Ohio State takes on Michigan State in a regular season game on Saturday, October 8, 2022 (10/8/22) at Spartan Stadium in East Lansing, Michigan.
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Here’s what you need to know:
What: NCAA Football, Week 6
Who: Ohio State vs. Michigan State
When: Saturday 8 Oct 2022
Where: Spartan Stadium
Time: 4 p.m. ET
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When North Dakota State College of Science suffered a heartbreaking loss in early September – thwarted on the goal line as time expired in a jolt for their national championship ambitions – it was a backup defensive lineman who stood up. came forward with a pep talk to lift the locker room.
Forget it, said Ray Ruschel, 49, according to his junior college teammates. Focus on the rest of the season and you’ll be fine.
“There were just kind of emotions everywhere. Not everyone handled it,” wide receiver Marselio Mendez said after the loss to rival Minnesota State Community Technical College. “Ray came over and said, you know, it’s not really a failure, is it? He said we just have to put the emotion aside and we still have the rest of the season and the playoffs to show who we are.
When it comes to inspiration, the Wildcats could do worse than look to Ruschel’s own story and the path that brought him to a small professionally oriented school in the shadow cast by neighboring powerhouse NCAA in the league. State of North Dakota.
After nearly two decades in the Army and National Guard, Ruschel was working as a night shift mechanic at a sugar beet factory in North Dakota when he decided to enroll in the College of Science. The school offers two-year programs in manufacturing, skilled trades, healthcare, and liberal arts.
That sounded good to Ruschel, who hoped to move up to the factory and decided to study business management. Then he learned that the school had a football team among its six sports – and that, despite his age, he was eligible.
“Something just clicked in my head, like why not play?” recalled Ruschel, whose last gaming action came as a high school student in Pennsylvania more than 30 years ago.
When Ruschel asked head coach Eric Issendorf – a year younger – to give it a try, Issendorf said yes, although he was worried Ruschel might get hurt.
Instead, Ruschel held on and earned the respect of other players. He now plays about a dozen snaps per game.
“The guys he plays against are bigger, faster, stronger than him,” Issendorf said. “But he was able to handle it. His personality….he’s just a really nice guy with the ambition to leave nothing out. As long as he is here on this earth.
Wahpeton, a mostly industrial town of about 7,800, is home to the Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative, one of the largest sugar beet growers in North Dakota and Minnesota. It’s where Ruschel works a night shift, then spends a few hours in the gym after getting up at 8 a.m. each day.
After a few hours of online school work in his apartment near campus, Ruschel is taking some rest before the afternoon practice, which lasts until around 7 p.m. Afterwards, he returns to his apartment, where Ruschel showers and eats before going to bed to rest before. everything starts again with his night shift.
How does he manage such a busy schedule?
“It’s a good question.” said Ruschel, a single father of two adult children. “It’s because I chose to prioritize certain things and other things have to be sacrificed. They just have to be sacrificed now.
The university campus is home to around 3,000 students, anchored by its historic Old Main that dates back to its founding in 1903. A recruitment brochure boasts of a 97% employment rate for graduates.
When it comes to football, it’s not North Dakota State — a perennial second-tier NCAA national champion, with a $25 million budget, a 19,000-seat dome and plenty of alumni from the NFL.
But it’s not bad, with some of the best facilities in junior college football, including a 4,100-seat stadium, four practice fields and a locker room with 90 modern stalls.
The Wildcats went 9-1 last season, second-best in school history, and finished 4th in the Division III junior college standings. After a 37-6 win over Vermillion Community College – a six-hour bus ride to far northeast Minnesota – and a home win last weekend, they are 4-1 in a season they hope can end with a national championship.
Players say Ruschel fits in with his teammates despite the obvious musical and cultural differences that come with such a big age gap. On that bus ride to Minnesota, for example, Ruschel spent hours scrolling through Facebook, listening to music on his headphones, and “mostly staring out the window.” No Instagram or TikTok for him.
“Players will come up to me and ask me what I’m listening to,” Ruschel said with a laugh. “I tell them country music and that’ll be the end of it.”
Ruschel, who was commissioned a sergeant while in the military and said he wanted to remain active in the National Guard until he was 60, served in Afghanistan and Jordan, although he refused to talk about tours.
Linebacker Manny Garcia said Ruschel’s experience in the military and his willingness to face players under half his age gave him credibility with his teammates.
“You know, we hear Ray’s stories about the military and we listen to them and we make sure we try to translate them to the football field, of course,” Garcia said.
Five games into the season, the 6-foot, 225-pound Ruschel, a workout buff, said he felt no pain on the court.
“Overall, I don’t have any worse pain than the rest of these kids,” he said. “I just have to keep stretching.”
News of the 49-year-old college football player caught national media attention, and Ruschel has at times apologized for taking the spotlight away from others, Issendorf said. Prior to Ruschel’s arrival, program fame was Errol Mann, who kicked for the NFL’s Oakland Raiders and was part of their Super Bowl-winning team in 1976.
“I said to Ray, you know, we kiss him,” Issendorf said. “Our institution loves it. Our administration loves attention. It’s great marketing. But it’s also a very good story.
(The Associated Press contributed to this report)
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Ryan Novozinsky can be reached at [email protected].