The North Dakota State Bison football team is appearing in the FCS quarterfinals for the 14th consecutive season but unlike other years they have had to earn it. The Bison didn’t have a bye so they played in the first round and destroyed an overmatched Drake team, then went to Bozeman and beat the 6th-seeded Montana State Bobcats. They now face an opponent they desperately wants another shot at, #3 South Dakota.
The Coyotes have been one of the FCS’ biggest surprises this season as they are 10-2 with their only losses being to #1 South Dakota State and FBS #9 Missouri. They have impressive wins over NDSU, Southern Illinois, UND, Youngstown State, and Sacramento State.
USD is led by their outstanding defense as they are ranked 5th in scoring defense, only allowing 14.64 points a game. They have possibly the best linebacker in the FCS in Brock Mogenson. They also have some great players in the secondary in Dennis Shorter and Myles Harden.
The Coyote’s offense is controlled by Aiden Bouman who was 10 of 12 passing for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Bouman is 6’5 and 245 pounds meaning you really have to wrap him up in order to bring him down. One thing the ‘Yotes love to do is the Run Pass Option game (RPO). When they run this type of offense he either hands off to the team’s leading rusher, Travis Theis, or he throws it to his top target, Carter Bell. Bell in particular is the man to stop for NDSU as he torched the Bison for 152 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
In the first meeting between NDSU and USD, the Bison came out flat as they quickly fell behind 21-3 because of the outstanding connection of Bauman and Bell. NDSU quickly got the game to within seven points before the ‘Yotes tacked on a late field goal to put the game out of reach. That game allowed USD to become a real threat in the FCS this season as only SDSU has beaten them since the win over NDSU.
For the Bison to win this game in Vermillion they must start fast as USD did against them earlier in the year. They must score on their first possession to get a lead and get to that coveted fast start. They must also run the ball like they did against Montana State, meaning use your running backs and get the QB run game more involved than they did against the Bobcats. They must clean up the defense as the Bison have given up more than 500 total yards in three of their last four playoff games. If NDSU is able to control the line of scrimmage and keep their offensive mojo going they could possibly pull another upset.
The winner of NDSU and #3 South Dakota will face the winner of #7 Furman and #2 Montana. Kickoff between the Bison and Coyotes from the DakotaDome is set for 1:30 pm on Saturday December 9th. The game can be seen on WDAY/ABC and the ESPN app.