« Pinto's Points

Memories

by Dan Gunderson

In the coming days, there will be many stories shared about the North Dakota State University football team and the players that have had an impact on the team’s success in the past four years. I myself have some favorite memories of the team.

The dominating win over Montana State in the 2010 playoffs, Travis Beck’s interception in the 2011 National Championship, Colten Heagle’s pick and flip back to Marcus Williams at the end of the half against the University of Minnesota in 2011, are just a few that come to mind.

Several memories for fans will be ones that include the heroics of senior quarterback Brock Jensen. Statistically, he will end up being the most prolific passer in NDSU history and the winningest quarterback in FCS history.

His flu game against Georgia Southern in 2011, his fourth down run against that same team the next season and, of course, the touchdown drive against Kansas State this season that ended up giving the Bison the 24-21 victory over the Wildcats.

My memories of him will include those stories but a couple other ones as well. The first one I will share with you many remember. It is an unfortunate one, but one that defined Jensen as a quarterback.

In the 2010 national quarterfinal game against Eastern Washington University, the Bison and the Eagles had played to a tie in regulation. The winner of the game would have to be decided in overtime.

I was a senior at NDSU that year and was watching the game with other fans at a local restaurant. That game, one of the greatest played in school history, had all the makings of a classic.

Couple kickoff returns for touchdowns, a last minute drive to tie the game and the controversial call at the end to seal the win for EWU. In the first overtime, NDSU had the ball second and goal and were trailing by a touchdown. On a quarterback keeper, Jensen ran left and was spun around by a EWU defender. As he was falling to the ground, he reached out and tried to extend the ball towards the end zone.

The ball came free, EWU recovered and claimed they had just won the ball game due to Jensen’s fumble. Jensen argued, the play was reviewed but ultimately upheld. In the video below, you only see the play and not Jensen’s reaction to the call.


I do remember his reaction and feeling heartbroken for, at the time, only a freshman. His emotions got the best of him as tears began to run down his face, pleading with someone to believe him that he didn’t fumble that ball. It didn’t matter. NDSU had lost.

Jensen could have curled up and given up right then and there. He could’ve become a shell of himself and never play to the great potential he had. We saw it with South Dakota State University quarterback Thomas O’Brien.

O’Brien and SDSU blew a 48-21 lead in the second half of a playoff game against Montana University in 2009 and O’Brien was never the same. He ended up quitting during the 2011 season, a move the surprised many people within the program.

Jensen, however, did not go that route. He picked himself up off the turf and moved forward with his career. The second memory is one that only Jeff Schwartz, a Sports Information Director with NDSU, and I share.

I was a junior at NDSU and was the sports editor for The Spectrum, the campus newspaper. I had come out to practice to grab an interview with one of the players. That year, 2009, was a particularly bad year for NDSU football. Running back D.J. McNorton was seeing time at linebacker for the Bison that season. It was ugly.

As Jeff and I stood off to the side and waited for practice to end, the starting “D” and the scout team lined up for a goal line stand drill. Essentially, the starting defense needs to stop the offense from scoring from inside the five yard line.

The quarterback that day for the scout team was Brock Jensen. I had neither heard of nor seen this freshman play. Before either team lined up, Jeff leaned over to me and said, “You see that quarterback (Jensen)? He is going to be a star one day.”

Jeff is one of those guys with a quirky personality. So when he said this, I thought he was joking. When I pressed him on the statement, he said he just knew it. Something about the player made him believe that.

Five years later, as we are now on the eve of the third straight national title appearance for Jensen as NDSU’s starting quarterback, it is hard to doubt what Schwartz said that day. Maybe I wanted to believe him too, because I still remember that conversation vividly five years later.

Whatever the reason, what Jensen has done in the past four seasons as a starting quarterback with NDSU, Jensen more than fulfilled the prophecy of Mr. Schwartz. It fulfilled the dreams of Bison fans everywhere. For that, he will long be remembered as one of the greatest, if not thee greatest, Bison players ever.

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.