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Kolpack: Bring on the Missouri Valley Football Conference, thank heavens

North Dakota State's Derrek Tuszka forces a fumble on Deleware quarterback Pat Kehoe as teammate Caleb Butler scoops up the football on Saturday at the Fargodome. David Samson / Forum News Service1 / 2
North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick leaps against Deleware's Nasir Adderley on Saturday at the Fargodome. David Samson / Forum News Service2 / 2

FARGO — The buses to carry the University of Delaware's football team from Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome to nearby Hector International Airport could have started before the second quarter began Saturday, Sept. 22. On that note, the charter plane to fly the team back to Newark, Del., could have began preboarding operations at halftime.

The first non-conference regular season matchup between North Dakota State and anybody from the Colonial Athletic Association was over before the Gold Star alumni band got going at halftime. It was homecoming and the home cookin' was hot right away.

This was supposed to be a four-quarter game. This was supposed to be the benchmark test of non-conference play. It didn't even last 15 minutes and the Bison went on to take a 38-10 victory that wasn't that close before 18,883 fans Saturday afternoon.

Even Vince Papale and his great story that inspired the movie "Invincible" couldn't have saved his son Vinny Papale's Blue Hens team in the first two quarters.

Here's how decisive NDSU's 35-point first half was: The Bison got the ball after a Delaware punt with 3 minutes, 16 seconds left in the second quarter. Instead of some sort of hurry-up offense, they started a drive with five straight running plays. Not only that, they were up-the-middle, run-the-clock-out type stuff. And NDSU still almost scored coming within inches of the goal line when receiver Darrius Shepherd was ruled down on the last play of the half.

NDSU already called the dogs off.

"I don't wish that on your worst enemy," said Delaware head coach Danny Rocco. "We found ourselves in the worst possible position you could be in. A hostile environment. Unable to get a stop on the first drive and then a quick defensive score (Jabril Cox's interception for a touchdown). It's the formula for disaster. It certainly wasn't our mindset when we traveled up here to find ourself in that spot."

The Blue Hens didn't have to worry about the silent count on offense because of the dome crowd, since a good chunk of the locals had already left by halftime. It was 35-0 at that point and the thoughts had already turned to next week.

Before you get all giggly and giddy by making reservations for Frisco, may I remind you that nice trophy case in the Bison football office designed to hold the Dakota Marker hasn't seen the trophy in two years. The Marker will return to the dome next week, only it will be carried onto the field by someone from South Dakota State.

Bring on the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Thank heavens.

The staffs at Herd and Horns, Labby's Grill & Bar, Buffalo Wild Wings and Bison Turf could use more of a break between pregame and postgame festivities. Those are the bars around the dome that see the traffic from people leaving at halftime.

The Jackrabbits come to town with a team that has blown out their two opponents. It's hard to gauge how good the Jacks are. Montana State was a good win, since the Bobcats own a win over Western Illinois of the Missouri Valley.

There's no way to take anything away from the 90-6 win against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, which probably shouldn't play football. The Jacks could take a lesson from NDSU on how to call the dogs off.

It's unfortunate NDSU couldn't get an FBS matchup this season because this is a team, once again, that is very capable of matching up to a higher-subdivision foe. You can speculate all you want, but this team in a one-game matchup would beat most if not all of the Mid-American Conference, most of the Mountain West and several Big Ten schools.

The Valley is a different deal, however, just because of the week-to-week battles. It's a grind where you don't usually have to worry about when to call the dogs off. That's what I'll take from this non-conference slate.

You have to wonder if the Bison fans appreciate the ability of their team to turn the second half into a which-backups-are-out-there game.

"I'm pleased because in the three games that we've had, we've been able to play a lot of guys," said head coach Chris Klieman. "And I think that's going to help us maybe not next week, but over the next eight weeks."

Next week in all probability won't be like that. Or the week after that at Northern Iowa.

It's Valley time.

Like a lot of teams, NDSU has a 24-hour rule to either celebrate a victory or try to forget about a loss. With the Jacks coming, enjoying the Blue Hen win may get a challenge.

"We'll enjoy this one," said Bison quarterback Easton Stick. "We know what's coming in next, it's going to be a great challenge. The Valley is a grind. It's homecoming and there were a lot of alumni and former players we get to spend time with this weekend."

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. 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.

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