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Bison freshman defensive lineman makes his case to get in rotation

FARGO — North Dakota State had already knocked the University of Delaware out by the time Brendan Cook made his presence felt last Saturday, Sept. 14. But just in case the outcome was in doubt in the fourth quarter, the Bison had their emergency plan in place on the defensive line.

The redshirt freshman defensive end traveled for the first time in his career in case “the game became a slugfest,” said Bison head coach Matt Entz.

“We needed to have a little bit bigger body there, and Brendan is a big, long kid,” Entz said. “He has a big, physical presence.”

The physical presence stands 6-foot-3 and 243 pounds, which puts him on the bigger side of the six defensive ends the Bison took on the trip. He got the news that he made the travel roster when Bison assistant coach Buddha Williams called him Sunday night.

Cook almost immediately grabbed his playbook and started studying it. Sleep was a tough commodity all week.

“Every night last week, I would just start thinking about the game, turn over again and it would be 4 a.m.,” Cook said. “I just said, all right, I don’t know if I’ll be sleeping again.”

Making the Delaware trip caught him a bit by surprise. Cook said he figured he would make the travel roster at some point this season, just not the first away game.

“You have to get in the rotation and that’s what I’m trying to do,” Cook said. “Work every day to get in the rotation so you’re getting a lot of snaps and producing for the team.”

Cook played seven snaps against Delaware. He made an impact in the fourth quarter when the Bison defense needed a boost.

After tackling running back Quincy Watson, he almost permanently stalled a Blue Hens drive when he sliced through the line of scrimmage and sacked quarterback Nolan Henderson.

“I saw the O-lineman had a pass demeanor so I was thinking pass but getting ready to play the run,” Cook said. “I just did the move I know best, all I saw was the quarterback throwing his arm back, I tried to reach out and grab it and I guess I got him.”

Henderson fumbled on the play, but Delaware teammate Connor Lutz recovered it.

“What a great play for a young redshirt freshman,” Entz said of Cook. “There are reasons why you practice those moments and to see him execute that in the middle of the game was critical for his development and for our coaches to know we can start leaning on him a little more.”

Cook had another tackle on the last play of the game and finished with three tackles and a quarterback sack. He was seventh on the team in tackles.

“It was awesome, I couldn’t be more excited to get my first game in,” Cook said. “I had been waiting for that moment for a very long time. That felt great to get out there even if it was seven snaps. I was just excited to get the opportunity.”

Cook is from Libertyville, Ill., a suburb located northwest of Chicago not far from the Wisconsin border. He had 16 Division I offers, including at least three at the FBS level and every Missouri Valley Football Conference school.

But when he got to NDSU last year, he found himself like most true freshmen toward the bottom of the depth chart. That changed last week. It helped that it was a nonconference game and the Bison dressed 73 players compared the maximum of 64 for league games.

NDSU was preparing for the possibility of Delaware going to a run-first physical game.

“That’s what we needed against a team that might line up two tight ends,” Entz said. “We’ve been fortunate we’ve been able to bring a few more people than normal.”