North Dakota State Seniors to Play Football Finale in Home State
Release: January 05, 2012
|Defenses lead North Dakota State, Sam Houston to title game (USA Today)|
|Breaking Down North Dakota State (The Sports Network)|
By Dave Kolpack, The Associated Press
FARGO, N.D.--Two key players for North Dakota State should be feeling at home this weekend in Texas, where the Bison are set to square off against Sam Houston State for the championship in the second tier of Division I football.
Running back D.J. McNorton and wide receiver Warren Holloway, who came to NDSU five years ago from the Houston area, have been busy securing tickets for family and friends who want to attend Saturday's Football Championship Subdivision game in Frisco, north of Dallas.
"To end it at this point, down in Texas, where I can have a lot family there to support me, will be really big," McNorton said.
McNorton and Holloway, who played football and basketball against each other in high school, have been instrumental in helping the program that moved up from Division II in 2004. McNorton is the sixth-leading rusher in Bison history and is poised to top 3,000 career yards on the ground. Holloway is third on NDSU's all-time reception list with 159, including a record 75 catches this year.
"I know we say that a lot: We want to win a national championship," Holloway said. "But now to be here and actually playing in the game is like a dream come true. It's right in front of us."
Craig Bohl, the NDSU head coach, said both players are excited to be playing in their home state, but that's not what's driving them this week.
"Knowing those guys it's more important for them to play well for NDSU. They've been up here for five years," Bohl said. "The guys that are from Texas, they want to make sure that they send this group out on a winning note, and it's a big challenge."
Holloway, appropriately nicknamed "Big Tex" by his Bison teammates, was a three-year letterman in football, basketball and track at Galena Park High School in Houston. The 6-foot-2, 199-pounder was surprised to learn about the intensity of the NDSU football program, which was a perennial national contender at the Division II level.
The Bison play their home games in a domed stadium that holds about 19,000 fans.
"When I came up here, I felt that people care about football, just as well as Texas," Holloway said. "So why not try something new?"
McNorton went to high school in Channelview, Texas. A backup for most of his first two seasons at NDSU, he exploded last year for 1,559 yards rushing. He needs 19 yards to reach the 1,000 mark this year, despite a season marked by nagging injuries and the emergence of No. 2 running back Sam Ojuri.
It's likely that the Bison will finish the year with two 1,000 yard rushers (McNorton and Ojuri) and a 1,000-yard receiver (Holloway has 988 yards) for the first time in school history.
"It's great to have that, but at the end of the day it's really about winning games," McNorton said. "It doesn't get any more exciting than this. It's like a dream actually, as far as everything we've been through."
The Bison (13-1) and Bearkats (14-0) are not strangers. They've played twice in the time that Holloway and McNorton have been at NDSU. The Bison won 41-38 in 2007 on a last-second touchdown pass. The Bearkats won 48-45 in 2009 on a last-minute field goal.
The teams are getting more respect on defense these days. The Bison are No. 1 in the country in scoring defense, allowing an average of 13.2 points a game. The Bearkats are second at 14.8 points per outing. Sam Houston is No. 4 in total defense.
"We have history together. We've scored a lot of points," McNorton said. "Now we have two of the top defenses going against each other. We'll see how it plays out from there."