FARGO — The improvements North Dakota State defensive tackle Matt Biegler made since his freshman year were steady if not in some cases dramatic since walking on from Underwood, Minn. This month was supposed to be the nonconference test run for a senior year that holds so much promise.
No University of Oregon. No two home games with a full Gate City Bank Fargodome and tailgate lot. All canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, something that Biegler had to tackle over the summer like a running back being stuffed in the backfield.
He was one of the several NDSU student-athletes to test positive.
“To me it felt like the flu,” Biegler said. “It wasn’t anything too crazy but I did have some symptoms so it wasn’t like I was asymptomatic or anything. I was upset that I got it just because I didn’t want to be out, but it happened, I’m glad to be back and now I should be good for the game so that’s good.”
It sidelined him for about 10 days of summer workouts, although he worked out on his own at home after a few days.
“So I was able to keep in somewhat decent shape,” Biegler said.
He’s back to 283 pounds of defensive tackle shape on a Bison defense that has its sights set on the Oct. 3 game with Central Arkansas. He feels stronger than last year. It’s the lone game for NDSU this fall with the Missouri Valley Football Conference season moved to the spring.
Biegler played a noticeable role in all 16 victories last season starting three games. He had 27 tackles with 4.5 of those going for lost yardage. He recovered one fumble, a big one since it led to a Bison touchdown in the win at South Dakota State.
He’s the lone veteran senior of the interior group alongside returning juniors Costner Ching and Lane Tucker and sophomore Dylan Evans. Redshirt freshmen Eli Mostaert and Javier Derritt played fewer than four games last season to preserve a year of eligibility.
“I’m feeling pretty confident with the guys we have,” Biegler said.
Biegler in theory could have another year of eligibility after the NCAA ruled this season will not count because of the pandemic. It’s a decision he said he’s in no hurry to make with the current focus on Central Arkansas.
Academics would be the major deciding factor. Biegler graduated last spring with a degree in electrical engineering and is currently taking graduate classes. He’s a two-time recipient of the Missouri Valley Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award.
“I’m trying to figure out academically what I would do if I were to stay and what would happen if I didn’t stay,” he said. “Just trying to plan two different paths and figure out which one is best for me.”
NDSU has 17 seniors who could face a similar dilemma, although it’s doubtful many would return. Offensive tackle Dylan Radunz will play at the Central Arkansas game and get ready for the NFL Draft.
Linebacker Aaron Mercadel is in his sixth year of school and said he’s moving on. Twelve other seniors besides Radunz and Biegler are in their fifth year of school.
“Maybe it will be a topic among the players once the (UCA) game is over,” Biegler said.
The Bison have yet to get into full game preparation mode for the Bears, currently treating practice like spring football. In essence, the coaching staff has flipped the seasons of spring ball vs. a regular fall season with the Central Arkansas game being the pinnacle.
The UCA game, however, represents more of a landmark than the traditional end-of-spring scrimmage.
“In the spring we got that scrimmage and it wasn’t that big of a deal,” Biegler said, “so we’re looking forward to that game and once we start preparing for them it will be a different feeling. It’s kind of like spring but it has that fall camp vibe to it.”