Special End for Special Class

TIFFANY SWANSON | THE SPECTRUM Bison defensemen Grant Olson (34) and Billy Turner (77) make a goal line stop in the third quarter of the Championship Game.
TIFFANY SWANSON | THE SPECTRUM
Bison defensemen Grant Olson (34) and Billy Turner (77) make a goal line stop in the third quarter of the Championship Game.

Craig Bohl knew 2013 could be a special year when he introduced the 2010 re­cruiting class at NDSU. He thought this season could be the year a national champi­onship was brought back to Fargo. The 2010 class turned out better than he thought, as the trophy the Bison won in Frisco, Texas, earlier this month was their third in a row.

The 24 seniors on the roster, some from the 2009 class, will go down as the best in NDSU history. Since the 3-8 2009 season, the seniors have built the fol­lowing in their four years of playing: a 52-7 record, 4-0 against FBS opponents, three Missouri Valley Foot­ball Conference champion­ships and three FCS national championships.

The Bison have played in games on national net­works several times and ESPN’s popular “College GameDay” came to Fargo in September. Back in 2009, no one could have predicted the amount of national cov­erage NDSU has gotten.

But thanks to the 2010 re­cruits like Marcus Williams, Billy Turner, Grant Olson, Ryan Smith, Cole Jirik and Leevon Perry, the Bison brand has grown enormous­ly. Fellow seniors from the 2009 class like Brock Jen­sen, Sam Ojuri, Ryan Drev­low and Tyler Gimmestad have been huge contributors during the three-peat run.

“You don’t do the things that we’ve done these past few years without sacrifice,” Jensen said after the cham­pionship game. “We all made a willing decision to make a lot of sacrifices to do something special like this and it’s a team effort.”

The seniors cemented their legacy in dominating fashion to complete the dy­nasty. The 2013 team was only challenged twice. The Bison outscored opponents 38.7 to 11.3 per game while gaining 6,862 total yards compared to opponents’ 3,838. The veteran group al­lowed nothing to get in their way of a perfect season.

“This team, I’ve said this, they were possessed with perfection, and they re­lentlessly pursued it,” Bohl said. “You’re not going to be perfect, but in the middle of it you’re going to catch excellence, and they did. So when you look at that track, not only this team but the last several teams, when you start throwing those num­bers out to me, it’s pretty remarkable.”

The surplus of talent, especially for an FCS team, will see some players get­ting an opportunity to play at the next level. Williams and Turner are projected draft picks while Ojuri, Jirik, Per­ry and Smith are training for camp invites. Throwing out the label of an FCS player, these players have plenty on their résumé.

With the departure of a big senior class, NDSU fans are fortunate that players from the 2010 class will still be on the roster next season. Christian Dudzik, Colten Heagle, Carlton Littlejohn, Travis Beck, John Crockett and Zach Vraa were part of the recruiting class that redshirted. All players have been awarded with some post season award.

“We still have capable underclassmen that are mak­ing plays this year,” Little­john said. “We just have to not focus on what we’re losing but what we still have and what we have to gain. I think we’ll still be a good football team next year with the guys we have.”

Littlejohn and his senior class will be contenders to keep the dynasty going. But they can thank their fellow 2010 recruits and this year’s seniors for helping get it started.

 

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