Text by Joe Kerlin
Photo by J. Alan Paul Photography
“Back-to-back! Back-to-back!” The chant rang out through FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas following the Bison second FCS Championship in as many years. Emulating last season’s success was no easy feat for the young Bison team, as they overcome obstacles both on and off the field. They started with the obliteration of Robert Morris and ended by raising the hardware in Frisco. Throughout the ups and downs, it was quite a ride for the Herd. Join us, as we take a look back at the 2012 Bison and their journey towards back-to-back championships.
Robert Morris Colonials 9/1 52-0
The Bison didn’t miss a beat coming-off their 9th National Championship crushing Robert Morris 52-0 in the 2012 season opener. The offense hit the ground running, flying down the field to end their first possession with a touchdown by Taylor Nelson from Brock Jensen. It was the first of three touchdown via the air for the second year starter. A defense littered with new faces quieted any doubters allowing only 88 yards of total offense and forcing the Colonials into committing three turnovers. It was the first shutout of an opening opponent since 2004 when the Bison spanked Valparaiso by the same score, 52-0.
This was the first game played on the new turf at the Fargodome. It was later replaced after the game due to issues with the under layer.
3: The total number of touchdowns thrown by Brock Jensen.
22: The total amount of yards rushing gained by RMU.
495: The number of total yards gained by the Bison offense.
Colorado State Rams 9/8 22-7
Things got off to a rocky start in Fort Collins when the Bison found themselves down by a touchdown early against the Rams. The offense showed a lot of poise answering with a touchdown of their own. Sam Ojuri powered his way into the endzone from six yards out to tie the game at 7-7. A big hit delivered by Cole Jirick resulted in a safety for the Rams late in the 1st quarter giving the Bison the 9-7 lead. Key first-downs and third-down conversions kept the chains moving as the Bison offense chewed up most of the clock in the second half. The Bison past their first test of the season, ultimately preparing them for the road ahead.
Thousands of Bison fans traveled over 830 miles from Fargo to Fort Collins, Colorado to see the Bison play their only FBS opponent of the year.
81: The total number of offensive plays for the Bison.
135: The total number of return yards accumulated by Marcus Williams.
6-3: Record for the Bison against FBS opponents
Prairie View A&M Panthers 9/22 66-7
Still riding high two weeks after their victory at Colorado St., the following game against Prairie View was over before the crowd of 18,623 could find their seats. The Bison beat the Panthers into submission in the first two quarters, going into halftime with a 45-0 lead, the biggest point margin going into the half since 2001. Sophomore Zach Vraa had a career day, hauling in not one, but two touchdown passes from Brock Jensen. The blowout of the Panthers was the final tune-up before the Bison started their difficult conference schedule.
This was the Bison’s first meeting against Prairie View A&M in school history.
605: The total number of yards gained by the Bison offense.
30: The number of first downs gained by the Bison
200: The total number of yards gained by the Panther offense.
Northern Iowa Panthers 9/29 33-21
In the highly anticipated Missouri Valley opener, the Bison made a statement taking care of the Panthers at the UniDome. MVC Newcomer of the Week, running back John Crockett, had his coming out party putting the run game on his back, propelling the Bison to their first conference win. The Bison defense played another stellar game causing three Panther turnovers, two coming the way of fumble recoveries that quickly led to Bison points. Another dominating performance by the defense gained the momentum the Bison needed to get through MVC play.
It was the first Bison victory @ Northern Iowa since 1976.
4: The number of field goals made by kicker Adam Keller, tying a school record.
122: The number of yards John Crockett had on his way to conference Newcomer of the week.
22: The number of completions for Brock Jensen, a season-high.
243: Passing yards for Brock Jensen a career-high
Youngstown State Penguins 10/6 48-7
Marcus Williams 98-yard pick-6 swung the momentum in the Bison favor as they stormed past the #3 Penguins. In his first career start, John Crockett ran wild helping the Bison avenge last seasons loss to the Penguins. Ryan Smith added to the blowout with an impressive punt return for a touchdown ripening his seven reception day. Along with the big plays, the pageantry of the Homecoming festivities kept the atmosphere rocking. The Bison improved their winning streak to 10 games in front of a record breaking crowd at the Fargodome.
YSU defeated the Bison last year, 24-27. It was the Bison’s only loss last season.
