It’s a long, long week for any Bison defensive coordinator studying the triple option

FARGO — Glassy eyes with a little hint of red around the eyelids and a razor that hasn’t been used in a few days — it’s what you would expect by Thursday afternoon for a defensive coordinator in the heat of the FCS playoffs. Add to that preparing for a rare triple-option offense and North Dakota State’s Matt Entz has triple the thoughts on his mind.
It’s like cramming for a final exam when you haven’t been to class all semester.
Scottie Hazelton had that same look when he was the Bison defensive coordinator preparing for Georgia Southern’s offense in the 2011 playoffs. It was Chris Klieman, then the NDSU defensive coordinator, who was grinding during the week of the Georgia Southern 2012 semifinal game.
This week, Wofford College (S.C.) comes to Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome for an 11 a.m. quarterfinal game on Saturday, Dec. 9.
“We’ve seen it a few times here and there, it’s not something in this neck of the woods or this region where there are a lot of option teams you have to compete against,” Entz said. “So when we do see one, it’s different.”
In the details department, it’s different in that the Bison defense has to have somebody account for the fullback, somebody on a running back and somebody on the quarterback.
“There is no magical defense that stops everything,” Entz said. “We have to have kids that make plays.”
NDSU’s recent history against triple option teams is mixed. Safety Colten Heagle had 15 tackles and the Bison stopped GSU cold in the 35-7 win in 2011. In 2012, NDSU held Wofford without an offensive touchdown in the quarterfinal win. Georgia Southern, however, ran for 271 yards, although a late Brock Jensen touchdown gave the Bison a 23-20 victory in 2012.
In the 2016 season opener, Charleston Southern had some success rushing for 169 yards, but NDSU put together 424 yards of total offense in a 24-17 win.
Entz said NDSU has looked back to the Georgia Southern games, perhaps anticipating Wofford also looking at those clips and seeing what worked against the Bison.
“He’s probably here at 4 a.m. getting work in,” safety Robbie Grimsley said of Entz. “I’m sure he’s exhausted watching film.”
It’s all part of the job, Entz said, saying the biggest motivating factor for all the long hours is the players.
“Making sure our kids are ready to go and you have them as prepared as possible,” he said.
One of the main jobs in preparation belongs to true freshman Noah Sanders, who as the scout team quarterback is responsible for simulating Wofford starting quarterback Brandon Goodson. Sanders was a dual-threat quarterback at Apple Valley High School in the Twin Cities throwing for 1,875 yards and rushing for 706, so trying to play an option quarterback is an adjustment.
Entz said Sanders has been in the Bison offices watching film of Wofford and trying to understand the timing of the Terriers’ offense. NDSU moved linebacker Ross Kennelly to scout team fullback and moved the offensive tackles to guards to be more alike to Wofford. Kennelly was also a running back in high school in Superior, Wis.
“You just try to consume yourself with all the little things because their coaches have been running this offense for years,” Entz said. “They’re going to have answers. But we need to have some solutions as well on the sideline on Saturday.”