I have said at times during non-conference play that NDSU needed to be better on offense as a whole. I wasn’t impressed by any part of the offense. I reiterated on PrimeTime Sports last week that NDSU’s leading rusher from the running back room against Maine was Barika Kpeenu, he had six rushing attempts for 38 yards.
That isn’t good enough against Valley opponents and local media seriously thought that NDSU would be threatened or possibly beaten by a Central Arkansas team that hung around against Oklahoma State.
The Bison shut me and other media up by dominating Central Arkansas on the ground, rushing for 235 yards. The running back room finally picked up the slack as the leading rusher wasn’t a QB but TaMerik Williams who rushed 13 times for 83 yards.
That performance was what the Bison needed to prove that are indeed ready for conference play and might just be the most slept-on #2 team because of the fact that people are all in on the hype surrounding teams like Idaho, Sacramento State, and reigning champion South Dakota State. The Bison have quietly righted the ship and are a team you probably don’t want to mess with right now.
What makes this NDSU team ready for Valley play?
#1 “Code Green”
The biggest question mark surrounding NDSU during the offseason was the defense who to be frank needed a facelift on defense because last season they gave up 21 points a contest, gave up 100 yards on the ground almost every game, and were missing tackles at an alarming rate. Defensive coordinator David Braun leaving for Northwestern gave Matt Entz the excuse to change up the defense and he did, by bringing in Southern Illinois defensive coordinator Jason Petrino.
He has turned the defense back into prime “Code Green” form, they are tackling better, coverage is more sound, and have forced seven turnovers in three games.
Now I know they allowed 218 yards to ShunDerrick Powell last week. Folks, Powell is probably the best player NDSU will face all year on defense, including anyone from SDSU. 27 in white for the Bears will be an all-American and probably a finalist for the Walter Payton Award.
The Bison defense has been fantastic and if Powell is the best NDSU will face on defense I think they will be okay.
#2 The Quarterbacks
Cam Miller has always been looked at around here as kind of a Kirk Cousins-type player, he’s a good player but you always feel there is someone better. He’s broken out of that stereotype and has become the leader of the offense. He has gone from a game manager to a game changer as he has been statistically one of the best quarterbacks in FCS football so far. His performance against Central Arkansas was probably his showing as a Bison as he was 18 of 19 passing for 200 yards and two scores.
He threw some absolute dimes like the throw down the sideline to Eli Green. Miller has finally broken out as the player Matt Entz thought he could be. Cam has been great but his backup is arguably the offense’s best player.
Cole Payton has quickly become a fan favorite as he is the team’s leading rusher with 252 yards and four touchdowns. The way he is incorporated into the offense makes defensive coordinators have nightmares because he is a fullback disguised as a quarterback, he is 6 foot 3, 230, and a load to bring down. He has a Carson Wentz-type body and if he continues to develop his passing the Bison have a true two-headed monster at quarterbacks that give defenses fits.
#3 No Pressure
For the first time since 2010, the Bison have no pressure on them, the pressure is on South Dakota State. They are the defending champion and they will get everyone’s best shot. That is something they aren’t used to, NDSU can go into the season being a hunter instead of the hunted. They can play under the radar and play with confidence, they don’t have to be the Bison teams of the past they can be their own brand of Bison football. Personally, if I was an opposing team of NDSU I wouldn’t want to face them come playoff time because if the Bison get you in the Fargodome in December, it’s game over.