Bison Illustrated February 2023

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Baseball Head Coach Tyler Oakes #31 Max Loven #2 Peter Brookshaw #13 Druw Sackett 84 87 88 90 32 66 94 CONTENTS COVER STORY FIND US ONLINE FEATURES RECURRING FEBRUARY 2023 @bisonmag bisonillustrated Week 01: NDSU vs. Drake Week 02: NDSU vs. N.C. A&T Week 03: NDSU vs. Arizona Week 04: NDSU vs. USD Week 05: NDSU vs. Youngstown ST Week 06: NDSU vs. Indiana ST Week 07: NDSU vs. SDSU Week 08: NDSU vs. Illinois ST Week 09: NDSU vs. Western IL Week 10: NDSU vs. Southern IL Week 11: NDSU vs. UND Week 12: NDSU vs. Montana Week 13: NDSU vs. Samford Week 14: NDSU vs. UIW Week 15: NDSU vs. SDSU 22 24 26 30 32 35 38 40 42 44 48 50 53 56 58 8 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023
FROM BRADY DRAKE A Look Back and a Look Forward

Bison fans, I know the Frisco game didn’t go as you’d hoped by any stretch of the imagination. However, I think there is a lot to be proud of from this past season. This team, the 2022 NDSU Bison football team, showed a level of grit and resiliency that is indicative of

the state they play in. Losses, in-season transfers and a plethora of injuries couldn’t keep your favorite football team out of the national championship game. There are 125 FCS teams in the country and only two make it to the championship. NDSU has done that


10 times in the last 12 years. Yes, it hurts to lose to your biggest rivals, but there is plenty to be proud of Bison Nation.

Let’s celebrate that and look forward to what is to come in the future.


Bison Illustrated is a free publication distributed monthly (8 times a year). Our mission is to help promote North Dakota State University Athletics, provide a quality and fun reading experience and to improve the way of life in our community. The publication is mailed to homes across the US and has newsstand distribution throughout North Dakota and Minnesota.


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16 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023
20 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023

Now that we, as fans, have had some time to reflect on the NDSU football season, we should feel much different than the majority of us did after the national championship loss to the Jackrabbits. Of course we were upset, so were the players. At North Dakota State, anything less than a championship is short of the goal, but that doesn't mean we should see it as a failure, especially now as some time has passed.

There are 130 teams in the FCS. Every year, only two get to play in the championship—NDSU managed to reach that mark for an unprecedented 10th time in the last 12 years. That is something to celebrate.

Let's take a look back on the season.


Eight different Bison players scored touchdowns in NDSU’s season-opening win against the Drake Bulldogs.

With the score tied 7-7, DL Jake Kava blocked a field goal and DB Destin Talbert scored on a 56-yard return to give the Bison their first lead. On the very next possession, special teams struck again with DB Jayden Price returning a punt 66 yards to the house. DL Will Mostaert scored NDSU’s other non-offensive touchdown on a 5-yard fumble recover.

WR Zach Mathis and RB Barika Kpeenu both scored their first career touchdowns in this route for NDSU.

Yards Per Carry

Date: September 9, 2022

Location: Fargo, ND (Fargodome)

Photos by Zachary Lucy Total Offense Bison 386 Bulldogs 219
22 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023
Bison 2 Bulldogs 0 Turnovers Forced Bison 7.4 Bulldogs

NDSU scored 21 points off turnovers in the 33rd annual Trees Bowl game to route the North Carolina A&T Aggies.

The Bison kicked off the scoring with a four-play opening drive that ended in a 40-yard touchdown connection between QB Cam Miller and WR Zach Mathis.

History was made in the contest when DB Dawson Weber scooped up a fumble forced by DL Jaxon Duttenhefer and returned it 79 yards for a touchdown, tying the school record for longest fumble returned for a touchdown which was set by Claudie Miller in 1925.

The Bison forced three total turnovers in the contest and held N.C. A&T to just 50 yards passing on 19 attempts.

Date: September 10, 2022

Location: Fargo, ND (Fargodome)

Turnovers Forced Bison 3 Aggies 0 Total Offense Bison 273 Aggies 189 Yards Per Play Bison 5.7 Aggies 3 24 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023
Photos by Zachary Lucy
#7 QB 25

NDSU had a strong showing, but ultimately had its six-game winning streak against FBS opponents snapped against the Arizona Wildcats.

The game was close all the way through with FB Hunter Luepke delivering a three-touchdown All-American level performance.

The Bison led by four with just over nine minutes remaining, but failed to convert on a 4th and 2 deep in Arizona territory. The Wildcats took advantage and drove 78 yards to take a threepoint lead. NDSU was unable to makeup the difference.

The Bison are now 9-4 all-time against FBS opponents.

Date: September 17, 2022

Location: Tuscon, AZ (Arizona Stadium)

by Jacob Reiner

Total Offense Bison 407 Wildcats 394 Passing Yards Bison 124 Wildcats 229 Rushing Yards Bison 283 Wildcats 165 26 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023

NDSU got back to its winning ways against the University of South Dakota Coyotes in week 4, rushing for 200 yards in the second half and scoring 24 unanswered points to end the game and erase a 17-10 halftime deficit.

Ball control was the name of the game for the Bison who possessed the pigskin for nearly 40 minutes of game time. FB Hunter Luepke continued his 2022 dominance, rolling for 150 yards on 20 carries and scoring twice.

RB Kobe Johnson and QB Cam Miller also scored rushing touchdowns for NDSU in the contest.

Date: September 24, 2022

Location: Vermillion, SD (DakotaDome)

Photos by Tim Sanger

Offense Bison 476 Coyotes 266
Posession Bison 39:49 Coyotes 20:11
Bison 356 Coyotes 146
Time of
Yards Per Play
30 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023

Nine different Bison toted the rock in a solid win over the Youngstown State Penguins who would go on to have their first winning season since 2017.

FB Hunter Luepke kicked off the scoring for NDSU with a pair of rushing touchdowns in the first quarter. The Penguins managed to cut the lead to 24-14 in the fourth quarter on a touchdown reception by the NCAA's alltime rushing leader Jaleel McLaughlin, but that is the closest they got.

Code Green managed three sacks and an interception in the win.

Total Offense

Third Down Conversions

Yards Per Carry

Date: October 1, 2022 Location: Fargo, ND (Fargodome)

Photos by Tim Sanger
Bison 371 Penguins 281 Bison 6/13 Penguins 3/10
Bison 4.9 Penguins 5.3
32 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023
#99 DL

NDSU eeked out a 31-26 win over the Indiana State Sycamores with RB TaMerik Williams rushing for a career-high 145 yards and three touchdowns.

The Bison are not used to trailing, but found themselves down 13-10 at half. However, just five minutes into the second half, Williams scored his second touchdown of the day to give NDSU a 17-13 lead. On the first play of Indiana State's next possession, RB Justin Dinka took a a carry 82 yards to regain the lead.

Williams capped the next possession with a 27-yard touchdown run and the Bison never surrendered the lead. WR Zach Mathis also had his best game to date, reeling in five passes for 86 yards as well as NDSU's final touchdown.

Date: October 8, 2022

Location: Terre Haute, IN (Memorial Stadium)

Total Offense Bison 516 Sycamores 340
Forced Bison 0 Sycamores 3
Bison 306 Sycamores 178
Photos by Tim Sanger
Rushing Yards
36 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023

NDSU lost its third straight Dakota Marker game to the South Dakota State Jackrabbits after getting blanked in the second half.

NDSU looked strong early, scoring touchdowns on its first three possessions. The Fargodome's finest

RB Isiah Davis had the lone touchdown for SDSU in the first half.

The second half was a different story with the Jackrabitts scoring 16 unanswered to secure the win.

Rushing Yards

Passing Yards

Date: October 15, 2022

Location: Fargo, ND (Fargodome)

Bison 354 Jackrabbits 359
Photos by Zachary Lucy
Total Offense
Bison 207 Jackrabbits 127
Bison 227 Jackrabbits 152
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Code Green delivered a standout performance as NDSU got back in the win column against the Illinois State Redbirds.

The Redbirds scored on their opening possesion but did not accomplish much after that, collecting just one first down in the second half and reaching only as far as the Bison 48 yard line.

FB Hunter Luepke, QB Cam Miller and QB Cole Payton all scored rushing touchdowns in the contest for NDSU who won their 38th straight game after an open week in the regular season or postseason.

Date: October 29, 2022

Location: Fargo, ND (Fargodome)

First Downs

Third Down Conversions

Photos by Zachary Lucy
Bison 372
Total Offense
Bison 21 Redbirds 10
Bison 12/17 Redbirds 6/13
40 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023

NDSU was dominant on the ground, rushing for 453 yards and seven touchdowns agains the Western Illinois Leathernecks.

The Bison only attempted five passes in the contest with RB TaMerik Williams (120) and RB TK Marshall (118) both going over the century mark. RB Kobe Johnson nearly eclipsed the mark as well, toting the rock 13 times for 96 yards.

