#1 North Dakota State FCS Football 2013 Preview

George Hammond

North Dakota State Bison

Overall Rank: #1
#1 Missouri Valley

North Dakota State Team Page#1 North Dakota State FCS Football 2013 PreviewBuy North Dakota State Football Tickets

Three-peat. That’s what the two-time defending national champions are thinking in Fargo, N.D., as they attempt to duplicate the feat done only by Appalachian State in 2005-07. The pieces certainly seem to be in place for a legitimate run at number three as North Dakota State returns more starters (18) than anyone in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. The Bison have gone 14-1 each of the last two years as they beat Sam Houston State for the national title both times. “Certainly, windows of opportunity (like this) don’t come along very often,” Bison coach Craig Bohl said in preseason. “Our guys do recognize the great opportunity that we do have that’s out there. But to do that, we can’t get the cart before the horse.”

2012 Record: 14-1, 7-1
2012 Postseason: FCS Playoffs
Coach: Craig Bohl (89-32 at North Dakota State and overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Brent Vigen
Defensive Coordinator: Chris Klieman

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Sam Ojuri, RB, 1,047 yards
Passing: Brock Jensen, QB, 2,331 yards
Receiving: Zach Vraa, WR, 606 yards
Tackles: Grant Olson, LB, 148 tackles
Sacks: Cole Jirik, DE, 7.5
Interceptions: Marcus Williams, CB, 7

Other Key Returnees: OT Billy Turner, WR Ryan Smith, K Adam Keller, DE Cole Jink, DT Leevon Perry, P Ben LeCompte, LB Travis Beck, RB John Crockett, TE Kevin Vaadeland, DE Kyle Emanuel.

Key Losses: CB Andre Martin, C Joe Lund.

It hasn’t lost a road game since 2010. It’s 28-2 in the last two years and it has the back-to-back national championships, too. How about supreme confidence as perhaps North Dakota State’s biggest strength? These guys take the field thinking they’re going to win every game, and with their resume, why not? For example, the Bison converted 15 of 19 fourth-down chances last year. That’s confidence and it starts with quarterback Brock Jensen. He had 17 touchdown passes last year and ran for 12 more. Jensen, linebacker Grant Olson and corner Marcus Williams are all nominated for national FCS awards this year. The entire defense could be called a strength as the defensive front returns intact as does the linebacking corps. In addition, most of the secondary returns.

You have to search hard to find vulnerable spots with this outfit. The Bison do need to find a replacement for cornerback Andre Martin, the offensive line has undergone some position switches to fill vacancies, and the passing attack could be more explosive at times, but perhaps the biggest concern for North Dakota State is this: Can it stay focused on the task at hand? There have been off-the-field issues this offseason that raise questions. Senior defensive tackle Leevon Perry is suspended for the season-opener at Kansas State because of an off-the-field incident and starting linebacker Travis Beck also had his own problems off the gridiron.

The Bottom Line:
The opener at Kansas State will be an interesting matchup. If the Bison could somehow spring the upset, the MVFC and the rest of the FCS better look out. But the Bison have lost to MVFC teams the last two seasons, and the league figures to be strong again. Indiana State knocked off the Bison 17-14 last year. Circle Sept. 28 at South Dakota State and Oct. 5. Versus Northern Iowa as key early season contests. The Bison barely escaped with a 20-17 regular-season victory over South Dakota State last year before winning more convincingly in a playoff rematch (28-3). With so much returning talent on this team, it’s really up to the Bison how far they want to go. Anything less than a deep playoff run would be a shock.

Projected Postseason: FCS Playoffs

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 203.47 (21st in nation, 1st in conference)
Passing Offense: 166.73 (98, 7)
Total Offense: 370.20 (57, 4)
Scoring Offense: 33.00 (22, 1)
Rushing Defense: 93.87 (4, 1)
Pass Defense: 140.60 (2, 1)
Total Defense: 234.47 (1, 1)
Scoring Defense: 11.53 (1, 1)
Turnover Margin: 1.00 (9, 1)
Sacks: 2.40 (31, 2)
Sacks Allowed: 1.60 (36, 8)

Madness 2013 FCS Football Recruit Rankings:
#46 Nick DeLuca
#79 Nick Jacobsen


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