- Associated Press - Wednesday, October 1, 2014

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - Carson Wentz has passed the first test. He’s allowed North Dakota State fans to exhale over losing the all-time winningest quarterback in Football Championship Subdivision history to graduation.

Wentz has helped the three-time defending FCS champions to a 4-0 start and eased fears that the Bison offense would sputter without Brock Jensen, a three-year starter who won a record 48 games at quarterback.

If Wentz feels any relief about putting the “unknown” tag behind him, the 6-foot-6, 231-pound junior from Bismarck, North Dakota, isn’t showing it.

“Maybe to the fans and some of the other guys on the team it might be gone, finally, but I’ve always been confident in my abilities and have known what I can do,” Wentz said. “It’s been great to finally get out there and show it these four games.”

In his first game as a Bison starter, Wentz completed 18 of 28 passes for 204 yards and ran eight times for 38 yards in a victory at Iowa State. He validated that effort with solid outings against Weber State, Incarnate Word and Montana.

Wentz has completed 61 of 92 passes for 800 yards with four touchdowns and two interceptions. He is ranked 13th in the country in passing efficiency. Combine that with the No. 13 rushing offense in the country and you have an offense that has been more than lucky.

“I’m a perfectionist so I’m not real pleased or real upset either way,” Wentz said. “I’m pleased that we’re 4-0, I’ll tell you that for sure.”

Bison defensive end Kyle Emanuel, who watched Bison coaches groom Wentz for three years, said there’s nothing surprising about Wentz’s strong start.

“Carson is obviously a huge talent,” Emanuel said. “I’ve been able to see what he’s been able to do in practice. Maybe other people haven’t. I expected him to perform well.”

While NDSU’s rise to dominance since moving up to Division I a decade ago has included contributions by a handful of in-state players, most of them linemen or linebackers, Wentz is a rare find at a marquee position. His development at quarterback led the Bison to switch a highly-touted recruit and Wentz’s cross-town high school rival, Esley Thornton, from quarterback to linebacker.

“There aren’t as many people in the state, so you have to look a little harder,” said NDSU linebacker Travis Beck, from Munich, North Dakota. “But you still don’t find many like Carson in North Dakota. He’s just a perfectionist and he has all the intangibles. I think he’s going to do really well here.”

Wentz almost went unnoticed at Bismarck Century, too, until a growth spurt of about half a foot between his junior and senior years caught the attention of college coaches. Ron Wingenbach, Wentz’s high school coach at Century, said the recruiting battle didn’t heat up until the last month of his senior season.

Wentz got his got his scholarship offer from NDSU on Dec. 3, 2010, which was the day before the Bison travelled to Montana State in a second-round playoff game. He had previous offers from Southern Illinois, South Dakota State and North Dakota.

“NDSU was the very last to inquire about him,” Wingenbach said. “Obviously he made a good decision.”

Wingenbach said Wentz was known in high school for his “calm, collective nature” and his knack for getting others involved and making them better players. The same could be said this year. Wentz threw to nine different receivers against Weber State and Incarnate Word and connected with eight separate receivers against Iowa State and Montana.

“I don’t really lock into a guy,” Wentz said. “Other than that, I’m just trying to find the best place to go with the ball in every situation.”

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