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No. 1 Bison hope to put two emotional football wins behind them this week against Western Illinois

North Dakota State wide receiver Darrius Shepherd steps over Northern Iowa defender Jevon Brekke after scoring a touchdown on a 22-yard reception last Saturday at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa. David Samson / Forum News Service

FARGO—The South Dakota State game was for the Dakota Marker. Last Saturday, North Dakota State put that rivalry behind it and attacked another one in Northern Iowa.

After a slow start, the Bison rolled to a 56-31 win to keep their unbeaten and No. 1-ranked season in high gear. SDSU and UNI were two emotionally-charged games that have the Bison 2-0 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference and 5-0 overall.

Now comes Western Illinois, which is not a rival. The Bison and Leathernecks do not play for a traveling trophy. The popular slogan is "trap game," a term that refers to a team overlooking an opponent.

"Just continue to echo the same things we talk about all the time," said Bison head coach Chris Klieman. "Anybody can beat anybody and you find a way to win a game. You have to close that book and open up the next chapter and write the next story. Every game is going to be like this."

NDSU and the University of South Dakota share the Valley lead at 2-0. The Bison remained atop both the STATS.com media and FCS coaches top 25 polls by avoiding the upset bug that bit a few teams.

No. 2 James Madison lost at home to Elon (N.C.), No. 6 Weber State lost to Northern Arizona and No. 14 Montana took an unexpected loss at home to Portland State.

"College football is difficult so we have to make sure we put this one away and learn from our mistakes," Klieman said. "Continue to get better, both offensively and defensively, and focus on each day and give ourselves a chance to win on Saturday. It is an emotional game and if you don't rise to the occasion you're going to get beat."

Bison quarterback Easton Stick rose to the occasion against UNI with four touchdown passes. His 69 career TD passes are three behind leader Brock Jensen on the school record chart.

Stick is in position to take over the all-time Valley lead in career rushing yards by a quarterback. He has 2,040. The leader is Andre Smith from Missouri State, who amassed 2,276 yards from 1987-90.

Stick was named the Missouri Valley Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against the Panthers. He was responsible for six touchdowns, running for two in addition to his passing TDs.

Klieman said safety Jaylaan Wimbush, who left the UNI game with an injury, will be back for Western. Receiver Desmond Cain is questionable with oblique and shoulder injuries. Running back Ty Brooks, who missed last weekend with an ankle injury, also appears questionable for the Leathernecks.

It will be NDSU's first outdoor game after playing in domes in the first five. It changes how the Bison will practice this week.

"It sure does, we need to get outside a bit," Klieman said. "More from the respect of wind and if there is going to be precipitation we need to get out there and practice in it. I think the wind from the kicking game is my bigger concern than it is from throwing the football in the rain. It's definitely something we need to make sure we're aware of."

Jeff Kolpack

Jeff Kolpack covers North Dakota State athletics, the Fargo Marathon and golf for The Forum. His blog can be accessed at www.bisonmedia.areavoices.com. On the radio, Kolpack & Izzo sports talk show runs from 9-11 a.m. every Saturday morning. April through August, the WDAY Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack runs from 8-9 a.m.

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