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It Is About The Players

by Dan Gunderson

No matter what happens this Saturday between North Dakota State University and Towson University, the Bison football team will be remembered more for the players than the coach. This usually is not the case in college athletics.

Coaches tend to become the face of programs because they stay there longer than players. Even though Craig Bohl is finishing up his 11th season at NDSU, I still believe players like Brock Jensen, Grant Olson, Billy Turner and Marcus Williams will be held in higher regard when it is all said and done.

There are a couple reasons behind why I believe this. The first one is the mess that is becoming Bohl’s exit from Fargo. It was odd to begin with that Wyoming University would allow him to finish out the 2013 season as NDSU’s head coach. Sure, a gracious offer by the university but it still is odd to know that Bohl is only coaching these games to pad some stats.

Tough to argue with that statement when he is making trips to Oregon to talk to outgoing Wyoming quarterback Brett Smith two weeks before the FCS National Championship. You also have to take into account his current dealing with NDSU recruits.

It has been reported that Bohl is offering scholarships to recruits to attend Wyoming. These recruits already have offers on the table from NDSU. That is not going to sit well with fans, especially if these players decide to pick Wyoming over NDSU.

You also have whatever it is going on between Bohl and head-coach-to-be Chris Klieman. The more that comes out about the awkwardness going on between those two, the more people are going to look a little differently at Bohl.

The second reason, and most important reason, is these players haven’t had an impact on just this one season. These 24 seniors and majority of the juniors have been a major part of program success since their freshman year. That is rare in college football at any level.

Brock Jensen was the quarterback as a freshman that led NDSU to their first playoff berth at the FCS level. Colten Heagle was vitally important in NDSU’s 35-7 FCS Semi-Final win over Georgia Southern in 2011.

Grant Olson’s school record 29 tackles against Wofford in last year’s Quarterfinal win. Even role players like Derrick Lang had a major impact in NDSU’s success. One play in particular against Kansas State puts Lang’s importance to this team in perspective.

At the beginning of the winning drive for the Bison, they were faced with a third down and 11 yards to go for a first down. Jensen dropped the ball off to Lang on a screen play that looked dead in the water but Lang, a third-string running back, picked his way through traffic for the exact yardage needed for a first down.

That allowed Jensen and the Bison to continue what will most likely go down as one of the greatest drives in Bison history. In five or ten years from now, when conversations about this NDSU squad come about, they will begin with “You remember when…” Williams or Olson and the list will go on.

What Bohl has done in his tenure with NDSU will not be easily forgotten. However, the 2013 season, a historic one at that, will be remembered for the group of players on the field and not the coach on the sidelines.

You can follow Daniel "Pinto" Gunderson on Twitter at @pintoKFGO or friend him on Facebook. You can hear him on his weekly podcast show on kfgo.com, 740thefan.com or on iTunes called “The Pinto and White Shadow Show.” Pinto is a radio producer within the Midwest Communications-Fargo company.