FARGO -- Now comes the test, an exam that North Dakota State failed last season.
It's a simple and predictable yes-or-no question that comes following a victory over an upper-division Division I Bowl Subdivision foe: Will there be a letdown?
NDSU defeated the University of Minnesota 37-24 last week and hosts Illinois State on Saturday. Last year, the Bison followed their win over the University of Kansas with a lackluster performance at Northern Iowa.
"I know some people are drawing comparisons to last year when we played UNI coming off the Kansas win," said Bison tight end Matt Veldman. "I can see where people can draw those comparisons, but I feel like that's not the case this year. I feel like we're a more mature team."
NDSU, since moving to the Division I Championship Subdivision in 2005, is batting .750 with games following FBS wins, including a two-for-two performance in 2007. The win over Central Michigan was ensued by a 41-28 win at Western Illinois. A 52-17 thrashing at home against Southern Utah came after the Gopher victory.
The Bison's first FBS win, an upset at Ball State (Ind.) in 2006, was followed by a 17-9 win at Stephen F. Austin (Texas),
The blip came last year. NDSU opened the season with a 6-3 shocker at Kansas. But Northern Iowa made the Bison look virtually helpless on offense the following week with a 16-9 win.
"We know those are just for show," Bison linebacker Brandon Jemison said of the FBS wins. "It's good for a confidence builder, but we have to bring it every week."
The Bison players and coaches have repeated already this week that the No. 1 team goal is to win the Missouri Valley Football Conference. NDSU has yet to finish over .500 in the league and has a combined 10-14 record in its three years.
The Bison made the FCS playoffs last year despite tying for third in the Missouri Valley at 4-4.
"And 4-4 can't win this conference," said Bison cornerback Marcus Williams. "It's not going to be easy and we have to be focused from Day 1."
One of the problems is that first game. The Bison have lost every conference opener, albeit, all three were on the road -- at Youngstown State in 2008, Southern Illinois in 2009 and UNI last year.
Kolpack is a sports writer at the Fargo Forum