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Bison defense makes two goal-line stands against Furman

North Dakota State's Kyle Emanuel (53) and Ryan Drevlow pressure Furman quarterback Reese Hannon Saturday, Dec.7, 2013, during the second round of the FCS playoffs at the Fargodome. FORUM NEWS SERVICE/David Samson

FARGO – Furman University ran some successful passing plays against North Dakota State on Saturday afternoon. They had a few impressive running plays, also.

In all, the Paladins had 327 total yards of offense. They could have used 329. A goal-line stand in each half were major factors in North Dakota State taking a 38-7 second-round FCS playoff victory at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

“We’re not the biggest team in the world,” said Furman head coach Bruce Fowler. “North Dakota State is bigger than we are, but we just didn’t get the ball in the end zone. One was close, but we just didn’t get it.”

The first fourth-down failure on Furman’s second possession went to a booth review after Fowler challenged the on-the-field call that quarterback Reese Hannon was stopped short. The official call was upheld and the Bison took over.

That drive was 17 plays and 94 yards and took 8 minutes, 21 seconds off the clock, but resulted in no points.

The Bison promptly went 99 yards to go up 7-0.

The second goal-line stop came with the Bison up 31-7. NDSU went 95 yards the other way and scored on Brock Jensen’s 53-yard touchdown run.

It’s takes an entire front line to make those stops, but there’s a reason senior Anthony LaVoy is in the middle of that pack. At 6-foot-4 and 299 pounds, he’s hard to move. He was credited with a solo stop on the first goal-line stand.

It’s something NDSU practices a lot, said head coach Craig Bohl, but hasn’t had to use it much this year.

“We’ve practiced it way more than what we used it,” he said. “Maybe that was an advantage because there are not a lot of reps on tape.”

NDSU’s Smith shows his run, pass versatility

The jet sweep with Ryan Smith made a return to playoff football. The Bison wide receiver took three handoffs while going in motion from one side of the formation to the other. He turned them into 55 yards on three carries.

It was a play that was effective in the national title game last year against Sam Houston State.

“He’s a versatile guy,” said Bison quarterback Brock Jensen. “You can hand it off to him and he’s tough to cover downfield. He’s a great player for us, and anything you ask of him he does.”

Smith also had 86 yards receiving on four receptions, totaling 141 yards from scrimmage.

Bison use both pass and run effectively

The Bison never trailed and scored first when Jensen found Zach Vraa for a 52-yard touchdown play in the first quarter. The junior receiver finished with 112 yards on five receptions – the fourth time he’s topped 100 yards receiving in the last five games.

The Bison went to the pass early in the game, partly because Furman was focusing on the run game.

“They were putting a ton of guys in the box and leaving one-on-one on the edge,” Jensen said. “We had to figure out the best way to attack that. We just hung in there trusting our coaching staff to put us in the right position.”

The running game eventually wore down Furman in the second half. In a rarity this season, Jensen led the team in rushing with 86 yards.

His 53-yard touchdown run was a season best, and was three yards short of his career long against South Dakota State in the regular season last year.

“The toughest offense to stop is a balanced attack,” Jensen said.

Etc. etc. etc.

Bohl said he wasn’t immediately aware of any injuries, although there was some concern with the shoulder of offensive lineman Zack Johnson. Initial reports were he’ll be OK. … NDSU lost the time-of-possession battle for one of the few times in the last couple of years. Furman had the edge 31:08-28:52.

Jeff Kolpack
Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.