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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 06 2013

Bison players make most of outdoor practices in the snow

FARGO – North Dakota State head football coach Craig Bohl didn’t seem particularly fired up about practicing outside on Monday and Tuesday of this week. His players had other thoughts.

It was a familiar feeling for NDSU players as they prepared for Saturday’s FCS second-round playoff game against Furman University (S.C.).

“It’s not playoff football unless we’re out in the snow,” said defensive end Cole Jirik. “It’s fun being outside with the guys and it doesn’t matter what the weather is like.”

Plus, Jirik said, there’s nothing like a friendly snowball fight to get practice rolling.

“I love it, I don’t mind it,” said junior defensive end Mike Hardie. “I like watching all the rookies out there. I had a blast throwing snowballs at the scout team, stuff like that.”

Winter fun aside, the Bison players say there are benefits to practicing in less-than-ideal conditions. Middle linebacker Carlton Littlejohn called it a character-builder. Some players wore T-shirts as a sign of mind over matter.

“It gets you a little tougher,” Littlejohn said. “I mean, we’re not complaining about it.”

Except, Jirik said, for the coaches.

“They hate it,” he said. “The coaches do not like standing out there. They’re not moving around and they’re all bundled up. They’re not a big fan of the cold weather, but it’s a good time.”

NDSU was forced outside because of the Northern Ag Expo at the Fargodome.

Furman’s Dozier paves way for 1,000-yard back

Furman’s leading rusher Hank McCloud left last week’s playoff game at South Carolina State with an injury, but head coach Bruce Fowler said he’ll be the starter today.

McCloud ran for 1,085 yards behind an offensive line led by All-America offensive tackle Dakota Dozier. He won the Southern Conference’s Jacobs Award, which goes to the top offensive lineman.

Fowler called the 6-foot-3,

303-pound Dozier a “tremendous talent” with the size, strength and agility that are required to be one of the best at his position.

He’s an NFL prospect, at least that’s what Fowler said he’s hearing.

“That stuff, you never know,” he said. “I certainly don’t have anything to say other than the fact I know he’s being looked at and is considered a highly touted prospect. In my opinion, he’s good enough to do it.”

Paladins have played in all types of environments

The sold-out Fargodome won’t be the first time this season Furman has played in front of a hostile opposing crowd. The Paladins played in front of 92,554 fans at LSU at the end of October.

“That was a pretty loud place,” Fowler said. “I don’t know if it matches the noise inside the dome from what I hear, but it was extremely loud.”

But for the most part, the Paladins played in front of moderate crowds all season, Fowler said, so the plan was to spend extra time in preparation for a louder environment. Furman averaged 8,299 fans in five home games.

This will be its ninth road game of the season. “We’re used to traveling,” Fowler said.

Etc. etc. etc.

Bison quarterback Brock Jensen finished fourth in the voting for the Walter Payton Award, which goes to the top player in FCS. The top three – Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams, Eastern Illinois quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and Towson running back Terrance West – were invited to the awards banquet Dec. 16 in Philadelphia hosted by The Sports Network.

Furman was picked to finish seventh in the Southern Conference pre-season poll. “We weren’t very good last year,” Fowler said, “but about midway through this year, we started winning games in a variety of ways.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia