With UND on deck, Bison still had full attention on Butler

FARGO (FNS) — Last week was one to remember for the North Dakota State football team and its fan base. By all accounts, the victory over Butler University (Ind.) at Target Field in Minneapolis was a success for both the players and the program.

The 57-10 win was the debut for new head coach Matt Entz. The 34,544 fans who showed up at the home of the Minnesota Twins made for an impressive impression in the Twin Cities. There were, however, four words that were left out of the conversation by the Bison players and coaches in the days leading up to the Butler game.

University of North Dakota.

If you’re Entz, that’s a good thing. It was apparent the Bison players did not look past nonscholarship Butler with the in-state Division I FCS clash on deck.

“I think I made the comment last week that I think right now we have so many new faces out there that they’re just worried about the next day,” Entz said. “And that’s the way we want them. We talk about it, we only have one game per week and we’re going to make sure it’s a priority.”

The Fighting Hawks are the priority this week and the teams will kick it off at 2:30 p.m. Saturday at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. It will be the last nonconference matchup between the two programs before UND enters into Missouri Valley Football Conference play next year.

It will only be the second Division I game following a 34-9 Bison win in 2015. On the whole, it will be the 112th meeting in the 10th-most played series in Division I FCS football.

To call it a renewed rivalry is questionable, however. At least until both teams get into the Valley and the game will have conference implications.

The only player on NDSU’s roster that played in the 2015 game is running back Dimitri Williams, who was a true freshman that season. Entz, when asked if more people asked him about Butler or UND heading into the season, pointed to the destination game.

“That was probably more talked about,” Entz said, “dependent I’m sure on what part of the state I was in that day, too.”

The Bison have won 22 straight games, a streak that is entering its third season. It’s the second-longest winning streak in Valley history behind NDSU’s 33 in a row from 2012-14 and is tied with Harvard (2013-15) for fifth longest in FCS history.

NDSU’s injury list was still questionable as of Monday afternoon. Entz said he’ll find out more about tight end Ben Ellefson (foot) and defensive end Spencer Waege (foot) at some point this week. He did not know the status of kicker Jake Reinholz, who injured a quadriceps muscle on the opening kickoff.

“We have some kids that are banged up a little bit,” Entz said. “One of the nice things about Saturday; we didn’t have to play everyone as long as you might in a tight contest.”

For instance, starting left tackle Dillon Radunz played only 36 snaps. On defense, the most any one player played was 40 snaps.

“That’s always an added bonus when you can create a lead and maintain it,” Entz said.

Six true freshmen played in the Butler game: kicker Griffin Crosa, wide receiver Jake Lippe, safety Julian Wlodarczyk, tight end Travis Yohnke, running back Kobe Johnson and defensive tackle Javier Derritt.

Crosa was a perfect 7 of 7 on extra-point kicks and Johnson had six carries for 63 yards.