No Cracks in the Foundation of the North Dakota State Dynasty


North Dakota State may have lost Craig Bohl, the architect responsible for building its dynasty, but there are no cracks in the Bison’s foundation.

Following the same blueprint Bohl used to guide North Dakota State to three consecutive national championships, new Bison head coach Chris Klieman laid the groundwork for his own wing Saturday. All the reigning and defending three-time champions did in Klieman’s debut was roll into a power conference program’s home stadium and proceed to lay a three-touchdown beatdown on them.

“I don’t know what the record is but they are one of the best FCS football teams. They run a great program with a great offense and a great defense,” Iowa State head coach Paul Rhoads said in his postgame press conference Saturday, via

Playing the same no-gimmicks, no-frills brand of football that hoisted three championship trophies, North Dakota State overcame a 14-0 deficit with a 34-point deluge.

The Bison’s 34-14 rout of Iowa State was precisely the kind of performance we’d come to expect from a team sometimes called, “the Alabama of FCS.”

But to paint North Dakota State as the Green-and-Gold Tide is an oversimplification of the program’s dominance.

Coming into 2014 with something to prove after losing its last two of the previous season, Alabama slogged its way through an underwhelming defeat of West Virginia–a West Virginia team that lost at home to Iowa State in its 2013 finale.

Conversely, North Dakota State came into the new season with a head made heavy from wearing three crowns. The Bison were playing for a new coach and breaking in a new quarterback. And yet, it was NDSU playing like it had something to prove.

North Dakota State doesn’t overlook opponents or treat an outing like its beneath them. There’s no loss of focus. There’s just dominance.

Ben Kercheval wrote an excellent feature that examined North Dakota State’s blueprint for success. His report sheds light into how the attitude that defines NDSU was constructed.

An angle you’re likely to see kicked around in the coming days–and again in December should the Bison once more be in the national championship hunt–is how they would fare in the Football Bowl Subdivision.

North Dakota State beats an FBS team just about every season. It has back-to-back defeats of the Big 12, a third with a defeat of Kansas in 2010, a win over the Mountain West in 2012 and a victory over Minnesota in 2011.

However, the grind of facing teams with 85 scholarship players and more resources weekly is a much different challenge than a one-off contest.

Perhaps the Bison could make a transition to FBS in the Mountain West similar to the splash another Div. I-AA dynasty made in the MAC. Marshall took the conference by storm from the outset, was very nearly the first BCS buster in 1999, and routinely finished ranked in the AP Top 25 for a half-decade.

But suffering the attrition inherent with being one of the top level of college football’s have-nots rendered Marshall a run-of-the-mill program for a decade. Only now with Rakeem Cato quarterbacking their offense are the Thundering Herd regaining some national notoriety.

North Dakota State is just fine where it is. The Bison can make history by winning their fourth straight national championship, and they’ll make their bid playing in front of a packed Fargodome for every home game, or with a sizable contingent of traveling fans when on the road.

This is a program that has what every other team in college football aspires toward: devoted fans, a steady stream of players who fit, a visit from College Gameday (how you like them apples, Ole Miss?) and championships. Lots and lots of championships.

If North Dakota State doesn’t need to shake up its foundation, why do so?

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