NDSU football must do something it hasn’t done since the 2nd round of the 2010 playoffs, win a playoff game on the road. Ironically, the last time the Bison won a postseason game on the road they did it against Saturday’s opponent the Montana State Bobcats.
13 years ago the Bison were unseeded, destroyed Robert Morris, went to Bozeman, and destroyed the #4 Bobcats 42-17 in the 2nd round to advance to the quarterfinals against Eastern Washington.
That 13-year-old script may be happening again as NDSU destroyed Drake 66-3 and now has to go to Bozeman. The only difference is that this time a trip to Vermillion, South Dakota, or back to Fargo is at stake as the the winner of NDSU-Montana State will get the winner of Sacramento State and South Dakota.
Montana State has been one of the best FCS football programs over the last 6 seasons but three words have haunted them over that span, North Dakota State. Under coaches Jeff Choate and Brent Vigen the Bobcats have won 51 games, made two FCS semifinals, and one national championship appearance but NDSU has been the immovable object in the way of the Bobcats. NDSU and MSU have faced off four times in the playoffs from 2010 to 2021 and each game has been a decisive Bison victory, 2010 2nd round 42-17, 2018 2nd round 52-10, 2019 semi-final 42-14, 2021 national championship 38-10.
It’s clear that the Bobcats haven’t faired well in the past and they haven’t played great recently either as they were boat raced by rival and #2 seed Montana in the season finale 37-7 to drop down to the six line but that doesn’t mean NDSU will hang another 42 point game on them as they possess a top 20 defense as well as the #1 scoring offense. That offense includes a two-quarterback system like the Bison in Tommy Mellott and Sean Chambers.
They are led by a former NDSU player and coach, Brent Vigen. Vigen was the offensive coordinator under Craig Bohl from 2009 until 2013. Vigen has recreated Montana State into what NDSU is, physical and tough.
Montana State depends on its #2 rushing offense as they rush for 293 yards per game, seven yards a carry, and have scored 38 touchdowns on the ground. To beat the Bobcats, NDSU must shut the run down and make Montana State throw the football which is something they haven’t been able to do as they rank 89th in passing offense. In the games they have lost to SDSU, Idaho, and Montana they have been lackluster on offense due to the inability to run the ball or get a key stop to get off the field.
This will be a classic battle between two FCS heavyweights but the challenge for the Bison is they must win a postseason game away from the Fargodome.
Kickoff between the Bison and Bobcats is set for Saturday, December 2nd at 2 p.m. in Bozeman, Montana. The game can be seen exclusively on ESPN+.