Furman at No. 1 NDSU Preview
Bison kick off playoffs in second round matchup
Published: Thursday, December 5, 2013
Updated: Thursday, December 5, 2013 20:12
The NDSU football team is in the position they expected them¬selves to be in at the start of the 2013 season. The Bison are the No. 1 seed in the Football Champion¬ship Subdivision playoffs and have three potential games in the Fargodome. The third straight road to Frisco, Texas, begins at 2:30 p.m. Saturday when NDSU hosts Furman in a second round game.
Furman, out of South Caro¬lina, got the au¬tomatic bid into the playoffs af¬ter winning the Southern Conference. The Paladins defeated South Carolina State last Saturday in the first round, 30-20.
Furman, despite an 8-5 record, has an impressive résumé. The Paladins de¬feated Georgia Southern and Wofford during the reg¬ular season to claim the So¬Con title. NDSU beat Wof¬ford 14-7 and GSU 23-20 last season in the playoffs.
“The baseline that we have is we have played two SoCon schools … and I know they beat both of them,” NDSU head coach Craig Bohl said. “So you have a very talented football team that we’re going to be play¬ing.”
The SoCon is a run-heavy conference, and Furman is no different. Although they don’t run a triple-option offense like that of Wofford’s or GSU’s, the Paladins have a physical style running attack.
“I think it’s an indication that they really know who they are, what they’re about and they re¬ally leverage their strengths and don’t make a lot of mistakes,” Bohl said. “This is a challeng¬ing offense from the standpoint that they do traditional two-back running plays which we don’t see very much. And then they get into spread things and there’s quarterback run ele¬ments. There’s a lot to contend with.”
Furman has ac¬counted for 2,266 yards rushing this season with 20 touchdowns. That’s 151.4 per game. Its workhorse back is Hank McCloud. The 5-foot-9-inch, 190-pound junior has racked up 1,085 yards this season with five touch¬downs. The Paladins have had seven other players rush for at least one touchdown.
Sophomore quarterback Re¬ese Hannon has shown improved efficiency through the air after battling ankle and leg injuries early in the season. He’s thrown for seven touchdowns to four in¬terceptions, but is only complet¬ing 59.6 percent of his passes.
A big part of Furman’s five-game winning streak is big plays. The Paladins have had interception returns of 98, 89 and 74 yards this season while forcing 31 fumbles. They have returned an interception for a touchdown in four of the last seven games.
“It’s a challenge and it certainly makes you aware of the explosive¬ness that they have,” Bohl said. “Those are big, big game chang¬ers … and on the flipside, we’ve got to have some big returns.”
Furman is also an FCS play¬off veteran. The Paladins have reached the playoffs 16 times as a program. They won the nation¬al title in 1988.
Meanwhile, the Bison are in search of their third consecutive title. NDSU is 10-1 in the play¬offs since the 2010 season.
“They’re a program that has a long, storied history,” Bohl said. “A good track record, so we’re excited and it’ll be great competition.