Bison focusing on improving Red Zone Defense ahead of 2023 season

Published: Aug. 14, 2023 at 10:04 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (Valley News Live) - As electrifying as deep throws and defensive scores can be, the real meat and potatoes of football scoring is found in the red zone, and the vaunted Bison Code Green defense especially struggled in those final 20 yards.

In red zone scores allowed, NDSU ranked 109th in the FCS, only 14 away from the bottom and second-to-last in the Missouri Valley.

“When you get down in the red zone, high red zone, low red zone, that’s winning time, when you make plays there, hold teams to field goals, you’re gonna win a lot of games, obviously we need to do a better job of that, and obviously, you can’t be giving up 45 points like we did in the national championship,” said senior Defensive Lineman Jake Kava.

“We have to have a mentality that, shoot, if they drive the field, we have to put our feet into the ground and drive them right back,” linebacker Cole Wisniewski said. “Field goals won’t get us beat because we have a great offense, so that’s the mentality that we have to have.”

On the other side of the ball, the offense feels the opposite about those three points, and rarely had trouble scoring in the red zone, finishing 10th in the FCS, racking up 40 touchdowns on their 55 trips, but they’re not satisfied with 15 shots through the upright.

“It was really one of our main emphasis going into the season, going into the offseason, just scoring points, not field goals,” Bison wide receiver Braylon Henderson said. “We wanna keep Griff and Steiny and those guys on the sideline as much as we can, we just wanna punch that thing in, and have those fireworks going off.”

The Bison will look to combine this efficiency with last season’s sixth-best third-down offense to keep the points rolling in.

“That’s our standard, is to score when we get to the red zone and to score touchdowns,” Bison offensive lineman Jalen Sundell said. “Anything less isn’t good enough, and that’s our mentality, is to score when we get to the red zone.”

The Bison now turn to game one of the 2023 season against the Eastern Washington Eagles, a mirrored team in the red zone. They struggled to score as much, but defensively did better than everyone in the Missouri Valley except for South Dakota State. The Bison are looking for their 8th-straight season-opening win on September 2nd in U.S. Bank Stadium.