This is my final blog post for 2015 and I’ve decided to try and narrow down the five biggest moments for NDSU football this past year. Yes these normally are trashed and degraded, but I’m still pressing forward. Admittedly, it was hard to narrow it down to five moments, but here we go.
- 5. August 27th: NDSU announces the school will implement full cost of attendance for the 2016-17 school year. The Bison become the second FCS school to adopt the COA measure for all sports, joining Liberty. The amount for an athlete on full scholarship is 34 hundred dollars, meaning it will cost between 600-700 thousand dollars. NDSU announces that the measure will be funded entirely be external donations and is already funded for the first three years. It’s a game changer for football, since NDSU is joined by neighboring schools UND and USD in adopting COA and as head coach Chris Klieman tells me “can open doors to players that we have never even knocked on.”
- 4. November 2nd: The Harvest Helmet is introduced. For the first time, NDSU wore green helmets in its Harvest Bowl game against Western Illinois. The helmets were paid for by a group of fifty alumni and program supporters, with the cost around 32 thousand dollars. They earned rave reviews from players and alumni and NDSU dominated the Leathernecks in a 59-7 win. The Harvest Helmets returned for the FCS quarterfinals against Northern Iowa, in front of a national TV audience and NDSU won again. It’s yet to be seen if the Bison will wear them for the national title game against Jacksonville State.
- 3. February 4th: National Signing Day is always lauded by coaches as “a huge day for the program.” It literally was that for NDSU this year as the Bison signed three players that have made huge impacts on this year’s team. Cam Pedersen, a walk-on kicker made his debut for the Bison in the home opener against Weber State and proceeded to take off. His numbers aren’t great (9 of 18) and he’s missed his last six, his status for the national title game is up in the air, but he’s shown promise. Robbie Grimsley came to Fargo off of winning the Mr. Football award from Hutchinson. He came to fall camp and immediately impressed the coaching staff, so much so he was thrown into the fire the season opener against Montana. Grimsley has been beaten a few times this year, but he has improved as the season has gone along, he had a big interception in the rematch with the Griz. He’s third on the team in tackles and NDSU has found its free safety for the next four years. The biggest impact has been Bruce Anderson, the talented running back from Florida. Anderson is now a fan favorite, his running style and his explosiveness has brought Bison fans to their feet. He has brought the danger element back to the kick return game, something that hasn’t been there since Marcus Williams graduated. My story on Anderson’s impact here.
- 2. October 17th: It may be a day that lives in infamy for Bison fans. NDSU lost to South Dakota on a last second field goal that afternoon, 24-21. It ended a 26 game home win streak for the Bison, which was the longest in the nation at that time, and longest in Valley history. It was a stunning defeat, since NDSU had destroyed the Coyotes in the three previous games between the two, the first USD win in Fargo since 1978. The other loss to come out of the game was perhaps worse, as starting quarterback Carson Wentz broke his throwing wrist in the game. Wentz missed the remainder of the season. Ironically, NDSU has not lost since Wentz left the lineup, but presents the chance for him to play in the title game.
- 1. January 10th: The FCS Championship Game gave the nation a chance to see Wentz shine on the big stage. NDSU’s chance at a four-peat was in serious peril, after Illinois State’s Tre Roberson scampered 58 yards with a 1:38 to go to give the Redbirds a 27-23 lead. But Wentz never flinched, after a false start penalty, Wentz hit true freshman RJ Urzendowski over the middle for a 32 yard gain. He then connected two more times with Urzendowski, for 13 and 33 yards to get the Bison to the ISU 5 yard line. Wentz capped off the drive on the next play with a touchdown run that set the NDSU crowd over the top. The championship was sealed when Esley Thorton, a former QB turned linebacker, came up with an interception that won the game. Wentz was named MVP after combining for two scores and sealed a dynasty of greatness for NDSU’s senior class that ended with more titles (4) than losses (3).