Williams (2), Marshall (2), Johnson, FB Hunter Luepke and QB Cam Miller all scored touchdowns on the ground.

Total Offense

Date: November 5, 2022

Location: Macomb, IL (Hanson Field)

Yards Per Carry

Photos by Tim Sanger
Bison 4
Bison 8.2
453 Leathernecks
Turnovers Forced
42 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023

On a day when the offense struggled, getting outgained 307 to 229, NDSU still managed to secure an important victory over the Souther Illinois Salukis.

The Bison stuck first with a 27yard connection between QB Cam Miller and RB Kobe Johnson. However, Southern Illinois grabbed a 10-7 lead before the end of the third quarter.

Less than a minute into the final quarter, Miller put the Bison back on top with a 5-yard run to make it 14-10. NDSU increased the lead to 21-10 with just under five minutes remaining thanks to a 3-yard run by RB TaMerik Williams.

The Salukis threatened cutting the lead to 21-18 with 39 seconds remaining, but LB Logan Kopp secured the win by recovering the ensuing onside kick.

Date: November 12, 2022 Location: Carbondale, Ill. (Saluki Stadium)

Offense Bison 229
Forced Bison 1
Bison 149
Photos by Tim Sanger
Salukis 307 Turnovers
Rushing Yards
44 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023

The Bison closed out the regular season in style with a dominating Harvest Bowl win over nationally ranked, in-state rival University of North Dakota.

QB Cam Miller was sensational under center for NDSU, tying the school record for five rushing touchdowns in a game on a carrier high 16 carries for 93 yards.

RB TaMerik Williams sparked things with a 51-yard rushing touchdown on the second offensive play of the game.

Miller also went 8-12 passing for 159 yards.

Date: November 19, 2022

Location: Fargo, ND (Fargodome)

Total Offense

Photos by Zachary Lucy Bison 552 Fighting Hawks
48 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023

North Dakota State was unstoppable on the ground in a second round win over the Montana Grizzlies.

In the contest, the Bison rushed for 10.8 yards per carry and 453 yards overall which were most and second most respectively in any FCS game in program history. RB Kobe Johnson led the Bison with 206 yards rushing on six carries. RB TaMerik Williams also had a big day with 101 yards rushing on 11 carries.

Code Green turned the game with a sack fumble by DL Kody Huisman that was recovered by LB Cole Wisniewski for a touchdown to extend their lead to 21-20 late in the second quarter. The TD by Wisniewski was one of three turnovers forced by the defense which also recorded a season-high six sacks.

Date: December 3, 2022

Location: Fargo, ND (Fargodome)


Rushing Yards

Photos by Zachary Lucy
Bison 511 Grizzlies 346
Bison 453 Grizzlies 163
Sacks Bison
50 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023

NDSU broke a 0-0 tie late in the second quarter with a two-yard touchdown pass from QB Cam Miller to TE Joe Stoffel. K Griffin Crosa extended the lead to 10 on the final play of the half.

The Bison put the game away in the third quarter with touchdown runs by RB TK Marshall and Miller.

Samford put up 9 points in the fourth but it was far too late.

Date: December 9, 2022

Location: Fargo, ND (Fargodome)



Bison 360
Bison 39:05
Photos by Jacob Reiner 20:55
Total Offense Bulldogs
Time of Posession
Bison 166
Rushing Yards
Code Green pitched a three quarter shutout on its way to a win over the Samford Bulldogs to advance to the FCS semifinals.
DL Javier Derritt has two sacks and S Dawson Weber had his third interception of the season.
54 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023

NDSU held on in the game of the year against the Incarnate Word Cardinals to advance to the FCS Championship game.

The Cardinals jumped out to a 16-3 lead by the end of the first quarter. However, NDSU would claim a 17-16 lead heading into halftime.

The Bison extended the lead to 24-16 on the next drive via a 49-yard touchdown run by RB Kobe Johnson who finished the day with 137 yards rushing and three touchdowns.

Incarnate Word responded with back-to-back drives that ended in rushing touchdowns by the Walter Payton Award winner QB Lindsay Scott.

The teams traded field goals before Johnson scored his final touchdown on a 31-yard scamper. NDSU converted a two-point play to bring the game to its final score.

The Cardinals drove late, but S Dawson Weber sealed the game with his second interception of the contest to send the Bison to its 10th FCS Championship game in 12 years.

Total Offense

Rushing Yards

Date: December 16, 2022

Location: Fargo, ND (Fargodome)

Photos by Jacob Reiner
333 Cardinals
328 Cardinals 257 Bison
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For the first time in program history, North Dakota State lost an FCS Championship game, falling to their rivals South Dakota State.

SDSU scored on a 16-yard run by RB Isiah Davis to take the game's first points. NDSU tied the game at 7-7 a few minutes later on a 27yard touchdown pass from QB Cam Miller to TE Joe Stoffel. However, that is the closes the game would be from there on out. The Jackrabbits scored touchdowns on each of their next three drives and did not look back.

QB Mark Gronowski threw for 223 yards and three touchdowns on his way to winning the game's Most Outstanding Player award.

QB Cam Miller went 18-29 passing for 260 yards and two touchdowns. WR Eli Green had the first touchdown of his NDSU career, a 44-yarder in the second quarter and WR Zach Mathis had a careerhigh seven catches and a careerhigh 123 yards in the defeat.

Date: January 8, 2023

Location: Fargo, ND (Fargodome)

Total Offense Bison 420 Jackrabbits 506 Rushing Yards Turnovers Forced Bison 160 Jackrabbits 283 Bison 0 Jackrabbits 3
Photos by Tim Sanger
58 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023

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Career Stats 296 Tackles 16.5 Tackles for Loss 5.5 Sacks 1 Interception 6 Passes Defended 3x National Champion 2022 All-MVFC First Team 2022 CSC Academic All-District 2022 MVFC Scholar-Athlete First Team 2022 MVFC Defensive Player of the Week 2022 Allstate AFCA Good Works Team 2020-21 AFCA All-America Second Team 2020-21 Stats Perform All-America Second Team 2020-21 Phil Steele All-America Second Team 2020-21 All-MVFC First Team 2020-21 MVFC Performer of the Week 2019 CoSIDA Academic All-District First Team 2020-21 FCS ADA Academic All-Star 2020-21 MVFC All-Academic First Team 2019 MVFC All-Academic Second Team 2019, 2020-21, 2021 MVFC Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award 2018, 2019, 2020-21, 2021 MVFC Honor Roll
James Kaczor Football, Faith & a Farewell to James Kaczor

What are you doing now postgraduation?

I’m enrolled in a theological training school called River City Institute. It’s my home church. It’s actually just downtown, right off Main Avenue. I’m doing that schooling part-time. Actually, Jackson Hankey, former Mike linebacker, he’s in that school too. So, we’re in it together. There are like eight or nine students in it. One of our pastors is going through the Bible and teaching us some curriculum. So I’m doing that for two years, part-time, and then I’m working to get on staff at Fellowship of Christian Athletes on campus here. So I’m doing some training right now.

How long have you known you wanted to do that?

It’s kind of a long story, but I’ll try to keep it short. So, I came to college and wasn’t a Christian, never read the Bible before. And then, my sophomore year of college, I read the entire Bible and came to know who Jesus was and what he had done for sinners like me and you. And so, instead of trusting your own goodness, and my own good works, I put my trust in Jesus and his work on the cross. From that point on, I’ve just been studying the word. During my junior year and senior year, I was looking into opportunities like this, whether it be seminary, whether it be somewhere in the United States or elsewhere. And then this opportunity came up and seemed like a really good opportunity for me and my family to build that faith foundation and then go from there.

Were you and Jackson Hankey coincidental parallels or did you go about this together? We talked to him last year at this time and he had a very similar story.

It was kind of coincidental parallels. He came to faith in Christ in college, and

around a similar time as I did. So, then we began to study the Bible together and talk about it. And after practice, we’d sit and hang around and talk about it. And then, this opportunity came up. He did it and said it was awesome. And I was like, “alright, man, I’m gonna join you.”

So, are you pretty excited about it?

I’ve had my first two weeks and it’s so much fun. I love it.

What did you study in school here?

Manufacturing Engineering, I’m not exactly using it. Maybe somewhere down the line.

Have you come to grips with the fact that you’re done with football yet?

It definitely hasn’t fully set in and I don’t know when it exactly will. But I’m still grieving just being done. I mean, it’s sad. It was the last five years of my life, and it was so enjoyable and fun. But again, I’m really excited for this next stage of life. My wife is pregnant and I’m really excited about my next stage in life, but there’s still some grieving to do.

Do you know if it’s going to be a boy or a girl yet?

We’ll find out in two weeks. I think we’re gonna keep it a secret if we can.

What are some of your favorite memories from being here on campus?

I’m gonna go outside of football for now and say the relationships I built and formed off the field with teammates and then honestly a lot of people from other sports as well. Being a part of Fellowship of Christian Athletes and their Wednesday night huddle where we just get together and go through the Bible and talk about it and hang out has helped me form

some really solid relationships. And, of course, meeting my wife was one of my very best moments.

