When the two teams take the field on Saturday, all the makings of a storming contest will be in place. Rewind six years, and see that these two programs created one of the biggest storms in North Dakota State football history.
On a snowy night in Cheney, Washington, there was a trip to the FCS semifinals on the line. In case there was another need for drama, the late afternoon game was needed to finish under the lights, as NDSU and Eastern Washington went to overtime tied at 31.
Eastern Washington would score a touchdown, but the Bison looked prime to convert one of their own and extend the game. On second down from the five-yard line, Bison quarterback Brock Jensen turned around, reversed to his left side, and went for the end zone. He would get stood up at the one, and fight for that last yard.
Jensen was on his way down, reaching for the line, as the ball popped out. It appeared as if he was down short of the line before the ball came free. The ruling on the field was a fumble, which Eastern Washington recovered to secure the win. The Bison challenged the play, and video review showed how close it was. The officials ruled that Jensen, who came down on top of a defender, was not down, and the fumble and game stood.
The Eagles would go on to win the championship that year over Delaware.
Back to the present, that is the last time Bison lost in the playoffs. Five straight national championships later, and the Bison have not faced Eastern Washington since.
The 2010 game also served as the last time the Bison were forced into overtime, until two weeks ago. The game against Charleston Southern was the first game since where the Bison had to play extra football — the first time at a home game.
Both teams enter Saturday’s contest 1-0, and both were hard fought wins. The Bison defeated the FCS sixth ranked team in Charleston Southern, a 24-17 at the Fargodome. The Eagles meanwhile returned to action over the weekend, taking down a FBS team in Washington State, 45-42.
The upset win came from one to the best offensive displays of this young football season. Quarterback Gage Gubrud threw for 474 yards, 206 of which were to receiver Cooper Kupp.
The Bison defense will be worked hard, and will most likely be missing middle linebacker Nick DeLuca, who is fighting to recover from a dislocated shoulder during the Bison’s opener. Matt Plank will continue to deputize for DeLuca.
If the game explodes offensively, expect the Bison to be throwing the ball as the game progresses. Easton Stick set new career highs in pass attempts and completions as the offense looks to find rhythm.
Once again, the offense will look to balance the pass with a strong run game. King Frazier had a strong game against the Buccaneers two weeks ago.
The Eagles were No. 14 in the preseason poll and have shown that they have at least earned that ranking, if not something higher. It will be another stern test for the Bison, and a playoff atmosphere will be needed in the Dome once again.