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Yes, Grand Forks fans were cheering for NDSU

Dave Gunther spent 18 seasons as the UND men's basketball coach, with one of his priorities being to defeat rival North Dakota State. But Saturday, at local eatery Wild Hog, he was rooting for NDSU. Not necessarily jumping-up-and-down, fist-pumpi...

Brad Seymour and Ming Smith
Former NDSU football player Brad Seymour, left, and Ming Smith watch the Bison score their first touchdown against Sam Houston State in the NCAA FCS football championship Saturday. They were among a full house at the Wild Hog restaurant on South Washington to watch the game. photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

Dave Gunther spent 18 seasons as the UND men's basketball coach, with one of his priorities being to defeat rival North Dakota State.

But Saturday, at local eatery Wild Hog, he was rooting for NDSU. Not necessarily jumping-up-and-down, fist-pumping rooting, but he was pulling for the Bison to defeat Sam Houston State, which they did by 17-6 to win the Football Championship Subdivision national title.

"Sure. Why not? It's North Dakota," Gunther said.

That was a common refrain Saturday at local watering holes. The big screens were being watched by just as many dressed in UND attire as NDSU garb, but both shades of green were rooting for the lads being educated in North Dakota.

"Today, I am cheering for NDSU," said former UND football player Mark Dickson of Gilby, N.D. "Tomorrow will be different than today."

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The outward cheering of Duaine Espegard of Grand Forks was more predictable because he's a member of the state Board of Higher Education. "You gotta go both ways," he said.

In the final 15 seconds of the game, it was clear that most had taken the same perspective. That's when the Wild Hog crowd spontaneously broke into applause for the Bison. While the outcome wasn't do-or-die for everyone, even the uncommitted seemed to have appreciation for the performance and the attention earned for the state.

The display didn't surprise Shaun Seymour of Grand Forks, a Bison season ticketholder. "North Dakota is a cohesive force," she said. "You're sure not going to cheer for Texas, are you?"

Brad Seymour, Shaun's husband, had a bigger stake than most. An offensive tackle for NDSU in the early 1970s, he rarely misses a game, home or away. He wasn't surprised by the support by UND faithful.

"I cheered for the Sioux when they played for national championships," Brad said. "Absolutely. I have no problem with that."

Not everyone has made the transition, however. Seymour was sporadically heckled by Kent Lorenz, a friend since their high school days in northeastern North Dakota.

Lorenz had a four-word reaction to the final score: "It hurts so bad."

Reach Bakken at (701) 780-1125; (800) 477-6572, ext. 125; or send email to rbakken@gfherald.com .

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