North Dakota State, winners of two consecutive FCS national championships, showed the poise and maturity of a battle-tested champion in a road upset of defending Big 12 champion Kansas State Friday night. The Bisons methodically moved down field 80 yards over 18 plays in the final minutes of the game to stun the Wildcats in the season opener, 24-21.
Make no mistake about this one, this was certainly an upset but it was no fluke. Bison quarterback Brock Jensen was 20-of-29 for 164 yards, each pass almost always just where it needed to be on the field to move the chains no matter the down and yardage. No situation seemed to rattle Jensen and the rest of the Bison. Running back Sam Ojuri rushed for 126 yards against a team that was ranked second in the Big 12 in rushing defense in 2012.
Kansas State saw prized junior college quarterback transfer Jake Waters get his first start with the team. In his debut Waters completed 21 of 29 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns, but he was also intercepted twice. Two Wildcat receivers eclipsed the century mark, with Tyler Lockett leading all players with 113 receiving yards and Tramaine Thompson adding 108 yards.
The loss marked the first season opening loss for Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder since 1989, his first season with the program. Kansas State is also the first defending AC conference champion to lose to an FCS school the following year. Before the game Kansas State unveiled a new statue in honor of Snyder. So much for timing.
This loss will spur plenty of conversation of course. Is North Dakota State really that good (yes)? Is Kansas State really that bad (no)? What does this mean for the Big 12? Probably not quite as much as you might think.
It goes without saying the loss is a rough one for the Big 12. If we tend to poke fun at The American for a loss to an FCS team (Towson over UConn), then this should be fair game for the Big 12 as well. Except for one thing. this is not exactly the Kansas State of 2012 that went down in defeat here. This is a Wildcats team that had just two returning starters on defense going up against an experienced and cohesive North Dakota State team. Kansas State also threw in a junior college transfer hoping for the best, and nearly escaped with the victory. Waters may have a fine season in the purple and silver, but he is no Collin Klein right now.
But let’s see where Kansas State goes now. The next game on the schedule is not exactly the easiest of match-ups. Kansas State hosts Louisiana-Lafayette next week and has back-to-back road trips to Texas and Oklahoma state looming. things could easily spiral out of control if Snyder doesn’t get this team ready for next week’s game.
As for North Dakota State, winners of four straight games against FBS opponents (Colorado State in 2012, Minnesota in 2011, Kansas in 2010), the Bison will continue on their hopeful march to another FCS title next week at home against Division 2 Ferris State.
Good luck Ferris State.