FARGO — Fear turned to reality on the knee of standout North Dakota State defensive lineman Spencer Waege. The senior tore his ACL and will be out the remainder of the season.
Not all is lost, however. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the NCAA granting an extra year of eligibility, Waege will return next season. Bison head coach Matt Entz said the hope is Waege will be cleared to resume workouts in early June.
His departure comes with the Missouri Valley Football Conference opener on deck at the University of North Dakota. Both teams are coming off a bye week with the Bison at 3-0 and the Fighting Hawks at 2-1.
It will be NDSU’s first game at the Alerus Center since 2003, the last year as a Division II school for the Bison. The separation of divisions led to both schools not playing each other until non-conference games in 2015 and 2019 and a Valley game last spring — all three at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
NDSU is 0-2 at the Alerus, which opened in 2001.
Waege’s absence means the Bison will test their depth on the defensive line. Either junior Tony Pierce or senior Logan McCormick will start at one defensive end spot opposite senior Brayden Thomas. Entz said junior Jake Kava from Fargo Shanley or redshirt freshman Loshiaka Roques may see bigger roles.
“We need a guy like Loshiaka Roques to hurry up and grow up,” Entz said. “One of the benefits of the spring is he got to play some games for us. … We’re going to have to find someone to come in and be productive.”
Entz left open the possibility of defensive tackle Will Mostaert moving to the end position if needed. He had two quarterback sacks in the 35-7 win at Towson (Md.) two weeks ago.
“Probably have some flexibility with him,” Entz said. “I think you’ll see us try to find the right combination as we move forward in the conference season.”
Linebacker James Kaczor is expected to return to the lineup after missing two games with a groin injury.
For one of the few times in FCS football, the Bison offense is expected to have to deal with potential communication issues in an opposing stadium. NDSU practiced at the dome with fan noise piped over the public address system in advance of the Towson game.
It was the home opener for Towson and a bigger-than-usual crowd was expected.
“Going into uncharted waters at a place we have never played before,” Entz said. “With all the hype of that game we wanted to make sure we were prepared for it. It’s something we’ve already addressed and will continue to address it in a number of periods throughout practice this week.”
The Alerus carries a capacity of 12,283. The inaugural Bison-UND game in 2001 drew a standing-room crowd of 13,500, which stands as the stadium record. The last time UND had a sellout was 2017 when 12,342 saw the Hawks play Montana State.
“From talking to our leadership group,” said Entz, referring to his veteran players, “we have a bunch of excited players champing at the bit to prepare for what will be a tough game on the road.”