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Jeff Kolpack and Eric Peterson, Published January 03 2014

NDSU expected to have fan advantage, many of whom bought tickets early for title game

FRISCO, Texas – It wasn’t long after last year’s NCAA Division I FCS title game that North Dakota State fans began talking about buying tickets for today’s championship game. The Bison players weren’t immune to that chatter.

They had to hear about it all season.

“Everybody has fans coming up to them, ‘Got tickets to Frisco?’” NDSU senior linebacker Grant Olson said on Friday. “We’re sitting here thinking, ‘We have to get here first.’ There is a lot of support and a lot of people care, and there is a lot of pride. It’s been a blessing to play for such a great fan base.”

That fan base will be out in force at Toyota Stadium today against Towson University (Md.). There were several hundred fans watching NDSU’s open practice on Friday. A few miles to the south, the pep fest at Dr Pepper Ballpark had all 10,000 tickets sold.

That kind of following is nothing new to the Bison players, who enjoyed as strong of a road following as any Missouri Valley Football Conference team this year.

“It is great being at road games and having a presence at the game,” Olson said. “We appreciate it.”

Towson ground game tough to contain

The Bison will have a tough task in trying to contain Towson junior running back Terrance West, who leads the FCS in rushing.

The 5-foot-11, 223-pound West is averaging 161.3 yards per game entering today. He has rushed for 2,410 yards and 40 touchdowns on 391 carries through 15 games.

“I don’t think there is any back that we’ve seen that can compare,” Bison head coach Craig Bohl said Friday. “He’s got that dangerous combination of size and speed and change of direction. … He is going to be a big challenge for us.”

The Bison have limited opponents to 90.2 rushing yards per game heading into the championship.

NDSU senior defensive end Cole Jirik said containing West won’t be easy.

“He reads his blocks well,” Jirik said. “He is a patient runner.”

Jirik is also impressed with the Tigers O-line.

“They are probably the most athletic offensive line we’ve seen all year and probably the best group of five guys we’ll go against all year long,” Jirik said. “It will be a challenge all day long.”

Wide receiver Ryan Smith ready to go

NDSU wide receiver and kick returner Ryan Smith, who missed most of the semifinal game against New Hampshire with a strained hamstring, said he’s ready to play. It’s an ailment that has plagued Smith throughout his Bison career.

Smith, a senior, practiced on Friday.

“I’ve tested it out the last couple of days and felt pretty good,” he said. “I’m going to give it a shot and go full boar (today).”

Quarterback Wentz earns Elite 89 honors

NDSU sophomore quarterback Carson Wentz was awarded the Elite 89 award for the FCS championship game.

The award is given to the student-athlete with the highest cumulative grade-point average for each of the NCAA’s 89 championships.

Wentz, majoring in physical education, currently carries a 4.0 GPA. He was recognized Friday afternoon during the Division I football championship banquet.

Notes and quotes

Towson head coach Rob Ambrose said team chemistry is a key reason why his team made the championship. “These guys are all about ‘we’ and ‘we’ can do magical things together,” Ambrose said. … Bison head coach Craig Bohl was asked if he felt like he was the 25th senior since today is his final game as Bison head coach. “We are transitioning out, and we have purposely avoided all the sentimental things,” Bohl said. “We are about the here and now. They are a very special (senior) group, and I’m glad I will be going out with them.” … The Bison will be wearing their yellow jerseys for the title game, NDSU has a 14-0 record, including five wins this season in those jerseys. … The senators from North Dakota and Maryland exchanged friendly banter about today’s title game via Twitter. U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp from North Dakota tweeted at two senators from Maryland: “I hope you wished @TowsonU good luck. They are going to need it Saturday vs @NDSUAthletics.” The Maryland senators countered with barbs of their own.

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

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.