FARGO — The alarm clocks will sound early on Saturday for the players and coaches on the North Dakota State football team. That’s the way the Bison head coach likes it.
Chris Klieman says the earlier, the better when it comes to college football games, particularly the Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. NDSU hosts an 11 a.m. quarterfinal game at the Fargodome against Colgate, a Patriot League team from Hamilton, N.Y.
“I really like the 11 o’clock start,” Klieman said. “I don’t know how the guys feel, I think some probably like it. I’d much rather have it at 11 then 4, 6 or 7. I think the guys are pretty excited for another challenge this week.”
This challenge against the Raiders will come before a national television audience on ESPN. There was a time in the early years of NDSU’s FCS playoff run that being on national TV was a big story during the week.
The school from a rural state with the closest major city being almost four hours away, Minneapolis, liked the exposure of ESPN. The Bison still do, especially for recruiting purposes.
“I think it’s a big deal for the out-of-region recruits that we’re continuing to work on and continuing to talk to,” Klieman said, “that maybe for whatever reason are at a place that don’t have ESPN-plus or ESPN3. Those guys are able to watch it. I think anytime you get that exposure out there on the major networks it’s a definite plus in recruiting.”
The early start makes for a practice adjustment for the Bison. For instance, some special teams meeting and walkthrough stuff usually done on Saturday morning is bumped up to Friday.
“We’ll get all of our work done Friday afternoon and evening,” Klieman said. “We want to get them out of there relatively early and get them back home by 8 so they get some good rest.”
Game day preparations on Saturday begin at 7:15 a.m.
It will be the sixth straight FCS quarterfinal in which NDSU will have the 11 a.m. Saturday kickoff on ESPN. Maine will travel to Weber State (Utah) for a Friday night quarterfinal on ESPN2.
The other two quarterfinals — South Dakota State at Kennesaw State (Ga.) and UC-Davis at Eastern Washington — will be streamed on ESPN3.
“Playing this 11 o’clock game how many years in a row?” Klieman asked, before being told it was six. “That’s pretty remarkable to have that major ESPN game. That’s a sign of our program and a sign of the brand of NDSU football. These kids, I’m so pleased with how they’ve attacked each week from Aug. 2 up until now.”
On the individual player front, quarterback Easton Stick was part of two major awards on Monday. He was named one of three finalists for the 2018 STATS Walter Payton Award that goes to the best offensive player in the FCS. Kennesaw quarterback Chandler Burks and Samford (Ala.) quarterback Devlin Hodges are the other finalists.
And it was announced Stick will be represented by his parents, Mike and Shelly Stick, NDSU athletic director Matt Larsen and deputy athletic director Todd Phelps at Tuesday’s dinner for the 13 finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy in New York.
“He was not going to leave his team and leave his preparation,” Klieman said.
Klieman said receiver Desmond Cain left the team on Sunday, with Klieman calling it a “mutual decision” between he and the senior. Cain had a limited role with the offense since transferring from Illinois before the 2017 season. Cain may have shed light on his decision with a comment on his Twitter account on Sunday.
"Well it was fun and time well wasted," he wrote.