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Eric Peterson, Published January 04 2014

Blocked kick turns tide for Bison

FRISCO, Texas – The emotion didn’t hit Colten Heagle until he hugged his younger brother among a throng of North Dakota State fans on the field after Saturday’s game at Toyota Stadium.

The Bison junior safety had a momentum-shifting blocked field goal to help spark top-ranked NDSU to a 35-7 victory against Towson University for a third consecutive Division I FCS championship before 19,802 fans.

“My brother (Jared) gave me a hug and then I started thinking about last year and I lost it,” said Heagle, who also had six tackles. “I broke down a little.”

Heagle was sidelined for last season’s title game after suffering a season-ending knee injury in the second game of that season. That injury happened at Colorado State on Sept. 8, 2012.

“It’s been a long two years with that injury,” said Heagle, who has played in national title game as a true sophomore. “To be back here and have the year I had with this group of guys is unbelievable.”

Heagle made his big play with Towson in position to take the lead. Tigers senior kicker D.J. Soven lined up for a 41-yard field goal with the scored tied at 7-7 with around 5 minutes to play in the first half. Heagle noticed Towson had left a gap in its protection when the Tigers kicked an extra point in the first quarter.

“We noticed on film they weren’t a very disciplined unit on their field-goal team,” Heagle said.

Heagle took advantage on the Soven field-goal attempt.

“I saw the gap and I hit it,” Heagle said. “It was so fast I didn’t even know what to do.”

After Heagle blocked the kick, Bison defensive end Kyle Emanuel scooped up the loose ball and raced 59 yards to the Towson 5-yard line.

“Kyle did a great job picking it up and taking it down to their territory,” Heagle said. “That was a huge momentum swing for us.”

One play later, senior wide receiver Ryan Smith scored on a 5-yard TD run with 4 minutes, 43 seconds to play in the first half. That started a string of 28 consecutive NDSU points.

“It just changed the game totally,” Heagle said. “Kyle did a great job picking it up and taking it down to their territory. … That was a huge momentum swing for us.”

Towson head coach Rob Ambrose said plays like the Heagle blocked field goal were the kind his team couldn’t afford if it wanted to beat the unbeaten Bison.

“The margin for error is small,” Ambrose said. “We made an error. They made us pay for it.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found

at peterson.areavoices.com