On the football side of it, it’s hard to pin things down. People have been asking me about my favorite play, my favorite game and it’s hard to come up with that stuff. But man, the championships, like the 2019 championship was probably one of my best memories. It was the first year I was actually contributing on the team and that James Madison game was crazy. James Hendricks was one of my best friends and his pick that sealed the game was awesome.

What have you tried to pass on to the other linebackers that are left in the room?

I would say two things. First and foremost would be just my faith and living the Christian life and trying to expose them to what the Bible teaches and the love of Christ and what it means to be a Christian. And then secondly, just what it means to be Bison, which sometimes those two things overlap, which is interesting. In my senior speech, I let the underclassmen know that this organization is unique with its people, its culture and its faith foundation that it’s built upon. I tried to instill that in those young guys and, hopefully, if you interviewed them, they would say I had an impact on them, but only time will tell.

Is there anything else you want to say to our readers?

I love NDSU and I love NDSU football, and this has been the best five years of my life and I’m sad to see it’s over but I’m excited for the future.

A former safety, James Kaczor is leaving the NDSU program as one of its great linebackers.

Destin Talbert Destin Talbert

Was there any sort of decision on whether or not to start training for the pros?

No, I knew for sure. It was locked in. I was definitely going to start working out for that Pro Day.

How often are you training for that?

How’s the Pro Day Training going?

Well, they’ve had me hurting a couple of times so I think I’m doing pretty good.

Where are you training?

The Sanford Power Center.

How quickly did you start training after the national championship game?

Pretty immediately, I started a couple of days afterwards.

Almost every day. My only off day is Wednesday, but other than that, every day.

What are some of your favorite moments from your time as a Bison?

I mean, there’s a lot. That’s pretty tough. Obviously, every time it comes up, it’s hard for me not to say the James Madison game. That was a great day for me. I graduated, got that interception and went to the championship all in one day.

Every time you win a championship, that’s also up there for one of the

best memories you’ll ever have. I’d say both of those championship wins and making it to the championship. Beating Incarnate Word was pretty special. Senior night was also a very overly emotional, happy night. I was excited to go out and have the crowd there and have my family there, my mom there. Those are probably all my favorite memories.

You were recruited as a receiver, correct? When did you make that transition?

Immediately. My first day on campus, I believe, the defensive back coach at the time, he kind of pulled me to the side and told me that I was gonna be playing a corner. He told me I’d have a better chance to get on the field soon as a corner than at receiver and that’s all I needed to hear and I just started learning.

Destin for greatness: a Farewell
Career Stats 144 Tackles 3 Tackles for Loss 4 Interceptions 25 Passes Defended 2 Forced Fumbles AWARDS
2018 MVFC Honor Roll
3x National Champion

After stepping into a big role in the shortened COVID season, Destin Talbert cemented himself as a prominent player for the Bison over his final two seasons. In 2021, his leaping one-handed interception helped seal the game against James Madison in the semifinals. Without him, the championship of 2021 may have never happened. Now, he is training for a shot at the pro game.

Do you feel like you’re still learning the position a little bit?

Definitely, but I feel like even if I was playing receiver, I’d still be learning. There’s a pretty high cap on what you can learn from each position.

Do you prefer man or zone coverage?

That’s tough because there’s positives to both for me. I feel like maybe this year I probably preferred man because I had a year where that kind of embodied my attitude toward confidence. Man is all about confidence and just knowing that you can shut down the guy in front of you. But I do love zone, too. I love zone just being that I’m looking at the quarterback. I feel confident that whether I’m in flat coverage or deep coverage, I can make a play on it. But I’ll say man because it’s a little more personal between me and the receiver.

Do you like press or off coverage in man?

I mean, if I’m gonna stick with that personal thing, I’m gonna stick with press just because, again, I’m up in your face and we have to figure out who’s gonna win this matchup right now. I felt very confident about my off man since I started playing corner as well.

What are some strengths you think you brought to the program?

I think my strength has been bringing that head down and just [keeping a] working mentality. I feel like that’s kind of what got me into the captain role this year. In my five years here, I was never really the loudest in any situation. Maybe this year and last I’ve gotten a little louder than people were accustomed to from me. But I think the biggest thing is that mentality.

Consistently showing up on time is important—I show up early. I’m in the film room all the time. I’m in the weight room, pushing myself to be the best whether I’m getting the highest weight I can or out on the field being the fastest I can. I think people see that I push myself in every situation I can, and keep my head down and just keep working.

Has football always been your main sport?

It has been. I played football and basketball, but it became clear pretty early that football was gonna be the one, probably by sophomore year of high school.

What were your emotions after the SDSU game?

Sick, to be honest. I was hurt. Again, I feel like this year in particular has been characterized by confidence for me, to challenge myself to stay confident and really show everybody how confident I am in my play and why I’m so confident. And for the SDSU game, I feel like I let that confidence waver and let myself not make plays I knew I was capable of. So I know for me personally, as well as you know, obviously, with the team losing, it hurt bad. I walked off the field right after I shook anybody’s hand who was there. But I mean, it that was what it was. There’s so many good memories that go with this season.

Do you think that’ll drive you a little bit with your training here?

Definitely. Like I said from the start, that’s why I got right into the training anyway. That’s why I started working within days. I mean, I’m sure I would have started pretty soon anyways, but it definitely is a driving force.

What aspect of the training are you most excited to work on?

I’m most excited to see how I can sculpt my body in these next couple of months as far as what weight I can reach and the strength and definition I can reach. I feel pretty confident. I’ve felt confident for years about my athletic ability as far as jumping and running. I’ve been excited watching every pro day since I’ve been here. And now, to be able to showcase what I can do is really exciting.

And I just love the weightroom.

Are you doing anything special with your diet in preparation?

Just eating a lot. I’ve been doing that my whole college career. With my metabolism and everything, I flesh things out pretty fast. And I still stay lean, super lean, low single-digit percentage of body fat. So, I just eat as much as I can so I can gain that weight.

With a lot of the prominent defensive backs leaving the program, who do you see stepping up?

I’m not sure. I think all of them will step up, but I definitely know they have to be excited.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

It’s kind of crazy that this might be my last time talking to Bison Illustrated. I just want to say thank you to anybody that reads this. I really appreciate everything the fans have done for me. You’ve really supported me and brought me so many good memories throughout these five years. Y’all always put a smile on my face.


Jake Kubas Jake Kubas


How quickly did you know that you wanted to come back?

I made that decision pretty early on in the 2021 season. Cordell Volson has been one of my good buddies in life for a while now, and he’s going to be one of my good buddies for a long time. And one of the things he told me is that he’s never going to regret taking another year in the green and gold. And I think that really hit home with me, being a North Dakota kid. Having a brother that played here and an old man that played here, I figured I’d just never regret taking another year. And if I didn’t, I’d kick myself for the rest of my life, probably.

Honestly, it’s not even the football thing, it’s the relationships that you build here. The brotherhood, the community support, I mean, everything about NDSU is what you look for in a college athletic program. I love everything about it.

Being around people who want to become the best versions of themselves is one of the biggest drivers of our program, I believe. Seeing guys like Cordell Volson come to work every day as a sixth-year senior—he’s still staying after practice and working on his techniques and his fundamentals because he knows that if he can get half a percent better at that in season, he’s going to do it because he wants to be the best version of himself. Stuff like that is really fun to be a part of.

How much do you think you’ve changed during your time here?

A lot. You know, if you would have told me I’d be starting for the Bison when I was a junior in high school, I would have told you that you are crazy. My brother had already signed here, but I didn’t think I had what it took to play Division I college football, let alone the brand of football

2019 MVFC Commissioner’s Academic Excellence Award
66 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023
2018, 2019, 2020-21, 2021 MVFC Honor Roll 2022 CSC Academic All-District Team


trenches. We spoke with him about his decision to come back, his love of the bison and more.

that we play at North Dakota State. But once I got here, I just told myself, ‘you know, you got to buy in as soon as possible and listen to upperclassmen and watch how they do it. Just expose yourself to as much as many experienced people within this program you can.’ And I think that benefited me in terms of my mindset. I’d say that’s probably the biggest thing that’s changed since I’ve been here is just the development and the growth of my mindset.

Is that something you try to verbally pass on to some of the younger linemen or are you leading by example?

I think it’s a little bit of both. You have to inform them that you know playing here is not easy. It’s not for the faint of heart. Running the ball 40 to 60 times a game is not easy stuff for an offensive lineman, it takes a tough five out there. So, you have to inform them, but they can’t really know what it looks like or what it feels like until they see you do it and then they go take part in it.

What is your biggest motivation for this next season?

Obviously, we all feel that we came up short of our expectations. Our expectation is to win championships—whether that’s a conference or national championship. We didn’t get either one of those done last year. I think that’s a big motivation for all of us and I think another big motivator for us is that we feel like we probably didn’t live up to our potential last year. I feel like we had a lot of really good players and just didn’t quite get it done in a couple of games. So, we just need to make sure we show up every day this offseason to get a little bit better with every workout, and get a little bit better with every run and get a little bit better with every spring ball practice. I think that’s the motivation for us.

What were your emotions after the SDSU game?

Disappointed, obviously. I feel like our team overcame a lot of adversity throughout the season last year. I thought we had a really good plan going into the game that kind of got off schedule a little bit. But just not going out on top is not something that we’re used to here and is a different feeling. And it’s one that I don’t plan on getting too comfortable having.

Is there anything else you’d like to say to our readers?

I just appreciate the support through thick and thin. We know there were a lot of ups and downs this last season and there were a lot of times when you guys could have just thrown us out the window, but a lot of people stuck by us. A lot of people still supported us and I hope they come back for the 2023 season and still support us.

Kubas is part of a long tradition of North Dakota born and raised offensive linemen finding success in the

With Returning Senior db #23

Jayden Price Jayden Price

Why did you decide to come back? And how quickly did you know that that was the decision you wanted to make?


This is a place where I grew into a man. I moved here when I was 18, fresh out of high school. It just shaped me into who I am today. And I have gotten two degrees on top of that, instead of just one, by coming back. That was a big part of it, too. But also, I’m going to play football for as long as I can and I don’t know what exactly I’m going to do after that so I’d rather stay in college for six years, and just be around the guys that I love. That was pretty much the reason why. I just love football and I just didn’t want to stop playing. And I love this place.

I knew going into the season that I was going to come back. I didn’t want to go into the year not knowing whether or not it would be my

56 Games Played 60 Tackles 1.5 Tackles for Loss 1 Interception 11 Passes Defended 1 Forced Fumble 2 Fumbles Recovered 683 Punt Return Yards 3 Punt Return Touchdowns
Career Stats
3x National Champion 2022 All-MVFC Honorable Mention (RS) 2021 Stats Perform All-America Third Team (PR) 2021 Phil Steele All-America Fourth Team (PR) 2021 All-MVFC Second Team (RS) 2018, 2020-21, 2021 MVFC Honor Roll
68 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023

In his time at North Dakota State, Jayden Price has been a starting cornerback, an All-American return man and a threetime national champion. Now, he returns in an even bigger leadership role after key departures in the secondary including Michael Tutsie, Dawson Weber, Destin Talbert, Dom Jones, Courtney Eubanks and Marques Sigle.

last year. So, I made a decision before I went into the season that I was going to come back and it was pretty easy.

What do you love about the game?

Just everything really. I love the camaraderie of the game. I love that it is a team game. I just love being able to go out there and just flip a switch and be in a different mindset. I love playing fast and playing with my brothers. This is a space for me where I can just go out there and just shut everything else off.

Is it difficult having a lot of the guys you’ve been around in your position group hitting the transfer portal?

It has definitely been very difficult. I have all love for those guys. I think I’m the oldest one, but since they’ve been here, I’ve been super tight with all of them. So, I wish them nothing but the best. I understand they have to do what they think is best for them. I don’t have any beef or hate or anything like that. Those guys are part of the reason why I’m here and part of the reason I am who I am today, so it’s definitely difficult just being so close with those guys and having them leave.

Can you tell me more about how you were different when you came here compared to how you are now?

I was just a kid when I got here, fresh out of high school. I was young and I didn’t really know how things operated here or how college football works. I didn’t really know how to put work in, but I’ve really learned that here and it has made me into the player I am today.

Do you prefer man or zone coverage?

Either for sure. It doesn’t matter to me. There are perks to run both, but it doesn’t matter to me.

What are your goals for the season?

I haven’t really given it too much thought since we just got done with this last season. But I definitely want to be an all-conference player and definitely want to win the conference, and I definitely want to get back to Frisco.

I also just want to have a bigger role and a bigger impact on the defense this year and just be one of the leaders.

Do you see it as an opportunity with the room kind of clearing out a bit?

Absolutely, but every season brings new opportunities, right? So you just got to make the most of those.

How are you feeling after the SDSU game?

Pissed off, ready to get back to work. That left a bad taste in my mouth. A lot of guys don’t ever want to feel and taste that again. We’re definitely going to have to bounce back and put in the offseason work that we have to, to go out and beat those guys next year.

Is there anything else you want to say to the fans and readers?

I appreciate your support and I can’t wait for next season.


Career Stats

38 Games Played

49 Receptions

727 Receiving Yards

3 Receiving Touchdown

zach mathis zach mathis


3x National Champion 2020-21 MVFC Honor Roll

As a journalism major, do you see yourself being in journalism in the future?

Oh definitely, I even worked at Bison 1660 this past summer.

Do you want to be a writer or are you thinking more about working in radio?

No, I’m not thinking more of radio, it was just something fun to do. I might go back, but I’m thinking about probably being behind the camera more.

Do you know what you want to cover?

Probably sports, football or basketball. I kind of know baseball, but I never played it so I don’t feel like I’m justified to talk about it.

Why did you decide to come back and how long did it take you to make that decision?

It was a pretty quick decision, honestly. Personally, my goal is to go to the NFL, and just after this year, I don’t think what I’ve done is enough. I think I need to have another good year to have a chance. I just need more film and better play for scouts to increase my chances to go there.

What do you think you need to improve on most in those regards?

Separating within the route I think I can do a better job, making more

contested catches. I had a couple but not as many as I wanted. Against Incarnate Word, I wish I came down with some of those. Blocking can always be improved so there are a lot of areas I think I could improve. I’m nowhere close to where I want to be yet. But the main focus is probably separation within the route and contested catches, especially with me being 6’ 6,’’ contested catches are important.

I think it is very stupid when football players get labeled as injury prone. It’s one of the most physical sports in the world and I think injuries are moreso about luck. However, you have experienced a fair amount of injuries here, with this being more of a full season for you, do you feel like you’re hitting your stride a little bit more?

I did, but at the same time, I didn’t like the groove I found because I definitely found a way to stay healthy, but I

With Returning Senior wr #0

wasn’t as physical as I wanted to be because I didn’t want to get hurt doing certain things. But then that kind of went away as the season progressed, and then I started not thinking about that at all. Which definitely helped my play.

Did you have any NFL players that you looked up to when you were growing up?

Derrick Brooks and Mike Alstott coached me on a seven on seven teams. That was pretty cool. I always looked at Hines Ward because I was a big Steelers guy. And then, lately, like when I got to high school, because I didn’t start playing football until high school. I looked up to Keenan Allen’s game and technique for sure. And Christian Watson, he gives me a lot of advice.

What were your emotions after the SDSU game?

The emotions honestly hit more during one of those points toward the end of the game when I looked up and realized we just didn’t have enough time. It was depressing for sure. I just feel like we let so many people down. Whether it’s former players, fans,

coaches, that was my main thing, all the people that came to watch, I just feel like we let them down. We lost our FBS game. We lost the rock and the natty to the same team. Honestly, looking back at the whole season, I just feel a lot of disappointment from our team. But personally, I feel like that’s driving this team to come closer together especially in a time right now when people are leaving the program. And honestly, it causes the guys that are still here to come closer together and especially reflect on last season.

What do you think is gonna be the strength of the receiver room coming into this next year?

I just think we can all make explosive plays in our room. I think we’re more explosive than people think. Even going into the national championship, I think people are still thinking we don’t have receivers when it’s not that at all. We have plenty of depth in the receiver room. We have great receivers. I think our strength is looked down upon, but I think going into next season, we’re going to be able to make a lot of explosive plays and I feel like we’re going to be very consistent.

What do you think, as a whole, your team needs to improve to overcome some of those challenges that maybe you fell short on this last year?

We need to get out of our own way. We can’t get behind the sticks on early downs. We can’t hurt ourselves with penalties and turnovers. When you play a good team, especially like the Jacks, you can’t turn the ball over. And both times we played them, we turned the ball over and they out physicaled us up front. We just can’t get out physicaled again because that’s not what Bison football does.

What are you most looking forward to about the season?

Just to improve personally. I want to have a better season than last year and I’m looking forward to see how this team’s gonna respond to all the stuff we’re dealing with this offseason. I’m honestly most excited to see who’s going step up in these spots like the safety position and cornerback position.

72 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023
A longtime contributor with NDSU who has dealt with his fair share of injuries during his time on campus, Zach Mathis had his biggest season to date in 2022 and he is coming back for more.

Preseason Interview with Softball Head Coach


We're trying a couple of different things. Sometimes, we slow things down and just kind of do more explaining. But, there are also times when we just try to put more pressure on them and just speed the game up a little bit, because that's how it's going to feel when they get there. They're going to kind of put that pressure on themselves a little bit. So, we try to try to attack them from all different angles.

You guys play a ton of big time opponents: Oregon, Maryland, Ole Miss, Tennessee, Auburn and Utah, how do you think that will help your team prepare for the conference season?

You know, I think we hope it kind of just slows the game down. Last year, we purposefully didn't schedule as heavily as other years. We just didn't have as good of a year as before. So, we wanted to kind of change our scheduling. And then, this year, we wanted to go back to what we did previously, especially with our team being as young as it is. We want to throw them into the fire and see what we can learn out there.

You have a lot of experienced players, but also a lot of young players that you are going to have to rely on during key points in the season. How are you using this valuable time in the offseason to prepare those younger players for that, especially with this being the ultimate failure sport?

When you play against those power five opponents, you don't know what it's like until you get in there. I think what we are doing is similar to what Dave Richman did with basketball this year. They played Arkansas and Kansas right away.

I imagine those big games allow you to shine a brighter light on the deficiencies that the team needs to work on to get where you want to be by the end of the season.

Yes, that's exactly what happens. What's happened in the past, and I'm assuming it might happen with this year's team, is the game will get fast for them early on when you're playing some teams that are ranked. It's about just taking that and learning from it. We want to get them to understand how important the mental side and the preparation are. Even the way we react to things is super important as well—the good and the bad. It's a balancing act trying to take the good and bad things. You want to string the positive things together you've done as an athlete, but you also don't want to get too ahead of yourself because it doesn't take much to bring yourself down by overlooking somebody.

74 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023
Darren Mueller has been a staple of Bison Athletics for 22 years and is one of the most prominent softball coaches in the nation. We spoke with him about the upcoming season, trying to return Summit League supremacy and more.

What are some of the things you are doing to work on the mental aspect of the game? Are you doing things like meditation circles or what?

We've done that in the past. One example of things I've been working with someone on this year is a pitcher of ours who has been working on just slowing things down for herself. In the game, she really just gets amped up, she's got adrenaline going. We've worked on some specific things like even what she's aiming for. She's also getting to the point where she can trust her movement and understand that she doesn't have to try to just blow it by someone every time. That has been great for me to hear as a coach because she's been picking up on what we've been talking about.

That's just one example. Everybody has their own different thing so you try to just learn more about them and what you can do for each one of those people.

What do you think some of the strengths of this team are?

The pitchers have done a good job so far, but I think that's because we have two seniors— that helps in that aspect. The whole team is working hard. Since day one, it's just been


• 2000 NCAA Division II National Champions

• NCAA Division II National Tournament, 3rd Place (2003), 5th Place (1999), 7th Place (2002)

• 2009 NCAA Division I Tempe Super Regional

• 2017 NCAA Division I Norman Regional Participant

a different mentality. Last year's team was a lot of fun, and they did a really good job, but I think this year's team is kind of building off of that. Last year, we kind of talked a lot about how to get back to what our tradition was because we didn't have the best year. They've kind of built off of that. I think the leadership of our upperclassmen does a really good job and even Anjolee [Aguilar-Beaucage] coming in as a transfer has kind of stepped in and taken some of those leadership roles. I'm happy with the middle infield—they do a good job defensively. Our biggest challenge is going to be our freshman, which are talented, seeing if they can adjust to the speed of the game.

Can you tell us about those incoming players and what we can expect from them?

I'll start with Anjolee. She transferred in from Grand Canyon University and she'll be our shortstop this year. She had a really good second year there and then a new coach came in with some players and she didn't get to play as much. So, when we looked at her a little bit, we looked a little bit deeper and saw that she had played a little bit and we talked with her coach. She has come in and made a big impact on our team, like I mentioned, even just off the field with her personality and her leadership. On the field, she has a very, very good glove, a strong arm and a strong bass.

• 2016 NCAA Division I Seattle Region Participant

• 2015 NCAA Division I Eugene Region Runner-up

• 2019, 2014 NCAA Division I Minneapolis Region Participant

• 2018, 2012 NCAA Division I Tucson Region Participant

• 2011 NCAA Division I Tempe Region Participant

• 2010 NCAA Division I Seattle Region Participant

• 2009 NCAA Division I Norman Region Champions

• 2003, 2002, 2000, 1999 NCAA North Central Region Champions

• 2019, 2018, 2017, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 Summit League Tournament Champions

• 2019, 2018, 2016, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2008 Summit League Regular Season


• 2002, 1999 North Central Conference Champions

• 2000 Speedline Division II National Coaching Staff of the Year

• 2016, 2015, 2009 NFCA Division I Midwest Region Coaching Staff of the Year

• 2003, 2002, 2000, 1999 Speedline Division II North Central Region Coaching Staff of the Year

• 2019, 2015, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2008 Summit League Coaching Staff of the Year, 2002 North Central Conference Co-Coach of the Year

• 2007, 2006 Division I Independent Coach of the Year


She is a good replacement for Nicole Licea. We're really proud of her and looking forward to seeing what she can do this year.

Piper Reed is one of our freshman pitchers. I think for her, you can just see that she's grown. She has picked up, I think, three miles per hour on her pitches since she came to school. She has some good movement and really good work ethic. She's somebody that has pitched in big games before in her travel career. She and Zoe King, a catcher and another freshman, played for one of the top programs in the country. Pretty much every one of their teammates are probably at a power five school right now. So, they've already played against some of the best players in the country year in and year out. I think bringing that experience on the mound is going to help us, and then with Zoe behind the plate, we get the same thing with her just having that experience catching Piper and catching other high-level pitchers. Also, as a hitter, she's got some pop to her bat. She's coming back off of a little bit of injury this past fall, but now she's coming back and getting fully healthy right now. She's starting to swing the bat a little better.

Bella Dean is a utility player right now—middle infield and first base. Again for her, she has pop. That bat is really starting to pick up, but she has had a tougher transition as a freshman, having to learn three positions. We've had those conversations and are trying to make it simpler for her just to kind of learn.

Riley Leadstrom is another good shortstop that swings a good bat. We're kind of moving around two or three positions to try to learn even though we know she's good at shortstop. She’s got good speed and is a smart base runner. I think she's gonna utilize some different roles for us in that aspect.

Ella Claus is an outfielder and a lefthanded hitter that's got some good pop in her bat, a good arm and some good range defensively. There's a chance for her to be in the outfield a little bit for us this season because

that is one of those positions we are kind of looking at.

Ava Chavarria is another one that can play multiple positions. She is very athletic. She catches, plays outfield and has played some first. She has got power in her bat and good speed. I think all of them really can contribute this year.

We did an interview with Emilee Buringa a while ago when she was more of just a slap hitter. Now, she is an all-around player that was second on the team in home runs. What has it been like to watch a former walk-on like her develop the way she has?

It's been pretty cool. She's done a great job and Kayti Grable has done a really good job working with her as a hitter. The way Emily came in this fall, I honestly think she could be Player of the Year in the conference. She's got that type of potential. She just develops day in and day out. She's got pop in her bat. She's got really good speed and a strong arm. She's got a great attitude and just continuously works to get better every single day.

How often does the team talk about getting that conference title back?

We talked about it on the first day when we were setting goals. Now, we're on to more of those boring topics that coaches talk about—the process and staying within getting better each day. We just know, it's so far away for us to even try to get to that before conference season even starts. This team is very hungry and wants to. It's one of the reason's Paige Vargas came back. She wants to win, and wants to win in every aspect. This is a very competitive team, probably the most competitive team we've had in three years for sure. So when it comes to that aspect, I don't really have to say a whole lot either, because we know what we all are fighting for and working towards.

76 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023
78 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023

reanna rudd

Juinior, catcher/first base

You didn't have a huge role your freshman year, but last year, in your second season, you led the team in home runs. What do you think allowed you to make that jump?

My freshman year, I was actually coming off of Tommy John's surgery. So, I was out for a year and a half, basically, of not playing softball at all. So, that whole first year was basically just a lot of development. I got a couple of at-bats, but when you don't play for a year, you kind of lose that confidence. And so last year, we got Kayti Grable as our hitting coach and I think she really worked with me on not just my mechanics, but just like my mental game for hitting and stuff like that, and I just found my confidence again. I had a lot of fun last year just playing with everyone and just kind of getting that love for the game back.

Can you tell me a little bit about that mental side of it?

Since I was five and playing, you get into kind of a routine that you do before every at-bat. I didn't play for a year and a half so I just kind of lost that routine that made me comfortable. So, I kind of had to find that again and that kind of self-talk and just preparing on deck and stepping into the box the correct way—just getting all that down so I felt comfortable in the box hitting.

Did you ever feel 100% last season?

Not defense wise, but hitting it didn't hurt that much. Last year was kind of the year where I could grow without pain. It was a big year of defensive development.

Do you feel back now?

I feel 100% now, finally. I am trying to play defense and I'm a first baseman

now. I used to be catcher, but we didn't have any first baseman this year so they started having me work on first base last year and this was the first time I played first base. I feel like I've come a long way since my freshman year. I'm pretty happy with where I'm at right now.

What else do you think is going to help you take a big step?

In the summer, I stay here and strength train with some other teammates who stay here. I get a job here and just kind of work on improving myself…in a nonteam setting so that I can help the team out. The coaches are always available if lI have a question or something, but they can't work with us, but I can always call them. And I have teammates here and we can kind of help each other out.

So, you're playing first base this year, but can you tell me about that experience playing DH? How did you stay involved in the game with such long breaks between action?

