Early Season Failure New Obstacle for Bison

Winning the big game has become almost routine for the North Dakota State football team and their fans. While the Bison haven’t lost the big one at the end since December 11th of 2010, they just lost the big one at the beginning. That hasn’t happened in a very long time.

Winning the big game has become almost routine for the North Dakota State football team and their fans. While the Bison haven’t lost the big one at the end since December 11th of 2010, they just lost the big one at the beginning. That hasn’t happened in a very long time.

Everyone packed up to go to Minnesota (twice), NDSU won. Everyone packed up to go to Lawrence, KS, the Bison prevailed. Everyone packed up to go to Manhattan and the Thundering Herd shocked the college football world. Everyone packed up to go to Ames and the Bison came away with a victory after falling behind by two touchdowns.

This past weekend everyone packed up to go to Montana and the Bison lost. The Bison lost in very un-Bison fashion. North Dakota State hasn’t allowed 38 points in a game since the aforementioned loss to Eastern Washington at the end of the 2010 season. NDSU plays “Bison defense” and there was very little defense to be had on Saturday in Missoula.

For 5 straight seasons the Bison played a premier game against an FBS opponent in either August or September and for 5 straight seasons the Bison won and the program was elevated. FBS opponents have become more and more cautious about scheduling North Dakota State and so the big road trip was on ESPN against Montana and the Bison fell.

So few people involved with the program know what it’s like to lose the “showcase game”. The loss at Iowa State in 2009 featured only Offensive Coordinator Tim Polasek (then the running backs coach) and Defensive Assistant Joey Blackmore was a freshman defensive back.

The Bison have very little experience dealing with early season adversity. They’re going to have to. If the Bison want home field advantage throughout the playoffs, they can probably only afford to lose one more game, if even then. A two-loss team has only held the #1 or #2 seed once in the past 4 seasons.

There are plenty of football reasons why the Bison should improve, especially defensively. The Bison’s premier Senior athlete on defense, C.J. Smith, didn’t’ play on Saturday. His loss affected the team with more of a domino effect than just replacing an injured player.

Tre Dempsey, who had been training in at safety all offseason had to play corner. Jordan Champion had to match up on the outside and struggled mightily. True freshman Robbie Grimsley was pushed into action in sub packages. The Bison need CJ Smith to take away receivers on the outside for their pass defense to work.

The season isn’t over by any means. The Bison are still capable of winning the Missouri Valley Football Conference. They avoid Illinois State and get to play Northern Iowa in the Fargodome. The Bison don’t need to play every playoff game at home, either. It’s just the way that the team and the fans know how to win.

The 2015 Bison are going to be a very new group of players dealing with a very new set of circumstances. How they deal with those circumstances as the defense gets healthier and more experienced will more than likely determine how far this team gets. No Bison team wants to be the group that ends the title reign.

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