The Dakota Marker remains in Fargo
With 6 minutes left in the biggest game of the FCS’ regular season, North Dakota State seemingly forgot about the last decade of Bison football. Much like its namesake, NDSU has stampeded over the Football Championship Subdivision for eight years largely by running the dang ball. So it was a bit shocking to see Dimitri Williams, a redshirt senior running back with experience at every position but quarterback, receive a handoff and pull up to throw with the game tied late. Williams heaved the ball up as he got hit. It died about five yards downfield and landed in the arms of a waiting South Dakota State defensive lineman.
The Jackrabbits had their chance to get a program-defining win in front of a record crowd of SDSU fans. But NDSU is selfish when it comes to glory and wins. Two plays later, the Bison defensive line caused pressure, which caused an errant throw, which landed in the hands of cornerback Josh Hayes.
NDSU then ran for nine yards on three plays to set up a fourth-and-one from their own 29-yard line with 2 minutes left. Most teams punt in this situation as a turnover-on-downs basically gives the opponent a free field goal opportunity. Of course, North Dakota State is not “most teams.”
Their offensive line, the lifeblood of this dynasty, insisted that the offense line up for fourth-and-one. Running back Adam Cofield set up as the dot in the I-formation and watched the sea of defenders part in front of him. He broke an arm tackle and was off to the races. 71 yards later, Cofield stopped running in the endzone, NDSU had a 23-16 lead and the Bison could finish out their 29th consecutive victory.
At this point, the North Dakota State program is untouchable. They have the most championships in FCS history, winning seven of the last eight. No team in Division 1 has come close to that run of titles since the Ivy League reigned supreme at the turn of the century. NDSU is 31-2 in the FCS playoffs since 2010. The only champions in this decade have been the Bison or a team that beats them in the playoffs (Eastern Washington in 2010, JMU in 2016).
This 29-game win streak is the second-longest in FCS history, right behind the Bisons’ record 33-game streak from 2012-14. They have beaten 17 (!) ranked teams during this current streak. Frankly, the only thing left for NDSU to accomplish is getting to 47 straight wins, a record set by Oklahoma in 50s. If there is a team who can beat the Sooners’ record, it’s North Dakota State.
There is more evidence but the conclusion is inescapable: the Bison have become College Football’s most-dominant dynasty ever. They’re also showing no signs of stopping. They should get the top-seed in the Playoffs again and eclipse their own 33-game streak in the first round.
We could point to so many things to explain the NDSU’s success, but I think this clip of them taking the Dakota Marker after the win is a big part of it.
North Dakota State wins the Dakota Marker game! pic.twitter.com/oHfYIUeWmQ— College GameDay (@CollegeGameDay) October 26, 2019
Many of the guys going crazy over the trophy have never lost a game at NDSU. Most have won a championship, while the redshirt seniors have won three titles. Yet, this win over a rival in the middle of the season elicits a huge celebration from the Bison. They don’t take their success for granted, they don’t skip steps, they don’t forget to celebrate. They just run you down and win games. And NDSU will continue to do so until further notice.
UCA defended the stripes
On Saturday, the Central Arkansas Bears rallied from a 16-0 halftime deficit to beat Sam Houston State 29-25 on Saturday night. Sam Houston State locked down the Bears in the first half. But quarterback Breylin Smith led the UCA offense to four second-half touchdowns. UCA came up with a huge fumble recovery with 44 seconds left as SHSU was in the red zone.
Smith got Southland’s Offensive Player of the Week honors after putting up 405 yards and 4 touchdowns. After breaking his ankle last season, the sophomore is quickly becoming one of the most productive QBs in FCS. He ranks 7th in passing yards and 12th in touchdowns. He could lead Central Arkansas out of the second round for the first time in school history. All while playing in his hometown of Conway, AR.
Speaking of playing football in Conway, Arkansas, we need to talk about UCA’s field design. I had seen the University of Central Arkansas’s field before, on twitter and in highlights. But I hadn’t watched a full game played on Estes Field until Saturday. It’s mesmerizing.
It’s a purple and gray motif as #CentralArkansas hosts Abilene Christian in its first #SouthlandStrong game of the season. #FearTheStripes #BearClawsUp #RoadTripSports #CFB150 #NFF #WeAreAFCA— Matthew Postins (@PostinsPostcard) September 12, 2019
➡️ #CollegeFootballAmerica: https://t.co/hR7AjbQepm pic.twitter.com/hZvsuZ4chy
No one else in Division 1 has color stripes on their field. Maybe no one should. The stripes aren’t as bright as Boise State’s blue or Eastern Washington’s Red. But the design still takes up a lot of your attention during the game. The stripes are surrounded by a sea of gray turf behind the end zones and sidelines. All of this is complicated further by the fact that cars roll by the stadium at field level on Bruce Street. It feels like a vehicle could easily get on the grey turf and cause havoc.
Overall, the design leaves you wondering “why would someone do this?” followed by “Oh my God, do I like this?” To some extent, it’s just a weird field, a gimmick to boost the profile of the school and program.
To many reasonable fans, it’s an eyesore. But I think the school would argue the stripes give the program an identity, something to protect. The team’s twitter uses #FearTheStripes to hype up the field and there may just be something to the idea. Since 2011, UCA is 39-9 on the stripes including a 12-game home winning streak when the field was first installed.
Campbell trailed by a touchdown to Gardner-Webb with just seven seconds left. GWU faced a decision on fourth-and-four on Campbell’s 45 yard-line. They made the wrong decision. Please witness one of the most blocked punts of all-time.
WILD.— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) October 26, 2019
Campbell blocked the punt and returned it for a TD to tie it with 8 seconds left. They went on to win in triple-OT pic.twitter.com/OUdEPAtayA
Poor punter Jack Pawloski got absolutely rocked. As he laid motionless on the field (I believe he’s fine), he must have regretted even becoming a punter. CU’s Greg Streater actually had the best punt on that play by “Falcon Kick”-ing the ball with his knee about 15 yards down the field. Of course, the ball miraculously bounced to freshman linebacker Alex Santiago and he returned it for a touchdown. Apparently, the Runnin’ Bulldogs learned nothing from Jim Harbaugh making a similarly disastrous decision a few years ago.
Campbell went on to win the game in triple overtime 49-47 (shouts to GWU for not giving up in OT). The wild victory keeps Campbell undefeated in the Big South. If they can get past North Alabama next week and Kennesaw State wins against Monmouth, we could have the biggest Big South game in six years. The Owls haven’t lost a conference game since 2015 when now-FBS Liberty knocked them off. Maybe the Camels (and their excellent hashtag: #RollHumps) can finally give Kennesaw some real competition for the conference.