Klieman credits win to Bohl’s legacy
North Dakota State head football coach Chris Klieman argues a call during the FCS championship game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday.
FRISCO, Texas – It’s been four years since Craig Bohl left Frisco in a celebratory mood, coaching North Dakota State to its third straight Division I FCS national title. His legacy wasn’t forgotten on Saturday, Jan. 6.
Current head coach Chris Klieman joined Bohl as NDSU head coaches who have won three national titles after the Bison beat James Madison University 17-13 at Toyota Stadium. When asked about the resiliency and execution of his team in Frisco — the Bison are 6-0 in title games at Toyota Stadium — Klieman made a rare public reference to his former head coach.
“Yeah, you guys will be shocked about this, but I’m going to credit Craig Bohl on that,” Klieman said. “In 2011, it was my first attempt at it. I didn’t know. I was just a defensive backs coach and Craig got us all together and said, ‘You don’t go into this game to compete in it. You go to the game to win it. If not, you’re never going to be remembered.’
“I’ll never forget that staff meeting and him talking to us and saying, ‘You do not go and just be a participant. We all know that but you go and win it.’”
NDSU defeated Sam Houston State 17-6 in 2011. One of the factors players said afterward is they felt physically in better shape than the Bearkats players. It was also at that point when the Bison made the decision to spend money to keep players in Fargo to practice over the Christmas semester break.
“You ask our players, we grind those guys through those three weeks,” said Klieman, who thanked athletic director Matt Larsen and university president Dean Bresciani for giving the program the financial resources to practice during the break.
The athletic department foots the bill for housing and living expenses over the course of the three weeks. This year, after defeating Sam Houston in the semifinals on Dec. 15, the players went right back to practice on Monday to start preparing for the Dukes.
“Everybody else is back home,” said Klieman, in a general reference to title-game teams. “But that’s because we have an administration that allows us to do that.”
It’s a formula that was started by Bohl in 2011, with a strong assist from strength and conditioning coach Jim Kramer. It’s Kramer who designs the fitness plan that allows the players to physically peak for the title game.
“When we get through the semifinal game, we go, OK, winter camp, here we go,” Klieman said. “Those guys know it’s going to be walkthrough after walkthrough after walkthrough and meeting after meeting after meeting. That’s how you hold JMU to 30 rushes for 93 yards and 14 of 32 throwing in the game. It’s because those guys are tired of coach Entz going through rep after rep after rep. We knew what they were going to do.”
Matt Entz is the NDSU defensive coordinator who came aboard in 2014 after most of the Bohl staff left for Wyoming. But in the title game appearances Entz has been a part of, there was a lot of Bohl that was left over in the weeks between the semifinal and title games.
In a perfect world, perhaps NDSU should wear its alternative Harvest helmets permanently and schedule every game after an off week. It’s made for quite the unbeatable combination.
They will go into the 2018 season 11-0 while wearing the green helmets with the yellow corn stalk down the middle. NDSU also maintained its supremacy in playing games after an open week. It has won 27 straight, an accomplishment that dates back to the 2006 season which was the last time the Bison lost after having a bye week. For the record, UC Davis beat the Bison 20-14 in mid-October of 2005 after the Bison had the prior week off.
After that, it was Bohl who formed the fundamentals of what to do on a bye week. And, when it came to the FCS title games, what to do after the semifinal game.