19,065: The number of people in attendance at the Fargodome.
76: The number of yards Ryan Smith gained on his punt return for a touchdown.
49: The distance on Adam Keller’s 3rd quarter field goal, a career high.
7-0: The Bison’s record against ranked opponents
Indiana State 10/13 Sycamores 14-17
Johnny Towalid, a name Bison fans will remember for awhile, had a career day for the Sycamores returning two of Jensen’s interceptions back for touchdowns in front of a stunned Fargodome crowd. The Bison made it close with nine minutes left when Brock Jensen scored from a yard out and added a two-point conversion to put the Bison down three. Any hopes of a comeback were diminished when Larry King stepped in front of a Jensen pass to clinch the 17-14 upset. The offense was a no show against a feisty Sycamore defense that caused Jensen to throw his first three interceptions of the year.
Johnny Towalid was named College Football Performance Awards FCS Defensive Back of the Year. He shared the honors with Missouri State’s Caleb Schaffitzel, who also returned an interception for a touchdown against the Bison this season.
2: The number of interceptions Johnny Towalid brought back for touchdowns.
140: The number of passing attempts in-a-row Brock Jensen had before throwing an interception in the second quarter.
197: Total number of yards gained for the Sycamore offense.
South Dakota Coyotes 10/20 54-0
The Bison rebounded quickly from their loss to Indiana St. by pounding the Coyotes in Sioux Falls, 54-0. Jensen bounced back from a sub-par effort against the Sycamores by doing what he does best—barreling into the endzone. Jensen rushed for two touchdowns and passed for another two as the Coyotes had no answer for a revitalized Bison offense. The Bison attacked the Coyotes all night and went onto pitch their second shutout of the season. Many of the Bison backups logged a substantial amount of playing time including Zach Colvin, who had a 12-yard interception return for a touchdown.
The victory over South Dakota was the 50th all-time for the Bison against the Coyotes. The first meeting with USD ended in a tie, 6-6, back in 1900
36: The number of Missouri Valley Games it took for the Bison to shutout a Missouri Valley opponent.
4: The number of first downs by South Dakota
76: The total number of yards gained by the Coyotes
Southern Illinois Saulukies 10/27 23-17
It took a valiant 4th quarter comeback and some trickeration, but the Bison came away victorious against a stingy Southern Illinois team with a 23-17 victory. After tying the game early in the fourth on a Derrick Lang touchdown run, the Bison took the lead on their next possession with a five yard touchdown scamper from John Crockett. The Bison’s late offensive surge was the difference as Marcus Williams sealed the victory with another big time interception late.
Down seven early in the fourth quarter, running back Darrick Lang took a direct snap, handed the ball off to Trevor Gebhart who then handed it to Brock Jensen who launched the ball down the field to Andrew Oakland for a 50-yard completion.
55: The number of yards gained by SIU in the second half.
40:48: The number of minutes the Bison had in time of possession.
50: The number of yards gained on a double-reverse pass from Jensen to Andrew Oakland.
Missouri State Bears 11/3 21-17
After another shaky start by the offense, Jensen settled down and led the Bison to a four point victory over Missouri St. The Bison defense was at it again as the D-line harassed the opposing offense yet again proving that they were the best in the nation. The defense corralled the Bears quarterback for three sacks led by Kyle Emmanuel. The star defensive end also recovered a fumble leading to Ojuri’s eventual game-winning touchdown in the third quarter.
Missouri State quarterback Kierra Harris rushing touchdown in the third quarter was one of five rushing touchdowns allowed by the Bison all season. The least amount of rushng TD’s allowed in the country.
149: The total number of yards allowed by the Bison defense.
22: The number of passing yards for Missouri State’s Kierra Harris.
7: The number of 100-yard games by Sam Ojuri in his career.
South Dakota State Jackrabbits 11/10 20-17
The first meeting between the Jacks this year was everything a rivalry game is supposed to be. SDSU came into the Fargodome smoking hot, but the Bison had the formula to extinguish the Jacks. The Bison defense stumped the Jack’s offense all afternoon, sacking quarterback Austin Sumner five times. The defense also held the Missouri Valley rushing leader, Zach Zenner, to 43 yards. Jensen led the offense with both his arm and his legs capturing the Dakota Marker for the third straight year.
