The first matchup between NDSU and ETSU comes in the FCS playoffs
After trouncing Southern Illinois in the second round last Saturday, the Bison football team prepares for East Tennessee State to come to town in the FCS quarterfinals. The Buccaneers, hailing from the Southern Conference, pulled off a miracle one-point victory over Kennesaw State last Saturday after scoring 15 minutes in the game’s final 90 seconds.
The win brought ETSU to their highest single season win total in school history. Their reward? A trip to the Fargo Dome to take on a Bison team who just beat the brakes off a pretty good Saluki’s squad.
However, the Bison will do well to not take the Bucs lightly. After all this is one of, if not the best team in ETSU history, and with only eight teams left standing in the country, there are no easy matchups.
On the top of the Herd’s to-do list heading into Saturday, will be to stop Walter Payton Award finalist Quay Holmes. Holmes has put together one of the best individual seasons in program history. The dual-threat running back has shredded FCS defenses to a tune of nearly 2000 total yards and 20 touchdowns.
However, as unstoppable as Holmes has been, the Bison defense has proven they can be the unit to slow him down. Code-green continued their dominant season against Southern Illinois allowing just seven points. One of NDSU’s biggest strengths is making their opponent one-dimensional, so if the Herd can force ETSU into obvious pass situations it will mean less opportunities for Holmes to make an impact.
Another way the Bison can slow down Holmes is to keep the Buccaneers offense off the field all together. Per usual, the Bison were miles ahead of Southern Illinois in the time of possession battle. The Herd torched the Saluki’s for 389 rushing yards, and didn’t put the ball on the ground despite a whopping 62 rushing attempts.
However, if the Bison don’t find a way to replicate last week’s ground game success, the game may fall on the right shoulder of Bison quarterback Cam Miller. Miller has done his job since taking over the starting job under center. With a defense and ground game as good as the Bison have, Miller’s job has been to keep the ball out of harm’s way, convert a handful of third down conversions and hit the occasional deep shot.
If Miller and the Bison passing attack can continue to do enough to support their ground game, NDSU should find themselves in the semifinals once again.