There is a certain type of football player North Dakota State likes to recruit. It's no secret what the Bison coaching staff looks for, according to YSU coach Eric Wolford.
"They recruit the same way they did at Nebraska when coach (Craig) Bohl was there," Wolford said. "They recruit big guys who like to work hard, lift weights, play tough and don't make mistakes. Nebraska won a lot of football games that way and that's what they're doing with their program."
It shows. NDSU is unbeaten at 9-0 and 6-0 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and is the nation's top-ranked Football Championship Subdivision team.
The Associated Press
YSU’s Jamaine Cook is dragged down by UNI’s Wilmot Wellington (20), Varmah?Sonie (4) and James Conley (32) last week.
One of those victories was a convincing 37-24 road win at Minnesota.
"If you didn't know what the school colors were in the Minnesota-North Dakota State game, you would've thought North Dakota State was the Big Ten team," Wolford said. "I can say that because I've coached in the Big Ten. I'm not pulling your leg when I say it.
"They're a big football team. They're proud of how big they are."
Indeed, NDSU lists the average weight of its offensive line (306 pounds), backs (205), receivers (220), defensive line (270), linebackers (217) and defensive backs (199) in its weekly news release.
The Penguins (5-4, 3-3 MVFC) had Northern Iowa - another physically imposing conference power - on the ropes last week, but couldn't keep the ball in the fourth quarter to close out the Panthers.
Wolford made a point this week of stressing the need to finish games.
YSU has a strong ground game with junior tailback Jamaine Cook and a solid offensive line. The Penguins have a smart, young quarterback in sophomore Kurt Hess and several receiving targets.
But YSU wasn't able to move the chains when it counted at the UNI-Dome. There have been other instances during Wolford's two seasons that the Penguins stayed close but lost.
"I get really frustrated playing close," he said. "We've got to become better closers. We've closed games on defense. Against Southern Illinois, we closed it on special teams. ... I'm used to having the football and closing the game out and being able to grind it out, get in victory formation and call it a day."
YSU's players and coaches believe the Penguins still have a chance to make the playoffs if they can upset NDSU and beat Missouri State in the regular-season finale at home to finish 7-4.
Senior defensive end Obinna Ekeweremuba called today's game YSU's championship. Wolford agreed.
"We have nothing lose. Let it all hang out," he said.