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Jeff Kolpack, Published November 20 2013

Bison football tries to chase down Moss-led Marshall team

FARGO – The Marshall Thundering Herd were the last team to do it. Another Division I FCS team that uses the same nickname is hoping to accomplish what the Randy Moss-led Herd did in 1996.

It wasn’t something that they talked about much, but the players and coaches from North Dakota State set a goal of being the first undefeated team in 17 years.

So far, so good for the Bison – also known as the Thundering Herd by their fans. NDSU is 10-0 heading into the regular-season finale Saturday against the University of South Dakota at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

As the wins piled up, and an FCS playoff berth was secured, there was no getting around the question.

“Yeah, that’s in there,” said head coach Craig Bohl, saying the first goal was a Missouri Valley Football Conference title. “I can tell you that these seniors don’t want to lose. They talked about that going through the conference, and they do not want to lose. They’re unbelievably focused and galvanized, and they just don’t want to lose, and that’s their attitude.”

The seniors, all 24 of them, will be recognized Saturday afternoon prior to kickoff. They’ve been a part of two straight FCS national titles, but it’s become apparent in the last few weeks that some of them want to go one step farther.

That would be a year with no losses.

The Bison went 14-1 in 2011, losing to Youngstown State at home. They had the same record last season, losing to Indiana State at home.

“The last two years going through that loss, it helped us and kind of woke us up, but that’s something where we hate losing,” said defensive tackle Ryan Drevlow. “That’s something you always strive for is to go unbeaten.”

The last NDSU team to do it was 1990 when the Bison won an NCAA Division II title, going 14-0. The last time NDSU was 10-0 was 2007, but South Dakota State ended the hopes of an unbeaten season with a 29-24 win in Brookings.

That was NDSU’s last year of a five-year Division I reclassification that rendered it ineligible for postseason.

Marshall went 15-0 on a team led by Moss and quarterback Eric Kresser. That team was rarely challenged, with the closest game a 24-10 victory at Appalachian State. The Thundering Herd were members of the Southern Conference before moving to Division I-A.

The Bison haven’t been that dominant, needing a fourth-quarter rally to beat Northern Iowa 24-23. But their closest FCS victory after that was 15 points against Missouri State in mid-October.

Georgia Southern, in 1989, and Eastern Kentucky, in 1982, are the only other FCS teams to go through the regular season and playoffs unbeaten.

“It’s something we’ve thought about, but I don’t think it necessarily has been our foremost goal,” said NDSU wide receiver Trevor Gebhart. “Our first goal was to win the Valley and do what we needed to do to do that. Now that’s checked off, we definitely have other goals in sight, and we’re going to pursue those.”

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