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Jeff Kolpack, Published October 26 2013

Kolpack: Special teams shine as Bison blow out Indiana State early

Terre Haute, Ind. - There were 67 seconds left in the halftime intermission when the football players from Indiana State emerged from the locker room. There were folks wondering if they were going to come out at all.

It was two years ago when the Forum Communications media contingent got locked in Memorial Stadium and inside its 10-foot high fences after the game because everybody had left but us. On Saturday, perhaps some Sycamore fans wanted to lock their team out of the stadium for the second half. It was 49-10 at that point – the most points North Dakota State had scored in a first half since the 63 it put on Minnesota State Moorhead in 2000.

NDSU of 2013 is not the kind of team you want to approach with an injury-riddled team that gives questionable effort.

“I did not see any lack of effort, I saw guys missing tackles,” said Indiana State head coach Mike Sanford. “I saw some guys that I love to death, but they shouldn’t be out there playing.”

Guys that shouldn’t be playing is not a good recipe against Ryan Smith and Christian Dudzik. Smith’s 100-yard kickoff return in the second quarter tied a Bison team record set in 1923 by Elmer Parisien, therefore eliminating any solo record in the NDSU record book by anybody named Elmer.

Yes, 1923.

“That’s awesome. I’m glad he got that record,” Dudzik said. “It was much deserved for him.”

Smith actually violated an unwritten rule of not returning a kickoff more than three yards deep in the end zone. He was about five yards deep, but he said fellow return man John Crockett urged him to take it.

“He said, ‘All right Ryan, go, go, go,” Smith said.

The NCAA does not recognize kick return yardage in the end zone, which means Ryan and Elmer will forever share that record. Perhaps the NDSU senior should name his first-born son Elmer someday as a way to show respect.

Smith left the game in the first half after returning a punt 13 yards – which on this day was like holding NDSU to nothing in special teams – with an ankle injury. That, really, was the one hold-your-breath moment for Bison fans.

Not to worry. It was a minor sprain, said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl, and Smith could have gone back into the game. That means the Bison head into the upcoming bye week about as healthy as could be expected.

Everything is cooking. The record is 8-0. The team is ranked No. 1. All three phases are effective. Quarterbacks Brock Jensen and Carson Wentz combined for 17 of 19 passing for 233 yards. The defense didn’t give up a touchdown and scored one itself on Colten Heagle’s interception return.

But on this day, with the exception of giving up a Sycamores kickoff return for a touchdown, was a special teams clinic.

Dudzik returned two punts for touchdowns, a 43-yarder to close the first half and a 68-yarder early in the third quarter. That last time Dudzik did that was probably playing pickup football on the playground with his elementary or junior high buddies.

“In the return phase of special teams, we had a great day today,” Dudzik said.

What’s the key?

“Typically, you have to make the bullets miss,” he said, referring to the first one or two defenders downfield. “Those are tough guys to block. After that, I made a couple of guys miss and our punt ‘D’ guys had their guys locked up creating seems, so it wasn’t that difficult to get into the end zone.”

Kyle Emanuel blocked a field goal in the third quarter for something else to do.

“Other than the kickoff return, which is something we have to get corrected, there was some great play on special teams out there,” Bohl said.

Stan Borleske, the Bison coach in 1923, probably said the same thing about Elmer Parisien.


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia