He already has five touchdowns.
“I think it’s just being able to trust your track,” said Bussey, referring to where a play is designed to go. “Follow the blocks and it also helps being a smaller back, I don’t know if the linebackers can see me.”
The 5-foot-5, 161-pound Bussey had a 53-yard touchdown run at Missouri State last week and TD runs of 22 and 7 yards in the spring season opener against Youngstown State to his credit.
“He understands blocking schemes, reads and keys,” said NDSU head coach Matt Entz. “He has a great burst, he can accelerate and get to full speed quickly. And he’s stronger than people give him credit for.”
NDSU stands to have four years of eligibility remaining with both Bussey and true freshman running back Dominic Gonnella. They were a tough 1-2 punch for the Bears to stop last week with Bussey’s speed and Gonnella’s combination of power and speed.
Add Kobe Johnson to the mix and the Bison are figuring out ways to make up for the loss of starting running back Seth Wilson.
“When Seth went out, me and Kobe talked amongst ourselves — he’s my roommate — that we have to step up and lead,” Bussey said. “It’s not an ideal situation, but leaders have to come out of this room and making sure the room didn’t drop off when Seth left.”
Johnson continues to lead the Bison in rushing with 237 yards in four games. Bussey is averaging 11.4 yards per carry in his 18 attempts, while Gonnella has shown some toughness in his 5.1 yards per attempt.
Gonnella and Bussey are from the same general area in Florida around Tampa.
“It’s different, the game down there is fast,” Bussey said. “Everybody is competitive so it’s hard to keep up. Having a competitive edge at practice made me better and it’s the same thing here. The game is faster.”
NDSU averaged 37.2 points per game in 2019 and put up 39 against Central Arkansas in the lone game last fall. Illinois State averaged almost 20 points a game in the ‘19 season. So far in the Missouri Valley Football Conference spring season, both offenses have had issues getting going.
The Bison averaged 21.3 points a game so far in the 2-1 Valley start. The Redbirds are at 15.0 points a game so far in their 0-2 start, but ISU head coach Brock Spack said he’ll continue to go with starting quarterback Bryce Jefferson. Jefferson has completed 28 of 60 passes for 47%, but is the team’s second leading rusher with 123 yards in two games.
“When you have a change at quarterback, it takes time,” Spack said. “We’re going through those growing pains. We like our guy, we think he’s a good player, but there are a lot of things to learn.”
Jefferson took over for the injured Brady Davis heading into the FCS playoffs last season and led ISU to wins over Central Arkansas and Southeast Missouri State. He was just 3 of 8 passing for 34 yards in the quarterfinal loss at NDSU.
The Redbirds’ only touchdown last week in a 20-10 loss at Northern Iowa was a 29-yard interception return for a score.
- As was the case with the Youngstown State game three weeks ago, no tailgating will be allowed at the Fargodome and doors to the venue will open at 12:30 p.m. No recreational vehicles, buses or trailers will be allowed in the dome parking lots.
- The Bison have won nine straight vs. Illinois State and lead the series 11-2. NDSU has held the Redbirds without a touchdown for nine straight quarters dating back to the 2018 regular season.
- Seven teams from the Missouri Valley were ranked in the Stats Perform top 25 media poll, the 18th time in league history at least that many teams made the rankings. Five teams — NDSU, North Dakota, Northern Iowa, South Dakota State and Southern Illinois — were ranked in the top 10, the third time that has happened in league history. The first top 25 coaches poll is due next Monday.
- NDSU’s shutout of Missouri State last week was the seventh time the Bison have blanked a Valley opponent. That’s second-most in league history behind UNI’s 10. Indiana State leads in times shut out with 14 followed by Missouri State at nine.