#2 North Dakota State FCS Football 2012 Preview

North Dakota State Bison

Overall Rank: #2
#1 Missouri Valley Football Conference
North Dakota State FCS College Football 2012 Team Preview
North Dakota State Team Page


After going 20-2 through the 2006 and 2007 seasons, North Dakota State entered the Missouri Valley Football Conference confident and ready for the playoffs. However, the Bison went only 6-6 in conference games in their first two seasons, which included a low point in 2009 where the Bison finished the regular season 3-8. In 2010, the Bison were back on track. North Dakota State finished the regular season 7-4 and was selected to the FCS playoffs for the first time and eventually lost to 2010 champions Eastern Washington. Last year, the Bison looked like a team that would not be stopped. Their incredible defense frustrated opposing offenses throughout the season and proved once again that “defenses win championships”. Over the course of four total games in their playoff run last year, North Dakota State’s defense allowed only 6.75 points per game. In 2012, the Bison will continue to be a force and should be expected to make a deep run into the playoffs.

2011 Record: (14-1, 7-1)
2011 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Craig Bohl (75-31 at North Dakota State, 75-31 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Brent Vigen
Defensive Coordinator: Chris Klieman

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Sam Ojuri, RB, 1,137 yards
Passing: Brock Jensen, QB, 2,524 yards
Receiving: Ryan Smith, WR, 531 yards
Tackles: Colten Heagle, SS, 82
Sacks: Cole Jirik, DE, 9.0
Interceptions: Marcus Williams, CB, 7

Other Key Returnees: OT Billy Turner, OG Tyler Gimmestad, LB Travis Beck, S Christian Dudzik, LB Carlton Littlejohn, DE Kyle Emanuel, DT Leevon Perry, LB Grant Olson

Key Losses: LB Preston Evans, LB Chad Wilson, RB D.J. McNorton, WR Warren Holloway, TE Matt Veldman, K Ryan Jastram, DE Coulter Boyer, OT Paul Cornick, OG Austin Richard

In 2012, North Dakota State will likely be as balanced as it was in 2011. Although the stats do not show it, the Bison offense was extremely good. Quarterback Brock Jensen threw only four interceptions last year; his poise and confidence were essential to the turn around we saw from 2009-2010. Brock Jensen threw for 2,524 yards and scored 23 times on his way to a championship and he was only a sophomore. The lack of mistakes proved to be overwhelming for opposing teams. The Bison featured two backs, D.J. McNorton and Sam Ojuri, who rushed for over 1,000 yards. They lose McNorton to graduation, however, Ojuri will be back and he will likely eclipse his 1,137 yards he had last year. We also can’t forget defensive back Marcus Williams. Williams provided huge bursts of momentum for the Bison as he picked off seven passes and returned four of them for touchdowns. His presence on defense will have offenses thinking twice before passing his direction.

It is difficult to find any weaknesses in this Bison team. However, the most questions marks will be on defense, primarily at defensive line and linebacker. There are also two large holes left by departing linemen, All-American Paul Cornick and four-year starter Austin Richard. Last year, linebacker Travis Beck made a huge impact at linebacker and should easily fill in as a leader in that position during his sophomore year. Last year, Warren Holloway caught 77 balls for over 1,000 yards. A big question mark will be who can provide that sort of production from the wide-receiver position. Ryan Smith returns the most receiving yards from last year, however, sophomore Trevor Gebhart saw action as a freshman and should be in the mix to make an impact.

The Bottom Line:
As with any team, North Dakota State certainly has some holes to fill for 2012. However, there is no sense denying that the Bison will be a powerful team this year. North Dakota State’s non-conference schedule is fairly easy going for the Bison. They play two home games against Robert Morris and Prairie View A&M and travel to Colorado State, a winnable yet challenging FBS game. The Bison do not get any relief during their conference schedule this year. Due to the addition of South Dakota to the conference, the one Valley team that is missing from the Bison schedule is Western Illinois. However, the only team I can see challenging the Bison for the Missouri Valley Football Crown is Northern Iowa and Youngstown State. If the Bison can recreate their defensive strength from last year, continue to be efficient and controlled on offense, and stay healthy, I have no doubt that they will make a deep playoff run.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2011 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 173.27 (36th in nation, 6th in conference)
Passing Offense: 172.67 (89, 7)
Total Offense: 345.93 (68, 9)
Scoring Offense: 31.33 (29, 2)
Rushing Defense: 118.73 (17, 4)
Pass Defense: 225.90 (41, 7)
Total Defense: 315.93(20, 4)
Scoring Defense: 12.73 (1, 2)
Turnover Margin: 1.20 (8, 1)
Sacks: 2.12 (t. 19, t. 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.88 (23, t. 3)

Madness 2012 FCS Football Recruit Rankings:
#31 Austin Farnlof
#91 Brett Pierce
#98 Derek McGinnis
#138 Zack Johnson