The last time NDSU played on grass was last trip to Frisco
FRISCO, Texas — The last time North Dakota State played on a grass field, Carson Wentz was improving his stock that made him the No. 2 overall draft pick in the National Football League. The scene, at Toyota Stadium in the 2015 Football Championship Subdivision title game, should look familiar to the Bison this week.
As NDSU found out in the 2013 championship game, a grass field — even in Texas — can take some tender loving care. Workers were behind schedule on Thursday, Jan. 4, in getting the field painted in advance of Saturday’s title clash with James Madison University, but were expected to complete it with a day to spare.
Like 2013, the weather hasn’t cooperated in north Texas. The temperature dipped below freezing for four straight days.
“And that’s very rare here,” said Allen Reed, director of stadium grounds at Toyota.
To combat the low temps, blankets covered the field overnight to keep it from freezing. That was the cause of the 2013 fiasco when NDSU and Towson continually ripped up clumps of turf.
“The heat is trapped in the soil right now,” Reed said. “(The blankets) don’t allow that heat to escape. It’s kind of like you get really cold on a clear night and you don’t get as cold on a cloudy night because the clouds keep that heat in.”
Reed said the field is in great shape and ready to go. He said Toyota Stadium does more work on the turf in the fall than it used to, so the field isn’t re-sodded anymore. That was another problem in 2013.
The Bison, meanwhile, spent Wednesday and Thursday getting used to running on grass again. The last time they were able to use their grass practice field before it froze was the week of the Nov. 18 Illinois State game.
They’ve been working out either at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome or the indoor bubble over Dacotah Field since then.
“I grew up on grass, but some of the guys have only played on turf and they just have to get used to it,” said Bison tight end Connor Wentz. “All the fundamentals of breaking down in the route, you have to re-learn all of that.”
Neither team will be able to get on the Toyota Stadium turf until warmups on Saturday morning. The adjacent practice fields, although grass, weren’t in the best shape because of the cold temps.
“A little Texas frozen ground,” said senior noseguard Aaron Steidl. “Thawed on top and frozen underneath about a half inch down. We were slipping around, kind of like the big mud bowl with Illinois State.”
NDSU’s last regular season game on grass was 2015 at South Dakota State, before the Jackrabbits renovated their stadium. All 10 Missouri Valley Football Conference schools have artificial turf.
That’s not the case with JMU, which played four games on natural grass at Rhode Island, Delaware, East Carolina and Elon.
“It’s been almost two years since I’ve been on it so it might be a little different,” Wentz said of Toyota. “When we get out there on Saturday, we’ll get a feel for it and it will feel good.”