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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 10 2013

Extensive experience helps Bison football team get through unusual week

FARGO – North Dakota State will have 18 juniors or seniors in its starting lineup when the Bison host Coastal Carolina on Saturday. That kind of veteran presence has been valuable in the 12-0 season to date.

It’s also paying off this week for another reason: The maturity to deal with a coaching change.

“It’s easier as a senior to understand what’s going on,” said defensive end Cole Jirik. “When you’re a freshman, you don’t understand it’s a business. College football is all about money. We think it’s about us as players, but really it’s about the bottom dollar. That’s the way college football goes. There are millions of dollars in it, and that’s the way college football is always going to be.”

Bohl was hired Sunday by the University of Wyoming, but will remain with NDSU until the end of the season. The players met with Bohl on Sunday morning, and the message from the head coach was simple: There will be no pity party.

“Coach Bohl has been invested here for 11 seasons, and for the younger guys to understand that, they’re not mature enough yet,” said running back John Crockett. “You can’t let this come between you and your game.”

Crockett said he’ll always have a special place for Bohl because he stuck with him when not many teams would. Crockett sat out two full seasons to get his academics in order.

Crockett was a Minnesota all-state running back at Totino-Grace High School in the Twin Cities and was considered a Big Ten Conference recruit. But his road to college wasn’t that easy.

“He took a chance on me,” Crockett said. “He still believed in me and was able to see the potential of a man I could be. I could never repay a man like that.”

Senior safety Bryan Shepherd said the assistant coaches have been grinding away at game planning like every other game.

“We’re on the brink of doing something special here,” he said. “We have a veteran group of guys ... and I feel like the team should be focused and ready to go come Saturday.”

Safety Christian Dudzik said that mission looked already accomplished on Monday.

“I think actually there was a little more excitement because we have an obstacle in front of us, or at least a perceived one,” he said. “I think a lot of guys are excited for the opportunity to step up to the plate.”

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