Jeff Kolpack, Published October 12 2013
Kolpack: Bison weren't perfect, but Jensen impressive in victory
The fans left Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome not impressed, questioning the one incompletion.
You get the point.
Joking aside, the Bison stuck a 41-26 loss on the Bears to improve to 6-0 on the season and 3-0 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. By the fourth quarter, a decent chunk of the school-record 19,108 fans left the building to do other things.
Jensen was impressive, going 20 for 28 for a career-high 313 yards, even if every moment didn’t go as scripted. So for the second straight year, MSU safety Caleb Schaffitzel returned an interception for a touchdown – it happens.
Jensen, by the way, got hit as he released the ball.
“As I was looking at the ceiling, I knew it wasn’t going to be good,” he said. “That’s the game of football.”
Jensen got back on the bus and completed 9 of his next 11 passes that led to 10 points and a 41-20 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Game over, and those fans that were not 100 percent with the home team on Jensen’s pick-six could relax.
“Some of our crowd’s anxiety, sometimes you feel that,” Jensen admitted, when talking about NDSU routinely playing so well on the road.
I’ll second that. For better or for worse, expectations for this team are high. Very high. Too high.
If you’re a player, that’s probably an OK thing – aspiring to be the best every minute can’t be a bad thing.
“We have so much experience that I think it’s justified,” said free safety Christian Dudzik.
On the other hand, people, it’s OK if the other team makes a few big plays. After two straight FCS national titles, the anticipation that nothing should go wrong with Bison football is bordering on unrealistic. This defense is not going to shut everybody out.
If you need a shot of reality, wind your mind back to 2009 when this program went 3-8.
The 26 points was the most NDSU had given up since surrendering 27 to Youngstown State two years ago. For one half, the 1-6 Bears found some holes in the Bison secondary, and they had a 13-10 lead until faltering just before halftime.
“We haven’t played up to our potential, and I think that’s the way most of the guys on defense feel,” Dudzik said. “We’re giving up too many big plays in the secondary, and we’ll put it on us. We haven’t been playing well and we need to step it up in that facet.”
Dudzik, by the way, had an interception and fumble recovery that led to two touchdowns – both on the first play after the turnover. The first was a killer to Missouri State.
Trailing 17-13, Dudzik picked off a Kierra Harris pass and returned it 29 yards to the 36. Jensen hit Zach Vraa on the next play for a 24-13 halftime advantage.
Late in the third quarter, Jensen hit tight end Kevin Vaadeland for a 33-yard TD one player after Dudzik’s fumble recovery. Those four plays were the game, set and match.
“Each win in the Valley is really hard to get,” said head coach Craig Bohl.
This isn’t the North Central Conference where half the teams were average to bad in football. The victory was NDSU’s 15th straight overall.
“Fifteen in a row?” Jensen said, repeating a question not knowing what 15 in a row meant.
“Wins,” said the reporter in the Bison postgame news conference.
“I didn’t even know that,” Jensen said. “It shows we take it game by game. We have Southern Illinois next week. We’ll enjoy this for a bit, but nobody likes losing in that locker room. We’ll go back to work Monday.”
Then it’s on the road, where Jensen says he “feels less pressure playing away than at home.”
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia