“Horns Up: Inside the Greatest College Football Dynasty” by Jeff Kolpack
Football (American), college, dynasty
March 8, 2016
4 of 5 stars (Very Good)
When a college football fan talks about towns that are home to some of the best football programs, they just roll off the tongue. Places like Columbus, Ohio…Happy Valley, Pennsylvania…Tuscaloosa, Alabama…Fargo, North Dakota.
Yes, that last city belongs in the conversation. Fargo is the home of the North Dakota State Bison, the only team to win five consecutive national titles in any level of college football. Their march to these championships, as well as the decision by the school to join the Football Championship Series (FCS, or formerly Division 1-AA) is chronicled in this book by second-generation North Dakota sportswriter Jeff Kolpack.
The book stars off with the rise of Bison quarterback Carson Wentz, who was the second pick of the 2016 NFL draft by the Philadelphia Eagles. From there, the book will take the reader into the school administrative offices, the coaches work areas, the locker room and even on the campus when ESPN hosted its popular College Game Day show in Fargo in 2013 and 2014. Through it all, Kolpack writes with a style that shows he is not only knowledgeable about the program and the game of football, he displays that he also thoroughly enjoys covering the team as he intersperses some personal, but pertinent, stories as well.
The game coverage is very good, especially the chapter that has excellent summaries of each of the five championship games in which the Bison became the FCS champions. This was a chapter near the middle of the book, which seemed to be a strange placement for a summary chapter. That was the biggest drawback encountered while reading the book as it did not have a good flow by jumping around from topic to topic without a sense of order.
However, the stories of key persons in the Bison program, everyone from Wentz to coach Craig Bohl and athletic director Gene Taylor, are what make the book fun to read. Kolpack’s knowledge about the school and the football team will educate the reader about the team, the enthusiastic fan base and the dedication of the players. The stories about the fans making trips to Minneapolis when the Bison would play the Gophers, a Big Ten team, were very interesting, outnumbering the fans from the much bigger school and even winning two of the three games played by the two teams.
For any football fan who wants to read either about a true football dynasty or about the rise of a smaller program, this is the book to pick up. Of course, Bison fans will want to read this as well, even if they have probably soaked up all this information on their team from other sources.
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