale eight days after his one and only play in Division I football; and Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater’s handling of his mother’s breast cancer.
The segment on the players coming from the FCS shined a light on the talent that is occasionally forgotten in FBS recruiting.
BEST SIGNS SEEN
Outside of some guy attempting to flex behind ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit and many fans’ ridiculous notion of NDSU challenging Alabama, the background had its moments:
ESPN’s Samantha Ponder, wife of Minnesota Vikings quarterback Christian Ponder, never really had a chance. Many signs that can’t and probably should never be repeated involved both Ponders. The catchiest sign was, “Samantha: Can Christian even pass the salt?”
“Rock out with your Brock out”
“Bo Pelini hating you is so 2 years ago”
“I have a belly button”
“Even Sioux Pick NDSU” (with upper-case ESPN letters)
“Yes, We Have 4G”
“Our accents aren’t that bad” with a picture of actor William H. Macy from the movie “Fargo.”
“Jim Delany wears shape-ups”
Readers can reach Forum reporter
Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548