In their first meeting back in 1903, the Bison defeated SDSU 85-0.
43: Rushing yards by SDSU’s running back Zach Zenner, a season low.
17: Combined tackles for linebackers Grant Olson and Travis Beck.
56: The number of yards gained by Brock Jensen during his career-long run in the 3rd quarter.
Illinois State Redbirds 11/17 38-20
After falling behind by ten in the 1st quarter, the Bison quickly responded when Marcus Williams took a kickoff back 98 yards for a touchdown. Finding themselves down again early in the fourth, the Bison captured their first lead when Jensen pushed his way into the end zone. However, they didn’t stop there, eventually scoring a total of 21 points in the fourth quarter. The air raid provided by the Redbirds offense wasn’t enough to keep the Bison from winning their first outright MVC Championship.
Illinois State quarterback Matt Brown was voted Missouri Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Year.
274: Total number of yards of rushing by the Bison.
62: The average amount of yards per kick return by the Bison
12-0: The Bison’s record on the road the past two seasons
South Dakota State Jackrabbits 12/1 28-3
In the Bison’s opening game of the FCS playoffs, with the game locked at 7-7, Bison Offensive Coordinator Brett Vigan dug deep into the playbook looking to catch the Jacks sleeping. Ryan Smith took the hand off from Brock Jensen, hesitated for a few seconds behind his linemen and ran 32 yards unscathed into the endzone with no Jack defenders in sight. Smith wasn’t the only making plays for the Bison when once again, the defense held up against the Jack’s powerful running game, cruising to victory in the second round.
Jack’s runnning back Zach Zenner led the Missouri Valley Conference in rushing with 2,044.
21: Total net yards rushing for SDSU.
2: The number of receiving touchdowns for tight end Garrett Bruhn.
100: The number of times NDSU has played SDSU. The Bison lead the series 55-40-5.
Wofford Terriers 12/8 14-7
The Bison knew coming into the game against Wofford that it was going to be a dogfight for all four quarters and it was a dogfight they got from the Terriers. The Bison defense stepped-up exceptionally and contained the ground and pound running style from Wofford’s Walter Payton award finalist, Eric Breitenstein. The Bison offense dished out some blows of their own with the last one coming as the eventual game winner when Jensen connected with Vraa for a touchdown late in the first half. The Bison defense proved yet again why they were ranked number one in the country, holding Wofford without a single offensive touchdown.
Wofford running back Eric Breitenstein finished in third place for the Walter Peyton Award, FCS Player of the Year.
29: Total tackles for Bison middle linebacker Grant Olson, a school record.
234.5: The average number of yards allowed per game by the Bison defense. Good enough to rank number one in the country.
61: Total points allowed in the second half
Georgia Southern Eagles 23-20
In arguably the best game the Fargodome has ever seen, the Bison advanced to their second FCS championship in a nail biter against Georgia Southern. With the Eagles up 20-16 late in the fourth quarter, the Bison were facing a fourth and three when Jensen called his own number surging ahead for the go-ahead touchdown. With 34 second left and the Bison up three, it was Carleton Littlejohn’s turn to play hero as he blocked the Eagles 50-yard field goal attempt that would have sent the game into overtime. It was back to Frisco yet again for the Bison.
By The Numbers:
The Bison defeated Georgia Southern in the 2011 semi-finals, 35-7.
3: The total number of blocked kicks in the game.
189: Combined rushing yards by Crockett, Jensen and Ojuri.
430: The total number of yards gained on offense by GSU, the most the Bison gave up all year.
235: Total number of points scored by the Bison in the second half
Sam Houston State Bearkats 39-13
For the second straight year, Bison Nation invaded Frisco, Texas and for the second year in-a-row, they came away victorious. The journey was completed and in-front of more than 10,000 rowdy Bison faithful, the Herd played like true champions. The Bison scored 29 points in the second half alone to put the Bearkats away. Green and gold flooded FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco making it no question who was the best fan base in the nation. It was the Bison’s 10th time being crowned national champs and something tells us that they will be looking to add to that total in 2013.
The Bison defeated Sam Houston in the 2011 FCS Championship Game, 17-6
300: The total number of rushing yards by the Bison.
18: The number of interceptions by Williams in his career, a school record.
10-1: The Bison’s record in the FCS playoffs.