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Menard inching his way toward coveted NDSU defensive record

North Dakota State's Greg Menard celebrates a sack against Youngstown State on Saturday, Nov. 3, 2018, at the Fargodome. David Samson / Forum News Service

FARGO - For four years now, visiting teams at North Dakota State football games have consistently forgotten to announce a member of the offensive backfield. Bison defensive end Greg Menard has been around the quarterbacks and running backs so often it’s almost like he’s part of the offense.

It’s to the point now where Menard is within sight of a coveted NDSU defensive record: most quarterback sacks in a career. He’s five away from tying a trio of leaders at 41: Jerry Dahl (1973-74), Phil Hansen (1987-90) and Kyle Emanuel (2011-14).

“It’s something I’m thinking about,” Menard said. “It was definitely one of my goals at the beginning of the season so I’m just trying to slowly climb up there.”

He'll get at least two more chances in the regular season starting with Saturday afternoon's game at Missouri State. Hansen is all for Menard in overtaking the mark. As a radio analyst for Bison games, he’s described many Menard's 36 quarterback sacks in detail.

“I hope somebody breaks the record as an individual so we don’t have to share it,” Hansen said.

On an analytical note, Hansen says Menard has the same trait of his former teammate Bruce Smith with the Buffalo Bills: the ability to quickly get off the line of scrimmage at the snap of the ball. Smith parlayed that gift into an NFL Hall of Fame career.

That’s not to mean Menard will be an NFL player like Smith, but at the NCAA Division I FCS level, it’s hard to contain his quickness and explosion.

“I don’t recall seeing a guy get off the ball like he does,” Hansen said. “It’s a huge advantage for any pass rusher.”

It’s an advantage Hansen said he tried to develop in his 11 years with the Buffalo Bills. It’s not easy.

“It’s probably some quick-twitch muscle fiber between your brain and your muscle,” Hansen said. “It just happens so fast. I never could do it and you don’t see it very often.”

Menard had 1.5 sacks in the 17-7 win over Youngstown State last Saturday. A player gets a half a sack when he and a teammate reach the quarterback at about the same time.

Dahl’s record is a freak show of sorts with his total considering he played just two years. He had 31 his senior year. With Menard leading the way, the Bison lead the Missouri Valley Football Conference with 29 in nine games. NDSU is eighth in the FCS at 3.22 per game.

Emanuel had 19.5 sacks his senior year when he was named the winner of the Buck Buchanan Award that goes to the best defensive player in the FCS. That came during Menard’s freshman season.

Menard has also heard Hansen speak to the team. He’s researched the former Bison great and knows all about his career.

“It’s just an honor to be in the same sentence as a guy like him,” Menard said. “And Kyle, knowing what kind of season he had and what kind of player he is, just seeing him with my own eyes and kind of being close (to that record) is really cool.”

NDSU has experimented with moving Menard around on the line during passing situations. He’s been given the freedom to line up anywhere, and not necessarily in a down position.

“Good pass rushers bring it on every down,” Hansen said. “But they also have so many complements around them. You can’t isolate on one guy because there are so many good pass rushers. You double team (Menard) and somebody else will come up. It’s a team effort and you need a lot of guys to contribute.”

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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