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Kevin Schnepf, Published September 21 2013

Schnepf: Now that big moment has passed, Bison will need to stay grounded

Fargo - As expected, ESPN’s Lee Corso donned a giant Bison head over his face Saturday morning.

The question now for North Dakota State’s football, after basking in the national spotlight for the last month, is this: Can they avoid big heads?

All the accolades generated from last month’s shocker at Kansas State and this past week’s ESPN “College GameDay” appearance have come to an end. And Bison coaches and players will be the first to tell you, now it’s back to the business of defending their conference and national championships.

But how do you accomplish that?

“As of right now, that stuff is in the past,” said Bison quarterback Brock Jensen, after he and his teammates showed no signs of inflated egos during Saturday’s 51-0 drubbing of Delaware State. “Right now, we’re moving forward.”

It would be easy for Jensen to have his head swell to the size of some of the posters that were being waved around during Saturday morning’s “GameDay” circus in downtown Fargo. After all, he received a hand-written note from Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder telling him how great he is. And it was probably hard to ignore the praise he received from “GameDay” analyst Kirk Herbstreit – a former Ohio State quarterback who labeled Jensen as NDSU’s most impressive player after engineering the game-winning drive at Kansas State.

“That drive probably signifies the biggest, most important drive of this program’s history,” Herbstreit said. “It wasn’t too big for Brock Jensen. That was cool to see.”

It would be easy for head coach Craig Bohl to think he could leave what he has built here and restore order in Texas or Nebraska. Abandoning his “no media at practice” policy, he was wired up for the “GameDay” segment that told 2 million viewers how he has made NDSU a national power and how he has become NDSU’s all-time winningest coach. Even the head coach may have to take some tips from his mature seniors how to deflate his own ego.

“People always say you are tested by your trials. But quite frankly, it’s just the opposite. You are tested when you get patted on the back a whole lot,” said Bohl, who parted the sea of Bison fans while being escorted in a golf cart to the “GameDay” stage Saturday morning.

Why would he want to leave all of this?

“He may want to stay here for the rest of his life or his career, and that’s great,” Herbstreit said. “But I have a feeling with all the success he is enjoying, it’s inevitable people will be knocking on his door. He is a guy who has done enough here that his name will surface as a top candidate for I would assume a lot of jobs.”

It would be easy for the Bison players to pound their chests after being one of the few teams allowed to visit the “GameDay” set the night before. They were in heaven, pointing to where Corso would sit or having their photos taken with “GameDay” reporter Samantha Ponder.

It would be easy for NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor to simply lay a “GameDay” poster on president Dean Bresciani’s desk for his next job review.

“I didn’t want it to end. It was like Christmas,” said Taylor, who was as giddy as a kid opening up his best Christmas gift ever.

But Christmas is over. No more gifts like the one ESPN handed to them. No more highlights on ESPN for a while – probably not until EPSN2 has a chance to televise a semifinal game in the Fargodome again. Not until another hoped-for trip to Frisco, Texas – where the Bison hope to shoot for a third straight national championship.

That’s not an easy feat.

“I think it is extremely difficult no matter what level,” said Desmond Howard, a “GameDay” regular who is impressed with how this Bison team never seems to panic. “You have a big bull’s-eye on your back. You are always going to get the teams’ best shot. That’s the game opponents will circle on their calendar.”

Sept. 28 is circled for South Dakota State, Oct. 5 for Northern Iowa, Oct. 19 for Southern Illinois, Oct. 26 for Indiana State and Nov. 16 for Youngstown State.

SDSU, which hung with Nebraska for a while on Saturday, is eager to end a four-game losing streak to the Bison. Northern Iowa, a winner over Iowa State this season, wants to end a two-game losing streak. Southern Illinois has come within a touchdown of beating the Bison the last two seasons. Youngstown and Indiana State are the only teams to beat the Bison during its two national championship runs.

“I think those two losses are a pretty clear reminder that we have to stay sharp every week,” Bohl said.

NDSU certainly has the tools to become the first team since the 2009 Southern Illinois team to win a Missouri Valley championship with a perfect record. And they certainly have the experience to become the first team since the 2007 Appalachian State team to win a third straight national title.

But to accomplish that, they need to avoid three things: injuries to key players, turnovers and … move over Lee Corso … big heads.

“We start Valley play, and that’s a whole ’nother ball game,” Jensen said. “Let the games begin now.”

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549 or kschnepf@forumcomm.com. Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com