McFeely: Bison’s ‘Bruuuuuuce’ picks up right where he left off at Fargodome
FARGO — The last time Bruce Anderson played before home fans, he was galloping wild and free on the green carpet of the Fargodome against the Sam Houston State Bearkats, whose defenders appeared allergic to the North Dakota State running back because they didn’t put a hand on him.
That came in the Division I FCS playoff semifinals last December, a game won 55-13 by the Bison that sent them to Frisco, Texas, for another title game. Anderson finished that contest with 183 yards rushing and three touchdowns in three quarters, including a 62-yard touchdown run in the first quarter in which Bruce went off left tackle and could’ve run to Wahpeton before somebody touched him.
Mixed in with the party tunes blaring over the dome loudspeakers were a whole lot of “Bruuuuuuuce!” chants.
Eight months later, not much has changed other than another championship banner being raised to the rafters.
Anderson again ran like a man’s man against an overmatched opponent before the home folks — as did all the NDSU running backs, including fellow senior Lance Dunn — laying waste to Cal Poly’s defense with 185 yards and two touchdowns in three quarters of work in a 49-3 Bison rout.
The Bison faithful know the routine. This time they were chanting ” Bruuuuuuuce!” even before he got to the end zone on an 86-yard TD sprint in the third quarter that gave NDSU a 42-3 lead. Like, 30 yards before he got to the end zone.
The Mustangs do deserve some credit. On that play, one Cal Poly defender slapped a hand on Anderson’s left hip before he was off to the races. And in most cases, the Mustangs were able to lay a lick on 5-foot-11, 210-pound senior.
They just couldn’t bring him down.
Case in point: Anderson’s 18-yard run in the first quarter when he broke two tackles, spun, tip-toed along the sideline and hurdled a defender before being taken down. It was reminiscent of his true freshman season when he looked like Superman in the playoffs, jabbing a dagger into Northern Iowa coach Mark Farley’s heart in the process with a crucial kickoff return for a touchdown. Farley still hears “Bruuuuuuuce!” in his dreams. Or nightmares.
“You just fight for those yards. You don’t go down easy. You don’t let one guy tackle you, no. It’s not good enough,” Anderson said. “You lower your shoulder and make them pay for it, that’s the way I look at it. Make them not want to stand in there next time when you’re coming.”
Anderson’s a sculpted beast of a young man, who joked that he lost the “fat” he’d put on earlier in his career. But there’s more to it than just power. Anderson also talked about being more patient, specifically mentioning the 86-yard TD burst. It might have looked like he sprinted through the line full throttle, but Anderson said he waited for his offensive linemen to open a hole before turning on the jets.
“It’s all about patience, knowing when to take off and when to be patient,” he said.
Call it maturity by Anderson, who had that impactful true freshman campaign before a lengthy quiet stretch — partly brought on by an injury suffered against South Dakota State his sophomore season.
He was never quite his spectacular self again until something clicked in the last regular-season game last year. In a nasty blizzard at Illinois State, Anderson began running hard, without doubt and with a purpose. He hasn’t stopped.
Would you want to try and tackle him coming at you, full speed and shoulder pads low?
With the massive and athletic offensive line the Bison have put together — Bison coach Chris Klieman called it the best he’s had in his five years at NDSU — there is one word sure to be chanted a lot in the Fargodome this season.