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Jeff Kolpack, Published November 23 2013

Kolpack: Almost anything goes as Bison secure unbeaten regular season

Fargo - The Big Mountain had the end zone in mind when North Dakota State called a hook-and-ladder play in the first half Saturday afternoon. Nothing would have made Senior Day more mesmerizing than to see 6-foot-6, 314-pound left tackle Billy Turner score a touchdown.

The play didn’t work; a South Dakota defensive back thwarted the lateral from receiver Zach Vraa.

“We ran into the wrong defense,” Turner said, “so the play was kind of done from the get-go.”

NDSU also tried a fake field goal in the first half. That didn’t work, either.

Well, that was about all that didn’t pan out in a 42-0 deflation of the Coyotes before 18,234 fans at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. This team is cooking, leaving USD head coach Joe Glenn saying it’s the best FCS team he’s ever seen.

Those are some incredible words when you think about it. Keep in mind Glenn was winning Division II titles at Northern Colorado when Randy Moss was leading Marshall to an unbeaten season, but he does have a national title to his resume at Montana.

“They’re just way too much,” Glenn said. “We came in here prepared and we ran into a buzz saw. We’re not that bad of a football team. They can shake you down and make you look bad. They’re hitting on all eight cylinders right now.”

I’m no automobile expert, but an eight-cylinder vehicle sounds like it has some giddy-up to it. At 11-0 overall, NDSU is heading into the FCS playoffs more like a monster truck with speed.

Saturday’s performance was so impressive that Bison head coach Craig Bohl had to think for a moment when he was asked what the Bison have to improve on. The best he could do was that the defense missed a couple of assignments that led to Jordan Roberts going over 100 yards and the offensive line missing a couple of blocking assignments.

That’s like a golfer shooting a 9-under-par 62 and lamenting that one drive didn’t land in the fairway.

The Bison are scratch golfers right now in an FCS division that looks to have only a couple of teams capable of beating them. The 24-team field will be announced this morning, and finding 24 worthy teams after a flurry of upsets Saturday will be a tough chore.

It appears the Missouri Valley Football Conference will get three. South Dakota State earned its way, closing the season with four straight wins.

Youngstown State, which lost its last three games, will probably back its way in thanks to bubble teams like Montana State, William & Mary and Delaware losing on Saturday. All three of those teams have five losses.

It’s possible Northern Iowa could sneak in at 7-5 thanks to its FBS win over Iowa State. The events of Saturday were so wacky that 8-4 Sam Houston State looks like an easy choice despite losing 49-31 to Central Arkansas.

Only Eastern Illinois and NDSU have avoided much drama.

“We played eight teams in the top 30 and two of the best in the Big Sky and nobody is close to this team,” Glenn said. “I don’t think Kansas is close either. I tell you, they don’t have a weakness. I don’t see anybody stopping this team.”

I can see Eastern Illinois if quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo gets hot. He’ll win the Walter Payton Award that goes to the best player in the FCS by a landslide.

I can see Eastern Washington if quarterback Vernon Adams gets hot. He practically beat Oregon State by himself. Both of those teams, however, better be prepared for the Billy Turner hook-and-ladder.

“Billy was in the playbook,” said quarterback Brock Jensen. “It was the perfect time to run it, but it didn’t work out. The guy did a nice job on it.”


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