Kevin Schnepf, Published November 09 2013
Schnepf: Injury to Olson devastating for Bison
By all indications, Olson suffered a career-ending knee injury.
“I went up to him and just prayed for him for a good minute, minute and a half,” Jensen, the quarterback, said of his embrace with Olson, the linebacker. “Grant is a great man of faith, and so am I. If I know Grant as well as I do, he is going to bounce back, and this is going to make him a stronger person in the long run.”
It won’t be known until today the severity of Olson’s knee injury, which occurred after he tackled running back Cameron Hunt on the third play of the second half. But it appears Olson may have torn his ACL – dreaded words for any athlete. It has the potential of being dreaded words for NDSU’s run at a third straight FCS national championship.
Plain and simple: Grant Olson is the heart and soul of the Bison defense, if not the entire team.
During Saturday’s postgame news conference, Bison head coach Craig Bohl called Olson the most instinctive and brightest football player he has coached in 31 years, and that includes his long stint at tradition-rich Nebraska. Jensen called Olson the glue of the Bison.
After winning 32 of 36 high school games at Wayzata in suburban Minneapolis, Olson quickly became one of the many leaders of this senior class who turned around a 3-8 team and led the Bison to the playoffs in 2010. What followed the next two years were back-to-back national championships.
Last year, he became the first Bison to have a 100-plus tackle season since 1998, including his memorable 29-tackle performance in a playoff win over Wofford. A few weeks later in Frisco, Texas, Olson refused to let a bout with appendicitis keep him from playing in the national championship win over Sam Houston State.
About the only thing that can keep Olson from playing is what probably occurred Saturday: a torn ACL.
“It hurts,” Jensen said. “I can’t really find the words to say right now. It’s really discouraging to lose a leader like that.”
But even on crutches, with an ice pack wrapped around his left knee, Olson was still exuding his leadership on the sidelines. Only minutes after the injury that left him wincing in pain on the Gate City Bank Field turf, Olson was jotting plays on a notepad, telling teammates what to do when they huddled up on the sidelines.
“That was amazing,” Bohl said. “My concern was he was going to get rolled up and hurt the other knee.”
“With Grant, I am not surprised with that,” said Carlton Littlejohn, who filled in admirably at Olson’s middle linebacker position. “He is clearly a team player. That’s just the guy he is.”
“I know G.O. is going to be out there at practice coaching with the rest of the coaches,” said free safety Christian Dudzik. “He will probably be up there all day with the coaches going over the schemes. We lost a vital part of our defense. But I know we have guys who can come in and step it up.”
The Bison have proven that before. During last year’s national championship run, they needed guys to step it up after knee injuries to strong safety Colten Heagle and defensive tackle Leevon Perry.
The Bison showed they could step it up without Olson in the second half Saturday. The defense limited Illinois State to only one field goal and 82 yards without Olson.
“I felt like the defense got a little more motivated,” said Littlejohn, who ended up with a career-high 16 tackles. “We all felt we had to step it up a little more since we lost Grant.”
Can the Bison sustain that for the rest of the season? They have a showdown at Youngstown State next Saturday, a regular-season finale at home against South Dakota before pursuing their goal in the postseason of a third straight title. Plus, overshadowed by Olson’s injury was All-America cornerback Marcus Williams twisting his knee in the first half, forcing him to watch the second half from the sidelines in street clothes.
The image of Olson and Williams standing side-by-side on the sidelines – one on crutches and the other limping – left the Fargodome crowd of 18,076 a bit numb.
“We have been resourceful in the past, and we anticipate we will be resourceful in the future,” Bohl said.
Jensen put it this way.
“It’s about how you respond to that for the rest of the season,” said Jensen, a fellow senior. “I can tell you right now we have a group of guys in our locker room … we are going to come together as a team, and we are going to find a way to get it done.”
Most likely with Olson coaching his teammates, instead of tackling opponents.
Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549 or email@example.com. Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found