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Kevin Schnepf, Published September 28 2013

Schnepf: Victory wasn't pretty, but a road win nonetheless

Brookings, S.D. - Much like North Dakota State’s plans to renovate the Bison Sports Arena, South Dakota State officials hope to get rid of its 52-year-old football stadium by the fall of 2016.

Long overdue for both facilities which – quite frankly – have aged to the point of becoming downright unsightly.

The same can be said for Saturday’s football game between the two rivals. It certainly wasn’t pretty.

“It really wasn’t,” said head coach Craig Bohl, who saw his top-ranked Bison fight off one mistake after the other to claim a 20-0 win over the sixth-ranked Jackrabbits. “But that’s what is encouraging, there is room for improvement.”

While SDSU is ready to improve its rickety Coughlin-Alumni Stadium, it is more than ready to reach the status of the two-time defending national championship Bison. But the Jackrabbits aren’t quite there yet … not when it had an opportunity to pull off an upset on a day the Bison offense appeared to be suffering from an ESPN “GameDay” hangover.

“We can get ’em,” said Jackrabbit coach John Stiegelmeier, who suffered his fifth straight loss to the Bison. “I’m not going to say North Dakota State walks on water. But right now, they are a better football program than we are.”

There are not many football programs that can survive what the Bison did to claim their 14th straight win on the road. In all of college football, that streak ranks second only to Oregon. In all of college football, teams usually don’t win on the road when the following occurs:

Three bad snaps, three false starts, a block in the back that negated a punt return for a touchdown, one facemask, one grounding call, one bad handoff exchange and an interception at midfield. You knew things were not running like clockwork when Christian Dudzik had a chance to down a punt near the goal line, but found himself standing in the end zone when he touched the ball. Even after the Bison built a 13-0 lead in the fourth quarter, it had an extra-point kick blocked.

“I was frustrated … I think the players were frustrated,” Bohl said.

“It wasn’t the prettiest for us by any stretch of the imagination,” said quarterback Brock Jensen. “You just have to move on possession to possession. You have to have a short memory.”

If memory serves us right, the last time Jensen and many of his senior teammates lost a game on the road was on Dec. 11, 2010. Remember? That’s when the Bison suffered a heartbreaking 38-31 overtime quarterfinal loss at Eastern Washington.

That’s when a running back by the name of Taiwan Jones rushed for 203 of his 230 yards in the first half. He’s now a cornerback in the NFL for the Oakland Raiders.

That’s when a quarterback by the name of Bo Levi Mitchell engineered a 90-yard scoring drive to send the game into overtime. He’s now a Canadian Football League quarterback for the Calgary Stampeders.

Saturday, the Bison were facing a similar tandem in running back Zach Zenner, who rushed for more than 200 yards last week against Nebraska, and quarterback Austin Sumner, who sometime soon will become SDSU’s all-time leading passer.

The biggest difference with the Bison since the last time they lost on the road and now is pretty simple: defense. The Jacks mustered only 124 total yards. As a result, they were unable to repeat what they did in 2007 – knocking off a top-ranked Bison team. And they also saw their nine-game home winning streak come to an end.

“I wouldn’t say you need to play perfect, but you need to play your best football to beat a team like North Dakota State,” said Zenner, whose four yards rushing Saturday were 181 yards less than his season average.

Saturday before a Coughlin-Alumni Stadium record crowd of 16,498, there certainly wasn’t much to cheer about for the fans dressed in blue. They are hoping for better things to come in the future – like the $32 million indoor track and football practice facility that is under construction north of the old Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. Plans are in place for phasing in the $60 million football stadium: Building the east and south grandstand first, erecting a press box and revenue-producing suites before demolishing the old grandstand, and then replacing it with a grandstand the will allow the new Coughlin-Alumni Stadium to hold 22,000 fans.

That’s the population of Brookings.

But on Saturday, it was all of the folks from Fargo who filled up the east grandstand who were cheering once again. Even if it wasn’t pretty.


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