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Three Bison players dismissed from team for violation of team rules, another suspended one game

Henry Van Dellen (left), Darren Kelley (center) & Sean Engel (right)

FARGO -- Three North Dakota State football players were dismissed from the team for a violation of team rules, head coach Chris Klieman said on Monday afternoon, Nov. 27. All three -- freshman quarterback Henry Van Dellen, senior safety Darren Kelley and freshman receiver Sean Engel -- were backups and were not expected to factor into their FCS second-round playoff game Saturday, Dec. 2, against the University of San Diego.

Moreover, backup receiver Dallas Freeman was suspended for one game effective last Monday, Nov. 20. Klieman would not comment further on his actions.

“Unfortunate, but that’s what happened,” he said.

Engel was the highest-touted of the three coming in as a highly-recruited receiver in 2016. He redshirted last season.

Kelley played primarily on special teams and Van Dellen was the third-string quarterback behind James Hendricks, who plays mostly on defense, and starter Easton Stick.

Freeman played in eight games and had five catches for 75 yards and one touchdown. Engel had one reception for 15 yards.

Fargo police and NDSU campus police have no record of any of the players being subject to an arrest.

Without Engel and Freeman for Saturday, Klieman said junior Desmond Cain stands to potentially see more of the field.

Meanwhile, the Bison are in the midst of preparing for the San Diego Toreros, who for the second straight year will come to Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome after defeating a Big Sky Conference opponent in the first round.

Last year it was Cal Poly. Last Saturday, San Diego thumped Northern Arizona 41-10.

“It’s no fluke what they did to Northern Arizona, they beat them in every phase of the game so we’ll have our work cut out for us,” Klieman said.

It will be the fourth time the Bison will face somebody in the playoffs in back-to-back seasons. NDSU defeated Georgia Southern in 2011 and 2012, Sam Houston State in 2011 and 2012 and Coastal Carolina in 2013 and 2014.

NDSU defeated San Diego 45-7 last year, a game that was 28-7 heading into the fourth quarter before the Bison popped two long touchdown runs to seal it. Seeing the same team again in the playoffs is a two-way street, Klieman said.

“It helps us in knowing how physical that game was,” he said. “That game was a close game through three quarters, so our guys know that is a real physical team.”

Same goes for Toreros.

“They won’t be awestruck coming into the dome, I don’t think they were last year,” Klieman said. “Now they have all those guys who have been here before. If you look at the teams that have been back here before the playoffs, those return trips have been fourth-quarter affairs because of the comfort level those teams have.”

With the week off, the Bison are expected to regain the services of starting offensive guard Austin Kuhnert and possibly starting receiver Darrius Shepherd. Both missed the Illinois State game two weeks ago with injuries.

Klieman said senior backup quarterback Cole Davis and junior linebacker Levi Jordheim are questionable in returning the week. Davis, who is the team’s holder on extra points and field goals, has been out since September with a shoulder injury.

On the awards front, NDSU led the Missouri Valley Football Conference with 11 all-league picks. Six are on the first team: Kuhnert, fullback-tight end Connor Wentz, long snapper James Fisher, linebacker Nick DeLuca and safeties Robbie Grimsley and Tre Dempsey.

The second-team selections are running back Bruce Anderson, wide receiver RJ Urzendowski, center Tanner Volson, defensive tackle Aaron Steidl  and linebacker Jabril Cox.