Bison starting cornerbacks have 'outside' chance of playing in FCS title game
FARGO—What at what time looked like a certain season-ending injury for North Dakota State cornerback Jalen Allison may not be after all. And that also goes for Jaylaan Wimbush, the other starting Bison cornerback.
NDSU head football coach Chris Klieman said Thursday that both have an "outside" chance of playing against James Madison in the NCAA Division I FCS title game on Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas. Both were hurt in the semifinal victory over Sam Houston State.
Klieman did not reveal the exact nature of their injuries, but he did confirm that Wimbush's ailment was not an ACL. It's an injury that has plagued the Bison this year in losing standout players like defensive end Greg Menard, linebacker Dan Marlette and offensive tackle Dillon Radunz.
Klieman also said backup cornerback Dom Davis, out since mid-November, should return for the title game, but said running back Ty Brooks is doubtful after suffering a shoulder injury against Sam Houston State.
"We have a lot of depth here and we try to keep working on that depth," Klieman said. "Nobody is going to feel sorry for somebody being hurt so the next guy has to be ready to play."
If Wimbush and Allison can't go, junior Marquise Bridges and freshman Josh Hayes will start at the cornerback spots. Bridges had two interceptions in the win over the Bearkats.
"We think he is a tremendous player who is starting to come into his own," Klieman said.
"And we're excited about Josh Hayes, a young player that's done a really nice job."
With Brooks doubtful, NDSU will go into the game with Bruce Anderson as the only running back who has played extensively throughout the entire season. He rushed for 1,153 yards on 216 attempts.
True freshman Seth Wilson had his redshirt pulled in the eighth game of the season, and started to assert his himself in the playoffs, rushing for 194 yards against Sam Houston. He's averaged 5.8 yards on 70 attempts and has caught a pair of touchdown passes.
Freshman running back Adam Cofield may be available for the Dukes. He played in six games in a relief role before leaving with a knee injury in the Youngstown State game.
"That's just the nature of football, you're going to have guys injured," Klieman said. "Nobody wants that. I hope we're at our best, and we hope JMU is at their best, but that's not the reality. Both teams have lost guys for the season. You just have to continue to coach them all and coach them all every day. You never know when that opportunity's going to come."
Like NDSU, JMU has also had to overcome the loss of a few starters, including offensive linemen A.J. Bolden, Gerren Butler and Jahee Jackson and starting running back Cardon Johnson.
"I think it probably speaks to two things," said JMU head coach Mike Houston. "Number one, it speaks to the really solid job in recruiting that both coaching staffs have done to build the depth on our rosters to be able to handle the significant injuries that both of us have had. I think that says a lot about the two institutions as well because we are able to recruit enough high-caliber players to be able to withstand that. I think the second thing, and maybe more importantly, is I think it speaks to the culture within both programs. I think both programs probably have a similar mindset as it's a team-oriented, unified group where everybody understands that the success of the team is the most important thing. Everybody's going to be ready for the day when their number is called."
Houston said "we'll have a few of them back," but declined to list those players specifically.