Saturday marks the start of the conference season for NDSU and with it, a milestone for three of NDSU’s defensive stalwarts. Kyle Emanuel, Travis Beck and Christian Dudzik will each play in their 50th career game for the Bison this weekend. Think of that number, 50. If your an average FCS team the most you can hope for is 44 and these guys have 50 and we’re just four games into this season. Emanuel, Dudzik and Beck all are part of the incredible 2010 recruiting class and redshirted that season, now in place as NDSU’s mainstays on the defense. I wanted to feature each of them and highlight what in my mind where their biggest plays to date in their NDSU careers.
Emanuel’s arrival to Bison fans came in late October 2011, it what I billed as the biggest game in the history of the Fargodome, 2nd ranked Northern Iowa facing 3rd ranked NDSU. The Bison had not beaten UNI in the three previous meetings since NDSU joined the Valley, and Kolpack and I each picked against the Bison at home. Emanuel made a huge play, thanks to Beck, who forced a fumble, Emanuel scooped and scored and the Dome as we know it would never be the same. The loudness of the crowd was something not before heard, as NDSU would go to win that game and eventually a first D1 title. Emanuel’s other major play came last year in Frisco, Towson had driven to the NDSU 24 and was going to try a field goal, when Colten Heagle blocked the kick and Emanuel scooped it up and ran down the same sideline Beck had run two years earlier, Emanuel ran down to the Towson five, NDSU scored on the next play and the game was over. His speed and strength has been on display in the first five games so far this year with five sacks in four games and being named to Buck Buchanan Watch List. Emanuel was one of the early recruits out of Nebraska and has turned into one of NDSU’s best.
He’s NDSU’s Iron Man, never missing a game since debuting in the lineup for the Bison in the fall of 2011. The big story when Dudzik debuted was he being moved from safety to cornerback after Brendin Pierre was academically ineligble and the rest they say is history. Dudzik went to become a member of the Conference Newcomer Team and got better as the season went along, his standout play in my mind was in the 2011 playoffs and his 30 yard interception return vs Lehigh. He has continued to impress Bison fans with his speed over the last couple of years, adding punt returner to his arsenal, that was on display last October at Indiana State, where he returned two punts for touchdowns. His leadership may be his biggest value and maybe his biggest play was two weeks ago with the interception vs Montana. You could even nominate his pick versus Iowa State right before the half, that swung the momentum again and gave NDSU another three right before the half. His versatility is still being explored as he ran a few plays on offense against Montana, another Nebraska recruit and one of the best that’s ever played in NDSU’s secondary.
Bar none, one of the toughest players in NDSU history. Beck enters his 50th career game fully healthy, which is a rarity for him, not because he’s brittle, but because of how hard the man plays. Look no further than last year at Kansas State, his leaping thru the air play to try and sack Jake Waters was replayed over and over, it came at great cost to Beck, who injured his shoulder and told me this week, he went in easy on tackles last year because of it. He’s a North Dakota legend for all-time thanks to his interception return and MVP performance in the 2011 FCS Championship Game and it bears repeating he was just a redshirt freshman at the time. He was the man that stripped the ball that led to Emanuel scoring the back breaking touchdown versus Northern Iowa, and he saved an even better performance against UNI a year later in Cedar Falls, picking up two sacks and two more tackles for loss as the Bison won at UNI for the first time since 1976. Beck will play in his 50th game, made more impressive he’ll start his 44th in a row. Beck has had his off-the-field issues, but none can deny his toughness and unbelievable athleticism, another that will go down as one of NDSU’s very best on defense.