By David Coulson
College Sports Journal
YOUNGSTOWN, OH. — How do you measure the worth of a quarterback?
Some like to do it by crunching statistical numbers.
How many yardages has your passer of choice thrown for? How many yards has he gained on the ground? How many touchdowns is he responsible for?
But in the mind of North Dakota State quarterback Brock Jensen, only one number is relevant.
How many wins do you have?
Jensen might not be the greatest passer, or niftiest runner that the Football Championship Subdivision has ever seen, but after last Saturday’s 35-17, Missouri Valley Football Conference-clinching victory over Youngstown State at Stambaugh Stadium, this crafty senior has more victories as a starter than any other quarterback has won.
On an afternoon where the Waupaca, WI. product hit an efficient 17-of-22 passes for 200 yards, with four touchdowns and one interception, Jensen tied Appalachian State star Armanti Edwards for the most wins as a starter for an FCS quarterback with 43 notches in his Bison belt.
“That’s the job of the quarterback, to win,” Jensen explained with lethal conciseness. “It wasn’t the most pretty win, but we found a way to get it done.”
Jensen goes for 44 on Saturday when the Bison host South Dakota in their regular-season finale before they begin defense of their back-to-back NCAA Division I Football titles.
Expected to be the overall No. 1 seed in the FCS playoffs, Jensen and company will need four more wins to match Appalachian State as the only team to capture three successive national titles.
Stambaugh Stadium was one of the more appropriate places for Jensen to tied such a storied mark. Youngstown State had its share of unsung heroes like this blond-headed, baby-faced assassin.
During the 1990s, coach Jim Tressel was the biggest name as the Penguins dominated what was then called I-AA football with six trips to the championship game and four championships.
From 1991-94, YSU reached the title game four consecutive times, raising championship trophies in 1991, 1993 and 1994.
Ironically, Tressel was on hand on Saturday at Stambaugh Stadium to watch Jensen’s exploits. Wearing his trademark sweater vest on a windy, but beautiful November day, Tressel was inducted into the Youngstown State athletic hall of fame.
And there probably weren’t many more admiring on-lookers than this FCS coaching legend.
Another coach who has at least two reasons — championship rings — to belong to the Brock Jensen fan club is Craig Bohl.
When you ask Bohl anything about Jensen, a gentle smile comes on the face of the soft-spoken, immaculately dressed head coach.
“Brock Jensen just goes out and does what you ask him to do,” said Bohl. “He doesn’t care about his numbers, all he wants to do is win.”
Jensen emerged as a force at quarterback in the midst of some of Bohl’s darkest days.
Coming off a 3-8 campaign in its first full season as a Division I program, there were questions about whether Bohl could survive another losing season and athletic director Gene Taylor fielded questions about the former Nebraska player and assistant’s future.
It almost seems funny to consider that now, through the microscope of back-to-back national championships.
The Bison were 1-1 in 2010, coming off one of the ugliest wins you would ever want to see (trust me, I still have the DVD) in a 6-3 win over Kansas and a 16-9 loss to Northern Iowa when Bohl placed his future in the hands of a determined, redshirt freshman to start the next week.
Jensen was a less-than-brilliant 8-of-17 passing for 117 yards and three touchdowns, but he did show some grit with 13 carries for 57 yards. The biggest stat was that NDSU beat Morgan State 35-9.
There were some other portraits that were more thrift-store quality than Rembrants, but Jensen survived and so did the Bison, advancing to the FCS quarterfinals and a controversial loss to eventual national champion Eastern Washington.
“After that first year, Brock worked really hard in the off-season and he came back really determined to win,” Bohl said.
Over the past two championship seasons, there have been plenty of times where NDSU was a play away from disaster when this heady field general has cooly and calmly made decisions that have lifted the Bison out of trouble.
Fans will always remember that run in the final seconds that beat Georgia Southern in the 2012 semifinals, or his clutch fourth-down passing and running in this season’s upset win over Kansas State. And many more moments.
“I’m just doing whatever they ask me and trying to do it to the best of my ability,” said Jensen.
This quarterback also realizes exactly what he has around him.
He is grateful for the physical offensive line in front of him that protects him and opens big holes for running backs Sam Ojuri and John Crockett and receivers like Ryan Smith, Zach Vraa and Kevin Vaadeland, who get open for his passes.
Jensen also realizes how important it is to grind out games with a big, nasty defense waiting on the sideline when the next drive ends.
“This is the deepest, most talented team we’ve had,” said Bohl. “We have a great belief in one another.”
But depth, talent and belief only go so far. A lot of other FCS teams have physical tools, but not many have a quarterback with the will to win that Jensen possesses.
As Jensen greeted his family after the game and basked in another victory, he reflected briefly and then refocused on the future.
“This one is extremely special, but we have a lot to accomplish yet.”