Title (Defense) V
There are plenty of storylines about the game against Charleston Southern that have been examined by sports reporters on tv and radio for weeks and even longer. While the effect of the crowd noise on CSU, the raising of the banner and the title defense that it represents, or the improvements around the FargoDome are all meritorious topics of conversation, I didn't hear nearly enough about the thing that I settled on paying attention to during game 1, and possibly beyond depending on how it goes.
The subject of my attention is the way that the team manages with the major losses from last years team. Few teams on any level of competition can lose the level of players that NDSU did and not feel it. Sure NDSU has quality depth at a level many other teams don't get to luxury in, but Carson Wentz, Joe Haeg, Zach Vraa, Andrew Bonnet and even Ben LeCompte were major parts of the fourth and fifth championship teams, they and others have moved on - many into the NFL.
Easton Stick's experience last year will help bridge the gap a little bit, but no one person can replace all that experience and talent, especially in game one.
Into the second half it has bared out accurately. several short drives on the offense and the defense even got gashed on a few plays. Down 10 - 3 just a few minutes into the second half and an injured Nick DeLuca mean that the talent that is still in Fargo will have to step up. A nice run by Stick is a good start then a scamper by King Frasier makes it even better. All three phases will have to keep charging for them to overcome this quality CSU squad. There's plenty of time left and the connection from Stick to Shepherd was exactly what was needed. Now the defense must step up and show the champion heart that has resided in Fargo for the last five years.
In the end, the champion rose again. With two touchdown passes by Stick the game seemed to likely to be a foregone conclusion. CSU proved that they deserve their ranking by again tying the game up then forcing overtime with a late interception. The King stamped the game with it's final points on a 25 yard td run on the first play of overtime.
The Bison have plenty of kinks to iron out. There were too many mental errors, at one point resulting in 60 yards of penalties on only 5 flags and many of them were on offense at the worst parts of the game. A win may be a win, but those kinds of gaffs won't cut it again Eastern Washington and certainly Iowa over the next few weeks. Can't be all negative to wrap it up though because after all they did win the game.
RJ and Shepherd made some mid season catches which bodes very well for the offense this year. By my count, four different running backs got significant playing time in the game as well. As fun as it is to have a John Crockett who takes a heavy load, having four guys who can all contribute is better for the team overall, I'd say. We'll have to wait and see what happens with DeLuca's shoulder but next man up will be a common statement in the common days, I predict.