When I was a DH last year, it actually took a lot of mental, I'd say, power. You warm up, you hit and then you're sitting there doing nothing for two innings. So, what I would do to stay warm is I would talk to all the other players in the dugout about the game or I'd go into the cage on the side of the dugout and take a couple of swings. A lot of it was just mental preparation because hitting is a very mental part of the game.

Is being here your first big experience with strength and conditioning?

I did have some in high school but it was never so structured like NDSU is. The strength and conditioning coaches here have just helped me so significantly. They are a big reason why I am an athletic

softball player.

I'm a big person so it took a lot of work from her to make me athletic because I basically just came in with a lot of power. But now I can kind of move around. I can run the bases now because of strength and conditioning. It's super beneficial and now I have a ton of fun with it.

What hobbies do you have outside of softball?

I like to go camping a lot. I've been camping in 28 states and I've been to 24 national parks and I have a goal to get to all of them. I have this water bottle, Hydro Flask, and I want stickers from all the national parks on it. I also love doing basically any type of sport activity. When I'm home in California, I'm never home— I'm always out playing beach volleyball or rock climbing with my friends.


• All-Summit League Second Team (‘22)

Career stats

• 55 Games Played

• .206 Batting Average

• 26 Hits

• 8 Home Runs

• 26 RBIs

• .420 SLG%

• .303 OB%

Preseason Interview with #18

You have been contributing to the team since you got on campus, what do you think has allowed you to be consistent over such a long period of time?

I would say day one, from the moment I got here, I had seniors instilling in me what Bison culture [is] and how it’s done here. I attribute a lot of that to the success that those teams in the past have had and it taught me how to do it. I’ve just tried to stick to those principles and ideals that they instilled in me. My freshman year, we won the conference tournament and that proved to me that if I put my all into it and keep working hard, that it’s going to pay off.

That feeling of winning was probably the best thing I’ve experienced softball-wise in my life. So, of course, that’s something I want to recreate. So, I just keep practicing that. I also know that whatever the outcome is, it’s always very rewarding. And I feel like it’s really about just making the most of my time here.

What do you do to try and stay calm in those tense situations you have as a pitcher?

I really try to just take deep breaths mostly. I feel like that helps a lot. And I try to just take it one pitch at a time. So, whether the pitch is a good pitch or a bad pitch or whatever the play is, I just try to move on from it and focus on what’s in the present because what just happened doesn’t really matter anymore. But I think just trusting that I have my teammates behind me and that I’m not alone in the situation. I don’t feel like I have to strike everyone out.

How have you progressed here mentally and physically?

Physically, I’ve just progressed through strength training and all that has helped

paige vargas

senior, pitcher

me get stronger and build my endurance. My pitching motion has changed a whole lot since I was a freshman, like every year I feel like it changes.

But I’ve also progressed mentally just because, obviously, Division I is not easy. But I used to put everything on the line—I let softball define me and I realized now that it’s not a life or death situation. Of course you want to win and that obviously losing won’t make you happy, but it’s not the end of the world. I’ve also been through enough [to] the point where I feel like I can get myself out of tough situations.

That has to be so freeing now, not being defined by your performance.

Yeah, definitely coming in as a freshman I identified myself as an athlete. So, how I pitched in a game really affected how I felt after. But I think now, playing in my last year and knowing that I have plans after here, I think that really just changed my perspective on how I control my emotions during the game. Obviously, I’ll be upset if something doesn’t go our way, but I know that we’re really just here to have fun. That’s why we have sports.

Is there anything in particular you are looking forward to this season?

We’re all very much looking forward to Mexico. I’m sure you’ve heard that already. I went my freshman year, and I’m the only girl on the team that has been to Mexico. So, I kind of know what it’s like down there and it’s awesome. I’m super excited that I’m able to go again. Mexico is cool because all the teams stay in the same resort and it’s just about a five-minute walk to the field. And there’ll be days where we have fun trips or get to do fun stuff there. And we play some pretty good teams in Mexico. We play a couple of teams that we played last

year. So both getting revenge, but also just beating them again are the goals. But Mexico for sure is the top one. And I think Minnesota will be cool to play in US Bank Stadium.

What do you have planned for post graduation?

I’m going to go to grad school for physical therapy. I don’t know where exactly I’m going yet.


• Summit League Tournament MVP (‘19)

• Summit League Freshman of the Year (‘19)

• 2x All-Summit League Second Team (‘19, ‘22)

• 2x Summit League AllAcademic Team (‘20, ‘22)

• 2x Summit League AllTournament Team (‘19, ‘22)

• Summit League Pitcher of the Week (‘20)

• NFCA Scholar Athlete (‘19)

• 2x Summit League Commissioner’s List of Academic Excellence (‘21, ‘22)

• 3x Summit League Honor Roll (‘19, ‘21, ‘22)w

Career stats

• 46-35 W-L Record

• 57 Complete Games

• 16 Shutouts

• 492.2 Innings Pitched

• 383 Strikeouts

• 3.04 ERA

Preseason Interview with #9
80 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023

Skylar Padgett

senior, infielder

You’re studying human development here at NDSU, do you know what you want to do with that?

I kind of want to be a child life specialist in a hospital and kind of focus on kids mainly with cancer in the family, part of it because my grandpa passed away because of cancer and ever since then, it’s been a main focus of mine. So, hopefully I can go somewhere down that road.

Being from Oregon, do you have the game against the Ducks circled on your calendar?

Yes. Last year, our game against them definitely didn’t go how we all wanted it to. So for me, in my head, SDSU and Oregon are the main games. I’m just so ready for them.

What drew you to come to Fargo?

Once I got on campus and just met the coaches and everything, it just kind of drew me in. There is a huge family aspect here and even outside of the campus, it feels like home away from home. My recruiting coach always told me, “Once you’re at somewhere that feels like home, you’ll know.” When we left here after my visit, I was like, okay, that’s where I want to go.

My mom tried everything to keep me from going on a visit here. She’d ask me if I even knew what this place looked like and I didn’t. I didn’t even really know what North Dakota is. I had to write my mom a paper with facts about North Dakota and facts about the school and some of the players that have gone here.… Eventually, she agreed to do the visit and I instantly fell in love here.

Do you think you will stay around here after you are done?

No, I have family in Georgia and I plan to go there.

Is this your final season at NDSU?

Maybe. I still have my COVID year, but I’d kind of just like to wait and see where it goes from here.

Is there anything in particular you are looking forward to about the season?

I think going to Mexico will be pretty cool. I’ve never been there before. And I think just playing against really good teams, especially with our team, it’s going to be really good for us. We have an older team, but a younger team at the same time. If somebody gets hurt, we’re relying on all of our freshmen. And I think that’s really good because our freshmen are more than capable of doing it and being put in a job anywhere.

Which freshmen have been impressing you?

They’re all doing so amazing which is very cool to see.

As a leader, how do you try to help them?

Probably just with reps and stuff, and at least, practice-wise, probably just giving them tips on some things. Mental health is kind of huge for me because I’ve gone through a whole bunch of stuff. And so I just kind of helped them on their day to day basis. I like to check-in. I think that is such a big thing. I just kind of like trying to be that person that they can come to and talk to outside of softball. Because sometimes as a freshman, that’s pretty hard to do.

What do you think you’ve improved on most from last season?

I wouldn’t say necessarily anything physical. Yes, I’ve gotten better physically, but mostly I’ve just been getting mentally stronger and I think the biggest thing that I’ve learned and worked on is knowing that I’m going to fail and being okay with failing. Not failing all the time, but just being okay knowing that I’m going to fail and it’s going to happen. I don’t ever want to fail. I just want to be kind of perfect at everything. So that was always a big mental struggle for me because I was getting in my own way.

Preseason Interview with #8
AWARDS Career stats • Summit League AllTournament Team (‘22) • Summit League Commissioner’s List of Academic Excellence (‘21) • 99 Games Played • .243 Batting Average • 51 Runs • 4 Home Runs • 33 RBIs • .340 SLG% • .303 OB%

Do you have any postgraduate plans yet?

Law enforcement.

Are you thinking you’ll stay in the Fargo-Moorhead area for that?

That’s a good question. I don’t know. They’ve kind of offered paying for half of the skills program here in Fargo. So I mean, it’s definitely an option, but it’s also really stinking cold here.

Why do you want to be a police officer? What made you want to do that?

I took a class in high school, and it was called Street Law. And basically it was we figured out the way bodies were being dragged and like forensics and stuff. And it was really interesting. So then going into college, I was like, I don’t know what I want to do. And

lainey lyle senior, pitcher

so that was kind of just what led me [to] criminal justice. And it’s been very interesting to me. So I think this job that I’m doing right now will help me figure out if it’s exactly what I want to do.

Have you taken any forensics courses?

I haven’t taken any forensic courses, but I’m actually in a serial killer class right now, which is really interesting, but I haven’t taken any forensics class, which is a little unfortunate…Being a detective one day would be awesome, but [you have to] work your way up to that.

What are some of your feelings heading into the season with it being your last?

