North Dakota State at South Dakota State Preview
No. 1 Bison begin conference play against No. 6 Jacks
Published: Wednesday, September 25, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, September 25, 2013 17:09
The unstoppable force will meet the immovable object Saturday when the No. 6 SDSU Jackrabbits host No. 1 NDSU. The storyline matchup will feature last year’s FCS leading rusher Zach Zenner vs. NDSU’s No. 1 ranked defense.
Zenner, who finished with 2,078 rushing yards last season, already has 747 yards on 91 carries through four games, averaging 185.5 per game. Meanwhile, the Bison defense is only allowing 101 rushing yards per game this season in three games.
“I think it’s going to be really important we tackle well,” NDSU head coach Craig Bohl said. “Make sure there’s not just one guy there at the point of attack, and that sounds elementary to do but it’s more complicated than that. Pursuit angles are critical and (Zenner) has excellent speed. It’s hard to see him gaining 185 yards and us winning the game.”
Undefeated NDSU and the 2-1 Jacks were picked to finish atop the Missouri Valley Football Conference in the preseason. The rivalry has grown steadily over the years, while the Bison have held the upper hand lately. Last year, NDSU defeated the Jacks twice, with the last one coming in the FCS Quarterfinals.
“Now the real schedule comes into play,” Bohl said. “And when I say real schedule, our number one goal at the beginning of the year is to win the Missouri Valley Conference. It’s a tough, tough task to do. And this game here is a very tough game for us. I think back to the last several years and you could toss a coin on which team is going to win.”
While stopping Zenner will be the number key for the Bison, SDSU also poses another threat in the passing game. Quarterback Austin Sumner has had a year under his belt and his improvements are evident. Sumner is completing 60.7 percent of his passes for 908 yards and five touchdowns with only two interceptions.
“He’s more confident,” Bohl said on Sumner. “He releases the ball quicker. He certainly looks poised and in control.”
While the Bison had the luxury of playing the Jackrabbits in the confines of the Fargodome last year, winning 20-17 and 28-3, NDSU will have to travel to Brookings, S.D., for this matchup that is one of three games this weekend that features two Top 10 teams in the FCS.
“I think the Jackrabbits play well at home,” Bohl said. “They defend their field at home well. It’s going to be a tough task for us. Our guys are going to need to be able to handle adversity. Their fans are rowdy and they draw well and so we’ll need to be able to control the things we can control.”
The Bison have won the last five meetings between these two teams. This game may have the highest stakes, even though it is early in the year, with both teams looking for a high playoff seeds.
“Every year is a new year,” Bohl said. “They have some different players and so do we. I think it’s important that we… play really, really disciplined football. The other thing they’re doing is they’re throwing the ball well. So you can’t be one dimensional on defense.”
For the tenth time, the Dakota Marker will be on the line, with NDSU holding a 5-4 advantage.
“Both schools prize that Marker,” Bohl said. “Our players certainly do, us coaches and our school does as well.”
Coughlin Alumni Stadium should be rocking for this rivalry game that is gaining steam each year. Bohl knows this is a huge game for his team in order to accomplish the goals NDSU has set out.
“This is a tough environment to go down and get a win,” Bohl said. “This would be a great win for our program.”
Kickoff is set for 2 p.m.