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Thanksgiving FCS Football Food for Thought

Now that the dust has settled and everyone has given their opinion in 140 characters or less on the FCS playoff seeding, the games are set to begin this Saturday. The Bison won’t be one of the 16 teams playing, but there’s still a lot to be interested in while microwaving two-day-old turkey leftovers.

About a week ago, (stops typing so everyone can break into Bobby Shmurda’s Shmoney Dance) I was at JL Beers with a good buddy of mine sippin’ crafts, crushing 1st Avenue burgers and watching Kansas State’s Tyler Lockett dismantle West Virginia. Naturally, the conversation came up about last year’s Bison football team.

Football games were boring in 2013. Blowing out opponents by nearly 30 points a game, while watching backups play the entire fourth quarter, is not interesting football to watch. Granted, it was the Bison dominating, so that was nice, but from pure football-watching perspective, a high school 7-on-7 game would have been more interesting than watching last year’s team play inferior talent. We simply expected the Bison to win every game.

Then the conversation shifted to the 2011 team as Kansas State stepped on West Virginia’s throat with another first down pass to Lockett to seal the game.

“We didn’t even know what was going on,” said my buddy, referencing the collective mindset of Bison faithful during the 2011 season. “None of us knew what it was. We just kept winning.”

The 2011 team was a team of destiny. After a gut-wrenching loss in the quarterfinals to Eastern Washington in 2010, sophomore quarterback Brock Jensen led the Bison on a run that ended with his team lifting the national championship trophy in Frisco, Texas. The team had a perfect mix of game-breaking players with D.J. McNorton, Warren Halloway and Matt Veldman, combined with experienced linemen like seniors Austin Richard, Paul Cornick and Coulter Boyer.

Then we started talking about the 2012 team as our TV shifted to the horrendous Oakland and Kansas City Thursday night NFL game.

The Bison were defending champions, but it felt like the team wasn’t as dominant as they were in 2011. They were replacing play-makers on offense, which led to Jensen having his worst season during the three-championship run. The defense was using players that had little experience, too. It never felt like the Bison were a lock to win any of their games. NDSU also went through some growing pains during the middle of the season.

In 2012, the Bison were clubbing teams and outscoring opponents 221-42 through the first five games of the season. Then, Indiana State found a chink in the Bison armor, holding them to 148 yards rushing and intercepting three Jensen passes. The loss brought Bison fans back to reality much like this year’s Northern Iowa defeat.

After clobbering a sorry South Dakota team, the Bison beat its next three opponents by a margin of four points.

The collective attitude of the fan base didn’t know if the 2012 team had enough to get back to the championship.

This attitude is eerily similar to this year’s team.

At times, the Bison haven’t looked great this year, but they always find ways to win. This year, a championship isn’t guaranteed, which should mean tighter games against opponents at similar talent levels.

I don’t expect the Bison to blow off the doors of anyone this next month. But I do wonder how we’ll look back at this season.

I just hope we end the conversation by saying, “At least we went back to Frisco.”

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