No. 1 NDSU to face No. 16/20 SDSU for Dakota Marker and Guaranteed Share of Conference Title
Published: Wednesday, November 7, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, November 7, 2012 16:11
Earlier this fall I brought up how the Bison football team has formed several new rivalries within the Missouri Valley Conference since joining back in 2008. Saturday’s battle won’t be anything new at all. The Fargodome will host old rivals for the 99th installment of the NDSU vs. SDSU football clash.
This battle of the Dakota’s has arguably been the most important game of the season for both the Bison and Jackrabbits in the past, and Saturday afternoon plans to be no different. With conference championship implications on the line, both teams will battle for the number one spot in the Missouri Valley.
“In the past it’s been a very spirited game,” said head coach Craig Bohl during his Monday press conference. “It’s a hard-nosed, physical game and the players really get after it.”
This will be the ninth time these schools will be battling for the covenant Dakota Marker trophy, with each school claiming it four times. However, the Bison come into the 99th meeting with an edge in the rivalry at 53-40-5.
The first ranked Bison will yet again have to lean on their stout defense against a Jackrabbit team that loves to run the football. Zach Zenner has been carrying the load for their offense and has already racked up over 1,400 yards this season.
“He’s a very gifted runner and his numbers back that up, and if we don’t allocate enough resources defensively, we’re going to get gashed,” said Bohl.
Gang tackling will be the focus for the Bison defense that has been very successful in stopping the run thus far this season. They currently rank second in the nation in rushing yards per game allowing fewer than 65 yards this season. It will be difficult for the Bison to keep Zenner out of the endzone Saturday, a place he has already found nine times this season.
Linebackers Grant Olson, Travis Beck and Carlton Littlejohn will have to continue with their stellar play if the Bison plan to keep Zenner from scoring. The top three tacklers for the Bison have combined for an astounding 20.5 tackles for loss this season, a statistic they hope to keep improving Saturday.
The offense can help keep Zenner and the Bison defense off the field by controlling the time of possession, a statistical category they have been dominating all season long. The offense currently ranks first in the nation eating up over 36 minutes of the clock per game and will have to continue with their third-down heroics to do so against the Jacks.
After a shaky game offensively, the Bison were impressive on third downs converting nine of nineteen times last week against Missouri State.
Quarterback Brock Jensen hopes to avoid the third and long plays as he tries to get back on point against a Jackrabbit secondary that has picked off opposing QB’s a total of nine times this season. Jensen threw three interceptions last week and was only able to complete 50 percent of his passes. Jensen will need to find his receivers early and often to keep the Jack’s on their heels.
“Certainly other times during the game where he was sub-par. Those throws and decisions were uncharacteristic,” said Bohl in response to Jensen’s outing last week.
The Bison will attempt to keep everything together offensively and keep control of the Dakota Marker trophy. Saturday will also mark Senior Day for seven Bison players who will be honored before the game.
Congratulations seniors, Happy Tailgating, and Go Bison!