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Kevin Schnepf, Published November 23 2013

Schnepf: Emotions run high for Bohl, seniors prior to win

Fargo - Twenty-four seniors had the spotlight before another North Dakota State football victory Saturday.

It was not an easy time for head coach Craig Bohl, who after hugging some and shaking hands with others, described the 10-minute tribute as watching his prized pupils trail off in the distance.

His emotions reached their peak when senior Grant Olson was introduced to a huge and long ovation. Olson, out for the season with a knee injury, gave Bohl a hug as vigorous as one of the hundreds of tackles he has made as NDSU’s middle linebacker these past four years.

Watching Olson limp to the sidelines, Bohl had to wipe tears from his face.

“Our players I think handled it a lot better than I did,” said Bohl, who with Saturday’s 42-0 regular-season ending win over South Dakota, reached his 100th victory as NDSU’s head coach. “That was hard for me.”

Yes, these seniors have been special. They arrived four years ago and erased any memories of the 3-8 season of 2009. They have proceeded to post a 48-7 record these last four seasons, including three straight conference championships and back-to-back national titles.

If you listen to South Dakota coach Joe Glenn – who himself won a national title as this level at Montana in 2001 – these Bison seniors will have no problem winning a third straight national championship.

“I don’t see anybody stopping this team,” Glenn said. “They don’t miss on a recruit either. They come into our state and take who they want. And they go into Omaha and take who they want. That is a terrific football team.”

That says a lot about Bohl, who joked that Glenn – when he was coaching at Doane College in Nebraska – failed to recruit him out of high school in Lincoln, Neb.

“That just shows he is a pretty good judge of talent,” Bohl quipped before his postgame news conference, with Glenn standing nearby.

What this senior class shows is that Bohl is indeed a good judge of talent. And, like this time of season for the last two years, this kind of talent is being noticed by other programs. Bohl interviewed for the Minnesota job before Jerry Kill was hired three years ago. Northern Illinois was interested in Bohl, but he wasn’t interested in them.

Now, more than ever, other programs may come knocking. It’s hard not to notice what Bohl has done when he has his team knock off defending Big 12 champion Kansas State on national TV. It’s hard not to notice when ESPN’s “College Game Day” visits Fargo. It’s hard not to notice when his team became the first unbeaten Missouri Valley Football Conference champion since 2009.

But it’s going to take a winning program at the upper level, and most probably in the Midwest, for Bohl to leave what he has built during his 11 years here.

That’s why his name has been mentioned as a candidate at his alma mater Nebraska. But that’s assuming current head coach Bo Pelini, who has been under fire, will get the axe. Pelini’s Huskers won at Penn State on Saturday and should win at home next week against Iowa – assuring Pelini another nine-win season. Only Nebraska, Alabama, Boise State and Oregon have done that in the last six years.

That’s why some think Pelini will remain the head coach.

Then again, Huskers natives are not happy, including former quarterback standout Tommie Frazier. They are not happy that Pelini is 0-3 in conference championship games. They are not happy that his 2011 tirade bashing Huskers fans was brought to light this season. They have not been happy with 48-17 and 70-31 losses to Wisconsin, a 63-38 loss to Ohio State or this year’s 42-21 loss to UCLA, 41-28 loss to Michigan State and its recent loss to Minnesota.

The question remains: If Nebraska is looking for a new coach, would it consider Bohl?

Some think not, since Bohl was run out of Lincoln as the defensive coordinator of a team that gave up a slew of points. Some think not, since he turned 55 years old this year.

Nonetheless, he was listed as a possible candidate on one website recently with coaches like Art Briles of Baylor, David Cutliffe of Duke and Scott Frost, Oregon’s offensive coordinator who was a standout quarterback at Nebraska.

“You just never know what will happen,” said NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor. “I do know it will take quite a bit for Bohl to leave. I do know he is pretty happy where he is at.”

Who wouldn’t be with a contract that guaranteed him $367,843 last season, making him the fifth-highest paid public employee in North Dakota?

Who wouldn’t be with an undefeated team that appears to be improving with each game?

Who wouldn’t be with a group of seniors that made him cry on Saturday?

“It’s been a blessing having him as my head coach,” said senior quarterback Brock Jensen. “He’s amazing.”

“I have never met a man who was so passionate about the game,” said senior wide receiver Ryan Smith. “I wouldn’t want any other head coach.”

And right now, neither would all those Bison fans who celebrated their first unbeaten regular season since 1990.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549 or kschnepf@forumcomm.com. Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com