I mean, it’s crazy. I played softball since I was eight. So to think that this is my last season ever playing softball is absolutely insane. But I think we’re

gonna be pretty good this year. I’m hoping to leave off on a good note, and I’ll win conference tournament, go to a regional. That’d be awesome. But yeah, I’m extremely excited. [I’m also] excited to go to Mexico for 10 days so I can enjoy some warm weather.

Did you always pitch?

[I] remember my coach was like, “who wants to pitch?” and half the team raised their hand and I was one of them. So, I started going to a pitching coach and fell in love with it. I played a little bit of basketball when I was younger, played like two years of volleyball, but didn’t stick with either of those.

What do you like about pitching?

I [like] the adrenaline. I mean, being out there on the mound, especially here in college, we played some big teams my freshman year [when] we went to

ZACHARY LUCY Preseason Interview with #18
82 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023

Florida. It was one of my second times pitching and just the adrenaline [was] unreal. I mean getting to be a part of every single play, you never have time to get bored. You’re involved in really every single play.

You mentioned you guys had some big games last year. Are there any games you have circled on your schedule this year that you’re especially looking forward to?

We played Oregon last year, and lost 15 to zero, so going back definitely will be revenge for sure. I’m excited to play them [because] it was actually my dream school because I’m from Idaho. Oregon’s probably about eight hours away from my house, so I really wanted to go to Oregon. To beat them would be absolutely amazing. And then definitely Tennessee. They made it really far last year in the College World Series and regionals and stuff, so that’d be awesome too.

Do you have like a chip on your shoulder from the Oregon game?

I mean, a little bit. [Beating them] was one of those things that was my ultimate dream, [but it] wasn’t realistic. So, if we were to beat them, that’d be amazing. [Especially] because I wanted to go there so bad.

How important is it to you to get that conference title?

This is going to be my fourth year, the last three years we haven’t won a conference. So I haven’t got to experience it. None of my classes got to experience it. And I think it’s just something that we all really want to experience. And I think that it would help the program going forward with recruiting. I know one of the reasons I came to NDSU was because they had won and had such good success—they had won the conference tournament so many years in a row. And so I think not doing that for three years has probably definitely hurt the program. So I think it would be awesome not only

to experience it, but, like I said, to help the program in the future.

Is it something you guys talk about a lot?

Oh, yeah. I mean, that’s like our biggest, ultimate goal—to win the conference tournament. I mean, our ultimate, ultimate goal is to go to the college world series, but you got to do it step by step. So, first step is to win the conference tournament.

What do you think are some of the strengths of the team this year?

I think that our team gets along very well on and off the field. When you have that many roles together, there can be a lot of drama. We don’t have that at all. I think that everyone gets along very well. We have very split ages—we have the perfect amount of older girls, we have a lot of younger girls, but that doesn’t seem to affect the team in any way. So yeah, our biggest strength is our team chemistry and all the time we spend on and off the field.

Did you have any athletes you looked up to growing up?

The biggest athlete I looked up to was Jennie Finch. She was an amazing pitcher. My pitching coach would always take videos of me and then put me side by side with her, and say, “Try to mimic her and do what she’s doing.” So yeah, it’s Jenny French for sure.

Do you have any hobbies outside of softball?

Since I’ve been in college, not really, because there’s not much time for anything else. But growing up, I loved camping, spending time outside, being on a boat.

What do you think you’ll remember most about being a bison?

I would say probably all the relationships that I’ve made here. I think that’s something that I’ll carry on with me for the rest of my life. I’m actually getting married in July. So I like being able to invite all my previous teammates…I just think that’s awesome. Like I said, just the relationships I’ve built here and the memories that I’ve made.


• 2021 Summit League Pitcher of the Week

• 2021 All-Summit League Second Team

• Summit League Honor Roll (‘22) Honor Roll (‘19, ‘21, ‘22)

Career stats

• 15-15 W-L Record

• 3.14 ERA

• 20 Complete Games

• 2 Shutouts

• 200.1 Innings Pitched

• 161 Strikeouts


Tyler Oakes

Preseason Interview with Baseball Head Coach

What's the biggest adjustment you've had to make in your new role?

Really just dealing with more logistics. On the baseball side of it, things didn't really change. I still do all of the pitching stuff on a day-to-day basis. Coach [Tanner] Neale and Coach [Trent] Keefer do more of the position player work. I like to let those guys go do their thing. They're kind of the experts in that area.

What are a few things you would recommend young pitchers out there work on?

There's a lot that goes into it, especially now. Everything seems so tech-driven. I'm probably more old-school mixed with maybe a little bit of new-school qualities here and there.

For pitchers, I love long toss. I think long toss is huge to build your arm strength and build your body. Another piece is just being obsessed with throwing strikes. I hate walks. I don't care, necessarily, what the radar gun says. Obviously, to pitch at the Division I level, you need to meet a certain threshold to be successful, but throwing 95 doesn't do you any good if you're not throwing strikes and you're walking people left and right. I think that that would probably be my number one thing.

You lost some key contributors from last year's team. Who are you looking to step into those roles?

Yeah, we lost a few impact guys. Jake drew at the back end of our bullpen, had a zero ERA going into the last conference game. He's been a guy that's kind of been a mainstay in our bullpen so we'll need to replace that. We'll also need to replace Logan Williams, a Catcher DH guy for us that led the team in home runs last year.

I do feel like we've gotten a lot of pieces back from the team and some young guys that are capable of stepping up. We also went out and got a couple of guys from the transfer portal. Charlie Hesse played the last few years at third base for us. Right now, we have Jack Steil, a transfer from Nebraska. He's a junior this year and he played a little bit for Nebraska the last couple years. He's from Cold Spring originally and he's a guy that we feel can make a huge impact not only defensively, but in the middle of our order. He's a big physical dude that can hit for some power

and has some experience. He's the guy we need to step up.

We also added a catcher, Stephen Lund, a graduate transfer from Gonzaga. Will Busch has been our mainstay back there our last couple of years and he will continue to be, but when he needs a breather, we can put Stephen there and he can also play some DH for us. Stephen is a guy that had an injury and then came back to play last year and wasn't quite right so his numbers weren't great. But before that, his numbers were really good so he is another guy that can be in the middle of the lineup for us.

There are also a couple of freshmen that we're excited about. Davis Hamilton is going to play a role for us in some capacity. Dallan Quigley is a junior college transfer that is a little outfielder that plays with a ton of energy and speed, and adds a dimension to our team both defensively and offensively that fits really well with what Coach Hunt is trying to do with our offense.

Pitching-wise, we have Carson Jacobs, a junior college pitcher from Gateway Community College in Arizona. He's a big 6'9'' right-handed pitcher that will be in the 91 to 94 range. He's a guy with a little bit of college experience that we can rely on a little bit. And then Parker Puetz is a freshman from Volga, SD right outside of Brookings. He is another big physical guy that I think has a really bright future ahead of him. But I think we'll need to use them right away as a freshman in some sort of impactful role from what we've seen so far.

We also have guys returning like Tristen Roehrich who we're going to move from more of a bullpen role to a starting role. And then on the back end we have Joey Danielson who is a converted catcher to a right-handed pitcher. I think he is up to 95 miles an hour and is still very inexperienced, but he's got the stuff that can really play at the back end. He just got his feet wet last year and I think he can keep making strides going forward.

What does it do for you as a coach having two really solid guys like Loven and Feeney in the rotation?

It's comforting. Max had a down year last year, but I feel like he's going to be in a better spot this year and is going to

rebound pretty nicely. If he stays healthy and everything, he's going to probably break the innings record for the school. When I have guys that have that type of experience, it's comforting.

It seems like every year you have the opportunity to play some big programs. I think this year, you have an especially high number of those games with the likes of Texas, Texas Tech, Arizona and Arizona State. What does that do for you guys gearing up for conference play at the end of the season?

Yeah, it's kind of a shift. One of the first things that I wanted to do as a head coach was schedule a little bit harder to give our guys experiences against some of the best of the best. I think it's only a positive when you do that and I think in this day and age with where we're at geographically, we have to think of it differently. If we're going to get the kids that we want or think that we should be able to get, I think having a tough schedule helps. When you can call a kid and say, “Hey, our future schedules include Arizona, Arizona State, Texas and Texas Tech,” that's going to get their attention.

We have a lot of talented guys that can play with anyone around the country. In order to showcase that more often, I think you have to go out and prove it and go play those types of teams. And I think we're not afraid to play anyone, anytime, anywhere. That's not to say we're going to go out and win all those games. We're gonna get our butts kicked every once in a while, but it's going to give our team really good experience.

If you play a poor non-conference schedule, how much do you really learn about your team? We want to compete for championships. I think the only way to do that is to prepare them by playing the best around. And it gives them a really cool experience.

Is there anything else you want to say to our readers?

We're looking forward to the conference tournament being in Fargo for the first time. We have to make it there, but if we do, it'll be a cool experience. Each year is a new group and a new team and can they come together and do something special.


Preseason Interview with #31

Max Loven

What are you looking forward to with your last season in the green and gold?

