Impressive opener: Defending champs Bison bash Robert MorrisMost of the receivers surrounding Brock Jensen on Gate City Bank Field were new, but that didn’t stop the junior quarterback from looking sharp.
By: By Eric Peterson, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
FARGO – Most of the receivers surrounding Brock Jensen on Gate City Bank Field were new, but that didn’t stop the junior quarterback from looking sharp.
Jensen passed for 217 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday night. That performance helped No. 1-ranked North Dakota State cruise to a 52-0 victory against Robert Morris University in Division I Football Championship Subdivision play.
“I think he’s throwing the ball pretty well,” Bison head coach Craig Bohl said.
The game was the season opener for both teams and was played in front of a sellout crowd of 18,769 fans. The Bison won in convincing fashion on a night when the team raised their national championship banner with last season’s Division FCS title included.
“Defending national champions, they are pretty good,” said Robert Morris quarterback Matt Layman. “We wanted to give them a game a little bit.”
The Colonials, however, were unable to hang with the Bison.
NDSU was stifling on defense and Jensen led an efficient offensive effort that balanced the run and the pass. He completed 16 of 23 passes, including touchdown throws of 1, 34 and 11 yards.
“I don’t think I got hit at all tonight which was pretty nice,” Jensen said.
Jensen built chemistry early in the game with sophomore receiver Zach Vraa, who missed all but one game last season with a broken collarbone. The 6-foot-2, 198-pound Vraa caught three passes for 62 yards in the first quarter, including an impressive 46-yard catch over the top of a Robert Morris defender.
“It felt really good, especially after last year,” said Vraa, who also broke his collarbone two years ago as a true freshman. “Every quarter I played, things felt better and better and better.”
Jensen threw touchdowns to tight end Taylor Nelson and wide receivers Ryan Smith and Trevor Gebhart. Vraa finished with a game-high 76 yards on four catches. Smith was the only target NDSU had returning that caught more than 10 passes a season ago. The Bison didn’t return any players who caught a touchdown pass last fall.
“He did really well,” Vraa said of Jensen. “He threw a lot of deep balls and a lot of short balls.”
Jensen tossed a 1-yard touchdown to Nelson off play action. That score gave NDSU a 7-0 lead with 8 minutes, 47 seconds to play in the first quarter. Jensen threw a nice deep ball to Smith for a 34-yard touchdown that gave the Bison a 31-0 lead with 9:09 to play in the third quarter. Jensen threw his final touchdown to Gebhart over the middle on a play that covered 11 yards. That staked the Bison to a 38-0 lead with 5:14 remaining in the third quarter.
While Vraa didn’t find the end zone against the Colonials, Jensen is confident he will be a big playmaker this season.
“He’s a tough kid and he’s got a lot of talent and he’s going to be a big receiver for us and make a lot of plays.”
Peterson is a sports writer at the Fargo Forum