(Fargo, ND) - North Dakota State football is getting ready to start a new season and reclaim the prize stripped from them this past January. When their rival South Dakota State took out over a decade of frustration on the 9-time national champs in a 45-21 beatdown of the Bison in the 2023 FCS championship game.
The Bison look to get their Dakota Marker, conference, and national titles back with the help of some key returning starters. Some of which made award watch lists.
The offense returns seven starters from a unit that scored 34 points a game last season. One returning senior, running back TaMerik Williams is on the Walter Payton Award Watch List. The senior from Angleton, Texas, and SMU transfer racked up 702 yards and nine touchdowns on 99 carries last season. Unlike last season TaMerik is the clear-cut starter this season after last season's starter Kobe Johnson transferred to Colorado State. He will be the guy to carry the mail for a team that rushed for over 4,000 yards last season. Williams looks to be the second Bison to win the award, Trey Lance won the award in 2019. The Bison offense had seven players named to the preseason all-conference team. Fullback Hunter Brozio and center Jalen Sundell were named 1st team. Running back TaMerik Williams, tight end Joe Stoffel, guard Jake Kubas, and center/guard Brandon Westburg were named to the second team. Wide receiver Zach Mathis was named an honorable mention.
NDSU’s “Code Green” defense has plenty of fresh faces this season after multiple defensive leaders either graduated or transferred. Only six starters have returned, but one face that stuck around is senior defensive tackle Eli Mostaert. The Lakeville, Minnesota native was placed on the Buck Buchanan Award Watch List this week. Eli missed 12 games this past season after a leg injury against North Carolina A&T. He returned for the championship game but was not at 100 percent. This season however, he is back in full force and ready to add to his 83 tackles, 17.5 tackles for loss, and 13 sacks in 30 career starts. He also can return next season due to a medical redshirt. Mostaert looks to become the second Buck Buchannon Award winner at NDSU, Kyle Emanuel won the award in 2014. Code Green had five players named to the preseason all-conference team. Defensive tackle Eli Mostaert was named first team all-conference. Defensive tackle Will Mostaert, linebacker Cole Wisniewski, and cornerback Jayden Price were named second team. Linebacker Nick Kubitz was named an honorable mention.
Special Teams have always been a strength for the Bison and this year it continues to be one of the stronger elements of this team as punter Kaedin Steindorf has been placed on the FCS Punter of the Year Watch List. The Sophomore from Sherwood, Oregon had 50 punts for a 40.1 yards per punt average. He had a long of 59 yards and seven punts landed or were downed inside the 20. The Bison special teams unit had two players selected for the all-conference preseason team. Return specialist Jayden Price was named to the first team and place kicker Griffin Crosa was named to the second team.
North Dakota State was picked to finish second in this year's preseason poll. This is the first time since 2021 the Bison have not been picked to win the conference. However, in 2021, the Bison finished 7-1 in conference play and 14-1 overall winning the school's ninth FCS national championship. South Dakota State was picked to win the conference almost unanimously. They received 44 of 45 votes, the Bison received the 45th first-place vote. Northern Iowa picked third, North Dakota picked fourth, Southern Illinois picked fifth, Youngstown State picked sixth, Illinois State picked seventh, Missouri State picked eighth, South Dakota picked ninth, Indiana State picked 10th, conference newcomer Murray State picked 11th and for the fourth consecutive year Western Illinois is picked to finish last in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
All in all North Dakota State will be in the running for their 11th MVFC championship and 10th national championship. The game that will more than likely determine the conference and top four national seedings will be November 4th in Brookings, South Dakota. When the Bison look to end a four-game losing streak against South Dakota State and take the Dakota Marker back to Fargo for the first time since 2019.
This article was written by Flag Family Media Intern Grant Hubbard.