I’m just kind of looking forward to one last season of bus rides, being around all the guys in the locker rooms and hanging out in the hotels. That’s kind of the stuff that when you’re 5-10 years down the line, after I’m done playing, that is the stuff I’m going to remember. That’s kind of what you look most forward to, at least I do. The baseball is always a plus and having a good team is the ultimate goal. But when it comes down to it, I’m not going to remember a random game that we won. It’s about the friendships.

Recovery is super important as a pitcher, what are some of the things you do?

There are seemingly a countless number of things that you can do. Most of the time, what I do is mostly band type stuff to strengthen the little muscles. I also like to use the heavier balls that you throw to get my shoulder stronger. There are a lot of exercises you can do to get your shoulder, forearm and elbow stronger.

A lot of people like doing more massage type stuff or scraping or cupping or going into the athletic trainer’s room. There are a countless number of things you can do. It’s kind of hard to keep track of all the stuff.

When did you start pitching?

I think the first time was when I was seven or eight.

Did you like it immediately?

I always did like pitching, but growing up, all the way through high school and everything, I hit and played the field too. I never really worked on pitching because I didn’t like it as much as I liked the other positions. I played first base, I played outfield

sometimes and I would work a ton on hitting. I liked the hitting a little bit better. It wasn’t until I got to college that I even really focused on practicing pitching as much. I’ve always liked every part of baseball.

Do you think your appreciation for pitching has grown with it being your main thing in college?

Yeah, I suppose because it’s been my main thing every day for the last five years.

Do you want to pitch post-collegiately?

My plan is to go however far I can and play however long I can, but I know it’s not guaranteed.

What have you been working on over the offseason?

I just kind of tried to go back to the basics a little bit. I didn’t have my best year last year and I think I just got outside of myself a little bit. I’m just trying to keep things a little bit more simple and just work on being more consistent and not trying to do too much.

What pitches do you throw?

I throw a fastball, curveball, slider and a changeup. I mainly throw my fastball and curveball and I definitely don’t throw my changeup very often.

Cade Feeney is another very high-level pitcher in the program, how often are you two bouncing ideas off of one another and tweaking things together?

We’re catch partners and we play catch every day. So, we see each other throw every day and we can see when something is off. We also bounce ideas off of each other. And it’s not just us, it’s everybody.


• 2021 All-Summit League Second Team

• 2021 Summit League Championship All-Tournament Team

• 2019 All-Summit League First Team

• 2019 Summit League Newcomer of the Year

• 2019 Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American

• Summit League All-Academic Team (2020, 2021)

• Summit League Commissioner’s List of Academic Excellence (2020, 2021, 2022)

• Summit League Academic Honor Roll (2019, 2020, 2021, 2022)

• 16-11 W-L Record

• 4.31 ERA

• 4 Complete Games

• 1 Shutout

• 248.2 Innings Pitched

• 201 Strikeouts


Preseason Interview with #2

Peter Brookshaw

You came from a very baseballoriented family with your father and brother both also playing college baseball. What was it like growing up like that?

When I was younger we’d be playing baseball about every day in the summer for like four or five hours a day and obviously, my dad put the ball in our hands at a young age, but he just wanted us to work hard at whatever we were doing. It was the same if it was hoops because all my brothers played basketball as well, but we all really fell in love with baseball.

Did you watch a lot of baseball games

For sure. We went to a lot of Twins games in the summer.

What are your feelings going into

We just want to let it all hang

and hopefully win another

Do you have any postgraduate plans

I want to play this game as long as I can and if that doesn’t work out, I’ll find a job in the cities.

How do you try to lead here?

I think leading by example is the biggest thing. I also just try to make sure everyone is comfortable and feels welcome because there are a lot of guys on the team and sometimes people can feel left out. But I just tried to include everyone and help with camaraderie.

You guys have a ton of big games this year playing teams like Texas Tech, Arizona, Texas, Arizona State, what are your thoughts on that?

Seeing it just got me excited. We really have nothing to lose playing those games and we want to be in those games and that’s why we play Division I baseball. When I saw the schedule, I was super happy and we’re just excited about the opportunity.

Is there maybe a little bit of an extra edge playing teams like that?

Yes and just proving that you can play at that level. And when you play those big schools, you get to play in front of scouts and stuff like that.


• 2022 All-Summit League Second Team • 2022 Summit League All-Academic Team • Summit League Commissioner’s List of Academic Excellence (2021) • Summit League Academic Honor Roll (2019, 2020, 2021) • 167 Games Played • .269 Batting Average • 117 Runs • 14 Home Runs • 125 RBIs • .408 SLG% • .364 OB%
88 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023

Druw sackett

As a junior college transfer, what made you choose NDSU?

I had quite a few offers out of JUCO. My route to come here was a little different. With COVID and everything, I had to transfer to another Junior College from my original one. Ultimately, I just felt like this was a better option than most because Bennett Hostetler just got drafted and they needed a middle infielder to come in and fill in the spot and it felt right. And the coaching staff I talked to then was very interested. And then about a couple of weeks out, a new coaching staff came in, but I still felt confident in my relationship that I had with [Tyler] Oakes that I would still have a spot on the team. The coaching style here has been very comfortable.

What do you like about the coaching style?

It’s very organized, very structured. Everything about what we do, we do with a purpose and it’s explained very thoroughly why we’re doing what we’re doing and what we’re doing it for. There’s a reason behind all of it. The structure part gives the younger guys and the older guys a chance to understand what we’re doing and what we’re trying to do.

I have to imagine you guys put in a lot of work on your own as well. How often are you doing that?

Anytime we get a chance. We have certain time frames each day where we can get into the indoor facility and that’s so huge. The coaches can’t be hands-on during those times, but they open the door for us. And this team, this year, I see

I went from one extreme to the next. Northeast was a good transition because it was a little colder there, I got to see some below-zero temperatures. And then coming here, it was explained to me that I’ll never see anything like it. The cold here is very different. It’s all about the wind, but I didn’t look at it like that. I just looked at the experience I was going to have coming here and I felt like the NDSU community was just huge. I didn’t think that we were going to be put in a spot where we weren’t going to have the facilities to not practice and not have those things. The new indoor facility is so nice, it’s perfect. We can put in our work and stay warm. We’re kind of on the same schedule as somebody that we would be in Arizona or Texas.

What do you like most about baseball?

The competitive factor. I like that my success doesn’t come from just my play,

huge for us because we spend most of our time traveling. So, being with a team and being so close with the team that we have is my favorite part. I get to go and grind with the boys.

What are your thoughts and emotions coming into your final season?

I definitely want to lay it out on the table. I definitely want the opportunity to play at the next level and I think I have the capabilities of doing that. I just need to play this season and see what happens this season. I need to do what I’ve done that has made me successful to this point and not change anything for any reason other than that I want to win a championship. We won the regular season conference last year, but the tournament is what I think a lot of us have our eyes set on. We want to play in a regional and we want to see how far we can go.


Preseason Interview with #13
• 2022 All-Summit League Second Team • Summit League Championship All-Tournament Team (2022) • 45 Games Played • .338 Batting Average • 53 Hits • 36 Runs • 7 Home Runs • 28 RBIs • .567 SLG% • .458 OB%
90 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023

A Look at the Terrance Dahl and Donna Beres Track Complex

In the past decade, NDSU has opened new competition venues on campus for basketball, wrestling, softball and indoor track & field, in addition to significant facility upgrades for volleyball at the Bentson Bunker Fieldhouse and soccer at Dacotah Field. Other new training facilities include the Nodak Insurance Company Football Performance Complex, Nodak Insurance Company Basketball Performance Center, the golf indoor short game facility, as well as strength & conditioning and sports medicine amenities in the Sanford Health Athletic Complex.

These construction efforts and upgrades continued most recently with the new outdoor Terrance Dahl and Donna Beres Track Complex. This privately-funded $5 million complex renovation is set to be completed in two phases with the second phase to be completed in 2023. The complex officially opened for use in the Fall of 2022 and will serve as the new home for the NDSU men’s and women’s outdoor track and field teams.

The renovation saw an overhaul of all aspects of the facility. Competition areas and surfaces have been replaced, including the eight-lane 400-meter track under the direction of Hellas Construction. The track surface is a

state-of-the-art Hellas EpiQ G4000 Full Pour system. Within the field it also includes three dual-direction pole vault runways and two dual-direction horizontal jump runways. Multiple competition areas for the shot put, discus, hammer, javelin and high jump will be located inside the oval, with jumps runways on the east side of the track.

Fans and spectators will be seated in a new 2,136 capacity grandstand on the west side of the track overlooking the traditional home straightaway, running north to south. On the south end of the complex sits a 25-foot by 13-foot Daktronics video board with an integrated sound system to present official timing and results.

At the west finish line, the Don Larson Press Box will sit atop the new grandstand for meet management. The complex will also be outfitted with a full concession stand with restrooms at the north end of the grandstand.

Upon the completion of the outdoor track, the NDSU athletics facilities overhaul has totaled $130 million in projects over the past decade.

Renderings provided by Teammakers
94 BISON ILLUSTRATED february 2023