So far this October, North Dakota State hasn’t looked quite like themselves. Now, it should be clear that as of right now the Bison are still the top team in the country and their only loss has come at the hands of a Pac-12 opponent. They’re #1 and likely will be when the updated rankings come out in a few days.
That being said, Matt Entz’s team hasn’t passed the eye test of a juggernaut gunning for its 10th national championship in recent weeks. Last week NDSU beat Youngstown State but struggled in some areas of the game. For the first time in what felt like forever, they were held relatively in check on offense. A few weeks ago they even trailed South Dakota at halftime before coming back to win.
Bad days happen. No harm no foul, right? Maybe that was the sentiment until last Saturday. When North Dakota State faced off with Indiana State in Terre Haute, though, what looked odd against Youngstown State became downright concerning this time around.
The Bison held on for a 31-26 win. But, the Sycamores are a one-win team and NDSU is the #1 squad in the country expecting to make yet another run to the title game. So, are these off games just a passing phase, or are there really red flags starting to pop up in Fargo?
While the offense did put up more big numbers against ISU, it’s important to note that the typically sure-handed ball carriers lost three fumbles. That brings the season count up to six now, with seven total turnovers by the offense. Last year, the Bison only lost five fumbles all season including the playoffs.
Hunter Luepke was held to under 100 yards for the second consecutive game and quarterback Cam Miller has not had a multi-touchdown passing game since the second week of the season. They simply aren’t clicking at the high caliber they usually are.
The miscues haven’t been costly yet but one would have to imagine that a team like South Dakota State (who NDSU plays next week) is much more likely to capitalize on those mistakes and shortcomings than teams like Indiana State.
South Dakota State’s defense has been outstanding this season and knows how to handle opposing rushers. So far, they have allowed only one run play that went for more than 15 yards and they haven’t given up a touchdown in almost two weeks. That doesn’t exactly instill a lot of confidence if you’re a Bison fan.
Or, what happens if NDSU has to take on a group like Montana in the playoffs? Because if they run deep, they likely will have to do so. The Griz also boast a smothering defensive unit and if the Bison are playing like this then there exists a real chance that they could be knocked off.
Of course the road won’t get any easier for North Dakota State as the season presses on. There is, however, plenty of time to correct the errors. NDSU is built for the long haul. They may not look great at the moment, but odds are they’ll be okay down the line.
It’s important not to become a victim of the moment with this team. Just when the Bison have you thinking they’re falling off at last, they turn it around to peak at precisely the right time. It may not be time to push the panic button just yet but it is certainly time for Entz and his staff to tune things up.