Bison plan to put championship season behind them

It wasn’t that long ago, North Dakota State coach Craig Bohl

says, that Bison football fans were complaining to athletic

director Gene Taylor about spectators standing up during games and

blocking their view.

No longer is the atmosphere inside the Fargodome like a dog

show.

Fresh off their first Division I football championship, the

Bison have sold out every home game for the first time in school

history. They open the season Saturday against visiting Robert

Morris, after a brief ceremony planned to commemorate the

Championship Subdivision title.

”It’s going to be really loud. The dome is going to be

rocking,” NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen said.

Bohl, now in his 10th year, guided the team through a transition

from NCAA Division II to a national title in their fourth year of

eligibility. He has a 75-31 record, including 16-8 against

nationally ranked FCS teams and 5-3 against Bowl Subdivision

clubs.

The most surprising number for Bohl, perhaps, is 18,700. That’s

roughly the number of tickets sold for six regular-season home

games, culminating on Nov. 10 against rival South Dakota State.

”Did I think we would sell out every game? No, that’s unheard

of,” Bohl said. ”It’s where we strive for. But now all of a

sudden you get here and it’s, wow, we’re really here.”

The Bison return six starters on offense, seven on defense and

their game-breaking kick returner. The only unproven positions are

offensive line, with two new starters, and special teams, with a

new kicker and punter.

Jensen, the junior quarterback, has started 19 straight games

and 22 overall. He led the Bison all the way last year despite a

nagging case of turf toe. He’s healthy this year.

”I’m one year older. I’m one year wiser,” Jensen said. ”I

feel good and I can’t wait to go to battle with the guys.”

The Bison have won 11 straight season openers.

Robert Morris and NDSU last played in the opening round of the

2010 playoffs. It was a tight game until the Bison scored 23 points

in the last 9 minutes to win 43-17.

”We’re expecting a really spirited, close ballgame,” Bohl

said.

Bison players say they may take a minute during the banner

raising ceremony to reflect on last season, but then it’s back to

business.

”I know the fans will be really excited, but we’re just ready

to play football again,” linebacker Grant Olson said.

”I can see talking about it at our 10-year reunion, but as far

as last year goes … put it in the past,” tight end Garrett Bruhn

added.