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Jeff Kolpack, Published October 12 2013

Thorton answers the call at linebacker for Bison

FARGO – For the first time since 2011, North Dakota State had to look to its depth at a linebacker position. Esley Thorton was happy to answer the call in the 41-26 win over Missouri State at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

The junior got his first career start when Carlton Littlejohn was sidelined during the week with a meniscus tear in his knee that will sideline him for at least two weeks, said head coach Craig Bohl.

That left the outside linebacker spot to Thorton, who was a quarterback his first three years at NDSU, counting a redshirt season in 2010. He switched positions at the beginning of last season.

“I think I’m at a different place than last year,” Thorton said, referring to his knowledge of the position. “It’s too bad I got reps this way, but I hope to get in the rotation and give those guys a rest. Sometimes on those long drives, you get gassed and I hope I can help those guys out.”

Thorton finished with five tackles, including one for lost yardage. Bohl said the immediate reviews after the game appeared positive.

“During the course of the game, he was in the right place,” he said.

Thorton got in a couple plays at Kansas State and played about 20 snaps against Ferris State (Mich.).

“Whatever position, I’m excited to contribute,” he said. “It’s too bad Carlton went down, but the next guy has to step up.”

Williams breaks hand, says he’ll still play

It was a tough day for NDSU cornerback Marcus Williams, who spent the second half with ice bags on a broken left hand and a bruise on his leg. He indicated after the game that he’ll play next week at Southern Illinois.

“He got rolled up pretty good,” Bohl said of the play that sent Williams to the sideline.

It put cornerback Jordan Champion with the No. 1 defense. He forced a fumble that Christian Dudzik recovered in the second half, a play that was immediately followed by a 33-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Vaadeland and a 38-20 Bison lead.

Healthy Smith potent on punt returns

The healthier he seems to get, the more opportunities senior Ryan Smith will get returning punts, Bohl said. He looked pretty strong on Saturday.

Smith returned one 85 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter for a 7-0 NDSU advantage.

“That had a big impact on the game,” Bohl said. “Coming into the football game, (MSU) was well-schooled but they had not won a lot of games. It was important for us to jump on them early.”

Bohl said Smith’s history of hamstring issues was the reason Dudzik got most of the punt return duties in the first five games.

“We need to make sure he’s completely healthy for an extended period of time,” Bohl said.

Etc. etc. etc.

The attendance record of 19,108 broke the mark of 19,065 set against Youngstown State last year on homecoming. ... Smith’s punt return was the third of his career, putting him third among active Division I players. … NDSU took the redshirt off of freshman defensive end Brad Ambrosius from DePere, Wis., who played but did not register a tackle. … Freshman Pierre Gee-Tucker hurt his shoulder on a special teams tackle, but Bohl said it won’t keep him out next week. … Caleb Schaffitzel’s 29-yard interception return for a touchdown gave him 235 interception yards for his career, which is a new Missouri State school record.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia