The Bison are coming off their 11th straight homecoming victory last Saturday with a 27-14 win over the Youngstown State Penguins. This week, the Bison will be back on the road to take on the Indiana State Sycamores. While North Dakota State dismantled the Sycamores in Fargo last season 44-2, the Bison haven’t played the Sycamores in Terre Haute, Ind., since 2017. That matchup ended in a 52-0 Bison victory almost five years to the day of this Saturday’s game. Despite the lack of familiarity with Terre Haute, the Bison are making sure to bring their own energy on gameday.
“I don’t know if I remember a whole lot about the atmosphere,” Bison Head Coach Matt Entz said about Memorial Stadium. “You’re kind of on your own over there on the visitor side so we better make sure that we bring our own excitement and bring our own atmosphere at least for our sideline this weekend.”
Indiana State (1-3, 0-1 MVFC) and 6th-year head coach Curt Mallory are coming off a close loss to Northern Iowa last Saturday, 20-14. Despite the loss, one player who made his name known was wide receiver Dante Hendrix. Hendrix, who hauled in seven catches for 90 yards last week, is now second all-time in receptions in Indiana State history and is also fourth in receiving yards as well.
Despite the Sycamores being chosen to finish 10th out of 11 teams in the Missouri Valley Conference, the Bison will need to find a way to slow down Hendrix, as well as linebacker Geoffrey Brown and defensive back Rylan Cole, who is tied for first in interceptions in the Missouri Valley with three.
“They played a really good Purdue team. They played an excellent Montana team,” Entz stated of Indiana State. “You can tell that they’re well coached. They’ve got some really good football players. Anytime you have to go on the road in the league you know you’re going to get a great game.”
Unfortunately, the Bison will be going into this week’s game with a handful of injuries. Both Jake Kava and Kobe Johnson were banged up in last week’s game with pectoral and ankle injuries respectively.
“Kobe should be fine. Day-to-day,” Entz stated Monday. “Ankle sprain so we’ll see. He was up walking around already. Unfortunately, I have not had any conversations on Kava. Sometimes it’s tough to get some accurate information before I come over here on Monday.”
Kava’s injury, along with the injury to Eli Mostaert, could open the gate to some new faces on the defensive line.
“Kole Menz has to play more for us,” Entz stated. “I anticipate true freshman Kelton McCaslin taking some reps at practice. I hate to say it, we’ve been in that situation before. It’s not one you ever want to be in. It makes you sick to see guys get hurt especially when they put as much time and effort into it, but next man up mentality has to come through.”
On the offensive side of the ball, the Bison, unfortunately, will be without one of their top pass catchers, Noah Gindorff, for the rest of the season. The ankle injury Gindorff suffered last season was not able heal properly, causing Gindorff to get another procedure on his ankle which ends his season and Bison career. With Gindorff’s injury, players like Hunter Brozio have taken on larger roles.
Although Brozio may be listed as a fullback, he certainly has played all over the place. Along with his fullback duties, Brozio has become more of a threat in the passing game as well.
“We lined him up all over the place,” Entz said of Brozio. “He’s on the ball as a tight end. He’s been split out at receiver. We get him out into routes. He’s a good football player. If I could change the position in our roster, it would just say ‘football’ behind it. That’s what he plays.”
Led by Brozio and other Bison fullbacks, sometimes even four of them, North Dakota State will most certainly lean on the running attack that is currently fourth in the FCS in rushing yards.
Contrary to that, an area the Bison have struggled so far this season is tackling and is something Coach Entz is looking to see improvement in this week.
Overall, I think there was fewer missed tackles (last week),” Entz stated. “I do think there’s some areas that we could continue to work on, but I saw some of the things that we’d been stressing happening in-game day and we’re going to continue to stress those things and make it a priority for us.”
Kickoff from Memorial Stadium in Terre Haute, Indiana will be at 12:00 p.m. and will be televised on the statewide ABC network of WDAY-TV.