ACL injuries adding up in the early going for Bison football team

By Jeff Kolpack

Forum News Service

FARGO — It’s turning into a club nobody wants to belong to. North Dakota State may have won the football game in a big way over Mississippi Valley State on Saturday night, Sept. 2, but the Bison lost three more players to knee injuries.

Left tackle Dillon Radunz, who was making a push to be a starter, and backup running back Demaris Purifoy both were lost for the season with ACL tears bringing the total ACL count at NDSU to three. That includes defensive end Greg Menard who went down in practice in early August.

NDSU also lost backup safety Jaxon Brown for six weeks with a PCL issue in his knee in the 72-7 win over the Delta Devils at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

“We’ve been in this situation before,” said head coach Chris Klieman. “As Gus Bradley told us three years ago when he came here to see us, when Murphy hits you attack Murphy and we have to be able to do that. We’ll move forward with the players we have. I feel bad for the three kids that did get hurt. Obviously that’s a big blow, especially early in the season.”

The three ACL injuries were all of the non-contact variety. Purifoy was making a cut after getting a handoff and went down. Radunz was making a cut on a block during a play.

“Dylan is a special talent,” Klieman said. “He played 15 plays and dominated 15 plays.”

Klieman said there’s no real common denominator with the injuries. They came on different playing surfaces.

“You see the same thing in the NFL,” he said. “Other schools are having the same issue, maybe not as much as us or maybe more than us, I don’t know. There are so many non-contact injuries. They’re all freak deals. Athletes are bigger, stronger, faster at all levels and that’s something that concerns everybody at every level of football.”

The Radunz injury means the Bison will probably tap into their offensive line depth earlier than planned. Redshirt freshmen Cordell Volson, Zach Kubas and Karson Schoening all played between 35 and 40 snaps against the Delta Devils,

Bacon has moved over to left tackle to back up starter Colin Conner. Bacon is a 6-foot-5, 299-pound junior from Granville, N.D.

“It puts a lot more on Luke Bacon,” Klieman said. “Luke is our Joe Haeg. Luke played left tackle; he hadn’t played a snap of left tackle all camp. Only position he can’t play is center.”

Brown was the backup to starting free safety Tre Dempsey. Senior Darren Kelley has moved into that spot.

The attention has squarely shifted to Eastern Washington. The 3 p.m. (CST) non-conference clash at Roos Field in Cheney is huge in that both teams are looking for an FCS statement win early in the season.

The Eagles are coming off a 56-10 loss at Texas Tech last Saturday. It’s one of five Missouri Valley vs. Big Sky conference matchups. Northern Iowa hosts Cal Poly, Western Illinois travels to Northern Arizona, Missouri State is at North Dakota and South Dakota State plays at Montana State. NDSU was ranked second, SDSU fourth, UND 11th and UNI tied for 21st in Monday’s FCS coaches top 25 poll.

Eastern Washington is tied for sixth.

“I know for us, it’s a pivotal game,” Klieman said. “The fact this is as tough of a non-conference game we’ve had in a great environment. Montana was really excellente environment as well. This one will rank right up there in that this is a perennial top five team, a team that you always know will be in there at the end of the season so it’s really important for our league to show well this weekend.”