The North Dakota State football team made more trips to Frisco, Texas, than any other place from 2011-2015. When you do it for five straight seasons, it turns into a routine. So when the Bison came up a game short of the FCS national championship last season, it was a shot to the gut. But NDSU is back on routine now and aiming for its sixth national title in seven seasons.
As head coach Chris Klieman pointed out multiple times this season, each year is a new year and each team is a new team. So every year in Texas was a special one. But the Bison are making it an emphasis to enjoy this one even more.
“The first thing is to soak it all up and enjoy the experience, but also be locked in and focused because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity,” junior wide receiver Darrius Shepherd told HERO Sports.
It may not have felt as much like a once-in-a-lifetime experience a couple years ago when NDSU was in its fifth straight national championship game. All the players knew, from redshirt freshmen to seniors, was that their season ends in Frisco. Last season's loss to James Madison, the opponent on Saturday, made players realize a run to a title just doesn't happen every season.
“I really didn’t think about that when I was younger, but coming here this year, I’m trying to make the most of it and soak it all in and just be around everyone instead of just with the special teams unit for the most part," long snapper James Fisher told HERO Sports. "Just try to be around everyone because this is going to be the last time I’m with this team.”
Fisher will start in his third game in Frisco. His new-found perspective may be because this is his last game as a Bison. But he also said missing last year's title game is a big reason why as well.
“When I think about it, yeah, it probably did. It’s kind of hard to say, ‘Don’t take it for granted,’ but that’s a lot easier said than done. When you come [to NDSU] the expectation at North Dakota State is to be here (Frisco). No other program is really like that. We don’t know what it’s like to be a .500 team, that’s never been the expectation and it’s not going to be the expectation for a long time. So last year was kind of a wake-up call, and the mentality this whole year has been very, very focused and hard-working. I don’t know if we’ve had a better winter workout after the season than last season. It’s always been a focus.”