Mississippi Valley State may juggle its quarterback position
FARGO — The first Mississippi Valley State player mentioned in a preseason newspaper story about the team last week was quarterback Austin Bray, who played in all 11 games a year ago and threw for over 1,400 yards. But this week, he wasn’t on the roster.
That has left the battle for the starting quarterback job in the season opener against North Dakota State Saturday, Sept. 2, between four players, said offensive coordinator Ray Caldwell. It appears Jett Even, a transfer from Pasadena City College (Calif.), will get the opening-series nod.
Even was a backup last year at Pasadena, completing 26 of 46 passes for 318 yards. It was a stark contrast to his freshman season when he was 172 of 314 for 2,019 yards and 17 touchdowns.
Caldwell said freshmen Christopher Fowler from Apache Junction, Ariz., Dewayne Betts from Memphis and Allen Mills from Hayti, Mo., may also play.
“All those guys are battling and learning the offense,” Caldwell said. “It’s been an exciting camp seeing what those guys have done to understand the offense.”
Bridges making strides at CB
Bison tight end Jeff Illies will be held out while he continues to recover from a knee injury suffered early in practice. It’s also questionable how much backup cornerback Dom Davis will play because of a minor groin injury.
NDSU head coach Chris Klieman indicated cornerback Marquise Bridges will see the field more this year after making the switch from wide receiver last September.
The 5-foot-11, 182-pound sophomore from Minneapolis had a limited role on offense before making the switch. He redshirted in 2015.
“I thought he progressed enough in spring football to give him the opportunity,” Klieman said. “He’s athletic and extremely quick. He’s a guy who’s going to play a decent amount.”
He’ll most likely get in the game if the Bison go to five defensive backs, commonly called the nickel package. Starting cornerback Jaylaan Wimbush will be the nickel back, Klieman said.
NDSU adjusts parking
NDSU is expanding its parking for football games with the use of lots south of the Fargodome and the Sanford Health Athletic Complex. Tailgating will not be allowed in the lots, and consumption and possession of alcohol is prohibited. Cost is $5 per spot.
Earlier this summer, the athletic department announced 279 spots will be directed toward reserved tailgating on the west side of the dome. There are still 200 general admission tailgating spots that are first-come, first-serve on game day. Lineup for those spaces cannot begin earlier than 5 p.m. on Friday.
NDSU may have been unsuccessful in landing an FBS game this season, but others in the Missouri Valley Football Conference did just fine. A couple are taking advantage of localized mini-rivalries of sorts. Youngstown State is playing at Pittsburgh and Northern Iowa will try to make it two in a row at Iowa State.
Pitt has had its troubles with the Penguins. Youngstown pulled off the upset 31-17 in 2012. Two years ago, Pitt won 45-37 in head coach Bo Pelini’s debut as the Youngstown coach.
“I watched the film from that game the other day and maybe I want to burn it,” Pelini told the Youngstown Vindicator newspaper. “That was probably as bad as a defensive performance as I’ve ever been around in awhile.”
Iowa State wasn’t exactly a defensive hotbed last year in the UNI game. The Panthers rushed for 232 yards in a 25-20 win that was the debut of Cyclones head coach Matt Campbell. ISU also committed four turnovers.
“We were soul searching early in the season, through the midpoint of the season to what it took to be successful a year ago,” Campbell told the Ames Tribune newspaper. “To say it was our ineptness that allowed Northern Iowa to win is not fair because I thought they played a really good game. I think we have certainly matured and continued to grow.”
Missouri State has the other FBS league game when it travels to Missouri.