Bison stampede through Robert Morris in season opener
NDSU posts first shutout since 2006
Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, September 5, 2012 17:09
The long awaited return of NDSU football finally came and fans could not have asked for a better opening game. The Bison dismantled Robert Morris, 52-0, on Saturday in front of 18,769 people in the Fargodome.
It was a day of celebration as fans filled the newly-expanded tailgate parking lots on a perfect fall evening. Once inside the Dome, the sea of gold roared as a commemorative video recapped last year’s national championship run followed by the championship banner being raised high above the new AstroTurf field. When the Bison finally hit the field, the place was already rocking.
The NDSU offense did their part to keep the crowd on their feet. On their opening drive, the offense marched 76 yards down the field with a balanced attack. Carries by running backs Sam Ojuri and John Crockett sprinkled with precision passes from Brock Jensen to receiver Zach Vraa and tight end Kevin Vaadeland drove the ball to the one-yard line. On a play action pass, Jensen hit tight end Taylor Nelson in the corner of the endzone at the 8:47 mark for Nelson’s first career receiving touchdown. Adam Keller’s kick made the score 7-0.
“I really thought our guys came in poised and ready to play,” said Bison head coach Craig Bohl. “I though the things we needed to control, we certainly did.”
NDSU’s highly touted defense was as good as advertised all game long, only allowing 88 total yards of offense. On RMU’s first possession, the Bison forced the Colonials to punt from the six-yard line. With a short field, NDSU was unable to put points on the board after Keller’s 44-yard field goal was no good.
The Bison got the ball back quickly though, thanks to a Christian Dudzik interception. On their first play, the Bison went deep to Vraa who made a leaping grab for 46 yards. The drive continued into the second quarter until an Ojuri fumble put the ball back into the Colonials’ hands.
The Bison defense, however, did not allow Robert Morris to go anywhere as a Ryan Drevlow sack on third-and-five forced another RMU punt.
Two plays later, the crowd was back on their feet, sparked by the play of the game from John Crockett. On second down, Crockett received a handoff and looked to be bottled up in the backfield. Crockett spun off two defenders and weaved his way to the endzone for a 26-yard score. Keller’s kick was good to make the score 14-0.
“It was a big time run,” said coach Bohl on Crockett’s touchdown. “It showed strength, change of direction, explosion, determination, speed, a lot of good things.”
NDSU hit the scoreboard again with 2:10 left in the second quarter after Keller knocked in a 24-yard field goal and the Bison went into halftime with a 17-0 score.
The Herd came out in the second half with an all-out stampede. A third down sack from Ricky Hagen forced a RMU punt and gave the Bison offense a short field to work with. Consecutive long runs from Ojuri and a 14-yard pass to receiver Ryan Smith put the ball inside the 10-yard line. Ojuri then plunged his way into the endzone for a seven-yard score and Keller’s kick extended the lead to 24-0.
Another three and out gave NDSU the ball at the 48-yard line and this time it only took two plays for the Bison to score. Jensen connected with Vraa for 18 yards and then hit Smith in stride in the back of the endzone for a 30-yard strike at the 9:09 mark in the third quarter.
NDSU’s defense, meanwhile, continued to torment the Colonials. This time, the Bison forced a fumble that was recovered by linebacker Carlton Littlejohn. Jensen, who went 16-23 for 217 yards, marched the offense down the field with his arm and ended the drive with a touchdown pass to a slanting Trevor Gebhart for the 11-yard score.
“(Brock) played pretty well,” said coach Bohl. “He is certainly further along as far as his understanding, getting us in and out of certain plays. I thought we were throwing the ball very effectively so we’re pleased with that.”
Up 38-0, the second unit for NDSU came in but the offensive success didn’t drop down. Backup quarterback Carson Wentz led a drive downfield with timely passes to Andrew Okland and Nate Moody and runs from Derrick Lang, who eventually plowed his way into the endzone from one-yard out to extend the lead to 45-0 after Keller’s kick.
The Bison weren’t done yet. NDSU’s backfield showed their depth as running backs Lang, Deveon Dinwiddie and Matt Jones methodically carried the ball downfield at ease. Wentz eventually snuck into the endzone from the one-yard line and Keller’s kick finalized the score at 52-0.
NDSU is known for pounding the ball and this year’s group of backs looks to be promising.
“For us to be really effective offensively, we’ve always had a one-two punch,” said coach Bohl. “And I think we had more than a one-two punch tonight.”
NDSU’s offense had a balanced attack with 249 yards passing and 246 yards rushing. Ojuri led the team in rushing with 81 yards and Vraa led the way with 76 yards receiving.
“I thought we had some explosive plays offensively,” said coach Bohl. “I’m a little bit disappointed that we probably had too many missed opportunities. Either through miscues, or some penalties or fumbles and things like that that I think we should have put more points on the board in the first half. We responded better in the second half so that’s encouraging.”
The stingy Bison defense only allowed 22 yards rushing. Linebackers Grant Olson and Travis Beck carried the defense with eight and seven tackles, respectively. This was NDSU’s first shutout since 2006.
“Anytime a defense can shutout an opponent, I think that’s outstanding,” said coach Bohl. “I really thought our defense played at a great pace all during the game.”
NDSU (1-0) will travel to Fort Collins, Colo., to face Colorado State on Sept. 8. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. (CT).
Quotes courtesy of GoBison.com