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North Dakota State Film Review: Offense

The Bison offense is powerful

NCAA Football: DI Football Championship Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

I went back to the 2016 North Dakota State vs Jacksonville State FCS Championship Game for this clip, and I’m going to pull several more from this game. I like this game because it shows North Dakota State playing an evenly matched opponent. I also like it because it’s readily available and on an easy to use website.

Heavy Power


This play comes from the first drive of the game. North Dakota State is on their own 34 yard line facing a 3rd and 1.

This is incredible smash mouth football. North Dakota State hits the A gap with a motioning tight end and a full back and blows it wide open. If the running back has just a little extra burst, it’s a touchdown, because the only player North Dakota State didn’t block makes the tackle.

Let’s take a look at the pre-snap formation

Well, here it is ladies and gentlemen, 22 football players in roughly a 10 yard box. It doesn’t get any more smash mouth than this.


Blue: O-Line - 5

Pink: Tight Ends - 3

Light Blue: QB - 1

Red: FB - 1

Green: RB - 1


Dark Blue: Defensive Line - 4 (2 DEs, 2 DT)

Yellow: Linebackers - 3

Green: Safeties - 2

Light Blue: Corners - 2


North Dakota State starts in a heavy formation with 2 inline tight ends flanking each side of the line and a motion tight end off the right side. The backfield is comprised of a quarterback under center, and a full back and running back in the I formation.


The defense counters by essentially showing a 6 man front with both outside linebackers standing up on each side of the line. The middle linebacker remains in the middle and is joined by the strong safety. The free safety is lined up just off the middle linebackers left shoulder. Both corners are tight in the box as well.

Tight End Motion

North Dakota State puts their off-line tight end in motion. Most teams would motion him all the way across the formation, to help seal the strong side, but North Dakota State is not most teams, instead of using the motion tight end to seal an edge, they park him right next to the fullback, creating a numbers advantage in the center of the formation.


This isn’t the best camera angle, but I’ve marked the blocking scheme on the play side.

Green - The left tackle and the left guard block down and seal the play side defensive tackle.

Blue - The motion tight end is responsible for kicking out the defensive end

Red - The fullback is responsible for the middle linebacker

Pink - The play side tight end is responsible for keeping the outside linebacker sealed on the outside.

As the play progresses things get a little muddled, but you can still see the play developing.

Green - The double team has effectively washed the defensive tackle down the line and out of the hole.

Light Blue - The left tackle now comes off the double team and moves to the second level to pick up the strong safety in the box.

Dark Blue - In one of the more crucial blocks on the play, the motion tight end is able to cut off the defensive end who is attempting to knife into the hole.

Red - The fullback is right on the back of the motion tight end, moving through the hole like a running back in search of the middle linebacker.

Pink - The play side tight end has kept the outside linebacker outside of the the play.

The running back has finally made it to the line of scrimmage and found a giant crease waiting for him. All he has to do is make one cut and hit the hold.

Green - The left guard has totally sealed off the back side of the play by washing the play side defensive end down the line.

White - It’s a little hard to see, but just for good measure, the right guard has also pulled around the center, giving North Dakota State yet another blocker at the point of attack.

Light Blue - The left tackle has found the safety and sealed him to the outside, removing him from the play.

Red - The fullback has found the middle linebacker and prevented him from penetrating into the backfield.

Blue - The motion tight end has the defensive end sealed off and on the ground.

This is what domination at the line of scrimmage looks like.

The back side of the play is totally shut off.

North Dakota State has completely annihilated the play side of the defense.

I’m almost certain I could run through this hole. The running back isn’t touched by a defender and doesn’t have to slow down at all. He just needs to beat the free safety to take it to the house.

The running first contact the running back has to deal with is the free safety trying to grab him 6 yards down the field. A little better burst from the back and this is an easy 6. In fact, this probably should have been 6.

If Kansas State got the exact same blocking, I would expect a Division 1 running back (or whatever we’re calling it these days) to take this the distance.


On this play, North Dakota State was able to create a blocking numbers advantage on the play side by motioning a tight end to the middle of the formation and pulling their right guard into the hole. The left guards ability to seal off the defensive tackle and the motioning tight ends ability to keep the defensive end from disrupting the play were two of the key blocks on the play.

Kansas State needs to run the ball to be effective. Passing the ball is great, but when the wind starts howling in November, it’s nice to be able to lean on a punishing ground game while the Texas Techs and Oklahoma States of the world try and figure out how to throw a frozen football into 25 mile-an-hour wind gusts.