Bison will try to stop BellIt’s the same task, different year for the North Dakota State defense today: stop Shakir Bell.
By: By Jeff Kolpack, Forum Communications Co., The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — It’s the same task, different year for the North Dakota State defense today: stop Shakir Bell.
Or at least try to hold the Indiana State star running back to manageable numbers. That was the key last year in NDSU’s 27-16 win in Terre Haute, Ind., when the Bison held Bell to a season low 79 yards rushing.
Bell went on to become a top-three finalist for the Walter Payton Award that goes to the top offensive player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision. He’s rattling off another fine season this year, averaging 156.2 yards a game that ranks him third in the country.
At 5-foot-8 but a solid and powerful 185 pounds, NDSU is well aware of his combination of speed and strength.
“He packs a punch when he hits you,” said NDSU linebacker Grant Olson. “You usually don’t think small guys like that can run over you, but he can so it’s going to be a fun challenge for us.”
Bell has eight touchdowns this season and 24 for his career. He’s already at 3,256 yards for his career, and his 349 yards rushing against Drake University (Iowa) earlier this year was an all-time Missouri Valley Football Conference record.
The key, Olson said, is making sure every Bison defender does their job.
“You know he’s going to break some tackles and we’re going to need the second and third guys to get there to him,” he said. “The first guy is going to have to try and wrap him up, and the second guy is going to have to get there to help bring him down.”
South Dakota State found the answer earlier this year when the Jackrabbits won 24-10 on ISU’s home turf. Bell was held to 54 yards on 18 carries, prompting a question to Bison head coach Craig Bohl this week on how the Jackrabbits did it.
“Great question,” he said. “As I watched the film, they always had gap control and everybody was where they were supposed to be. And they took good pursuit angles.”
Vraa’s TD reception a bucket list event for him
NDSU receiver Zach Vraa was at a friend’s house watching ESPN SportsCenter last Saturday night after the Bison defeated Youngstown State 48-7 when he was asked to go downstairs. About 15 to 20 seconds later, he heard everybody yelling upstairs.
Vraa left right before the network’s top 10 college football plays of the day were aired.
“I thought, ‘It must have been a really cool play,’ “ Vraa said.
It was cool. It was also his play. The 46-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Brock Jensen on a flea-flicker play was No. 9 on the ESPN list.
“So I stayed up another hour and watched it myself,” Vraa said. “It was definitely on my bucket list.”
NDSU leads six Valley teams in first GPI poll
Predictably, NDSU opened the initial Gridiron Power Index poll in the No. 1 spot this week with its 5-0 record including a win over Football Bowl Subdivision Colorado State.
Montana State and Eastern Washington of the Big Sky Conference were No. 2 and 3 respectively followed by Old Dominion and California Poly.
Kolpack is a sports writer at the Fargo Forum