If there are two words to describe the student section at Bison games, it’s spoiled rotten.
And it is understandable. North Dakota State has lost exactly six games at home since 2010. Add six of the past seven national championships, and the expectation of winning is there.
This season the Bison have so far outscored opponents 80-3 in the first half, and all of those games have been at home.
Students have better things to do with their time than watch their team coast through the second half. There is studying to do, among other social activities.
The exodus of fans at halftime has been pronounced in the non-conference slate this year. With the Bison up 28-3, 17-0 and 35-0, the final results have been pretty secure when the teams go into the locker room.
That still didn’t stop public address announcer Guy Goschen, who is filling in as the regular PA man Dan Michaels recovers from open-heart surgery, to crack a joke at the missing fans’ expense.
“Today’s attendance is 18,883,” Goschen said in normal fashion in the fourth quarter of NDSU’s rout of Delaware. “Some of you have left,” he added to an audible chuckle from the two-thirds empty Fargodome.
But as the schedule shifts from non-conference play into the Missouri Valley Football Conference slate, it is time for things to change.
First up in the gauntlet that is the Valley? South Dakota State, the No. 3 ranked team in the FCS and owners of the top offense so far this season.
To the freshman already scheduling an early dinner at the Red Pepper, you will want to push those back until after four quarters have been played.
This is going to be a battle throughout. The Jacks have bested the Bison in the past two regular season meetings to claim the Dakota Marker.
Last year in Brookings, NDSU played their worst football of the year by a country mile and the Jacks cruised.
Two years ago, in the last meeting at the Fargodome, the naiveté of the student section was on full display.
SDSU drove the length of the field twice in the first half and were stopped on the goal line both times.
A one-yard rush for Easton Stick was the difference at the half as Chase Vinatieri and Cam Pedersen matched field goals.
Up a single score, the student section started to file out at halftime. More left as Stick’s second rushing touchdown of the day put the Bison up 17-3.
As the crowd dwindled, the Jacks came back through the trio of quarterback Taryn Christion, tight end Dallas Goedert and receiver Jake Wieneke.
Goedert hauled in a touchdown halfway through the fourth to set up a grandstand finish. The Jacks finished the job with a last-second touchdown catch from Wieneke.
The lack of energy in the building was startling for a close affair throughout.
And if there is any game that needs all the energy it can get, it is the Dakota Marker on Saturday.
“Those of you that live, work here, recognize the value of that crowd and the importance of getting them into the game,” Delaware head coach Danny Rocco said after last week’s game.
Home-field advantage is a true thing in Fargo. Watch any offense that enters the Fargodome. It is all hand signals and clapping.
“We spend a lot of time of time dealing with the mechanics, the snap count and trying to be efficient in that mode,” Rocco said.
Rocco would go on to claim that the hostile environment was part of the recipe of disaster in Delaware’s loss.
Then turn your eyes to defensive end Greg Menard. The senior is quick. He breaks once he gets the snap count down. Sometimes he even breaks a quarter-second before the ball is snapped.
“The crowd does a great job making noise and making it hard to hear. We were getting into the rhythm of the snap count and jump the ball,” Bison linebacker Jabril Cox said after the Delaware game.
The noise generated by the crowd has an effect on the field and is needed on Saturday.
But at the end of the day, it is the quote from Winston Churchill that describes why the student section should be intact for a majority of the game Saturday.
“Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”