Jackrabbits, Bison face off for trip to Frisco


Primetime.

Fifth-seeded South Dakota State and top-seeded North Dakota State square off in the biggest matchup in the history of the rivalry during the FCS Playoffs semifinals Friday at 7 p.m. in the Fargodome.

The winner earns a spot in the title game in Frisco, Texas.

“At this point in the playoffs, one of us gets to go compete for a national championship, so this year it’s huge,” said SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier, who signed a five-year contract extension Wednesday.

The 109th meeting between the two teams will air live on ESPN2.

NDSU head coach Chris Klieman accepted the same position at Kansas State on Monday and was officially introduced on Wednesday but will continue to guide the Bison for the remainder of the playoffs. He is 67-6 with three national championships at NDSU.

Klieman began his time with the Bison as a defensive backs coach in 2011, before being elevated to defensive coordinator in 2012 and then head coach in 2014.

The Jackrabbits (10-2) beat Duquesne 51-6 in the second round of the playoffs before hitting the road and dropping No. 4 Kennesaw State 27-17.

The defending-champion Bison (13-0) – winners of six of the past seven crowns – cruised into the semis with a 52-10 defeat of Montana State and a 35-0 win over No. 8 Colgate.

NDSU has won 19 consecutive games overall – the 10th longest streak in FCS history. Its last loss was a 33-21 setback at SDSU on Nov. 4, 2017.

The Bison topped the Jackrabbits 21-17 in the regular-season meeting this year on Sept. 29 in Fargo.

NDSU won every other game by double digits as it is outscoring its opponents an average of 41.5-11.1 per game this season. The Bison pick up 460 yards per contest, including 274.2 rushing, while allowing 278.8 yards per game.

NDSU is 50.6 percent on third-down conversions and 28.3 percent on third-down defense. The Bison have scored on 49 of their 53 red-zone visits with 44 touchdowns while allowing just 10 scores, including six TDs, in 21 red-zone opportunities defensively.

NDSU is plus-17 in turnover margin.

“They’ve gotten better as the year has gone on and, obviously, they are familiar with their surroundings and it’s a great environment for their football team,” said Stiegelmeier. “We just try to play our best football every game and this is the same challenge – go up there and be better than we were last week.”

SDSU puts up 44.3 points and 490.8 yards per game while allowing 20.5 points. The Jackrabbits are plus-16 in turnover margin.

SDSU NDSU

Points 44.3 41.5

Points allowed 20.5 11.1

Yards 490.8 460

  Rushing yards 234.7 274.2

  Passing yards 256.2 185.8

Yards allowed 367.2 278.8

  Rushing yards allowed 167.3 106.6

  Passing yards allowed 199.9 172.2

Third-down conversions 41.7% 50.6%

Third-down defense 34.5% 28.3%

Fourth-down conversions 4-of-8 6-of-7

Fourth-down defense 10-of-19 5-of-29

Red zone chances-TD-FG 49-36-7 53-44-5

Red zone defense chances-TD-FG 33-21-6 21-6-4

Turnover margin plus-16 plus-17

  Takeaways (INT/F) 25 (17/8) 26 (20/6)

  Giveaways (INT/F) 9 (7/2) 9 (5/4)

Possession time 30:38 32:08

SCORE BY QUARTER

1st 2nd 3rd 4th OT Total

SDSU 123-43 169-49 137-56 97-95 6-3 532-246

NDSU 156-41 160-24 103-55 121-24 540-144

SCORING BREAKDOWN

SDSU – 71 TD (36 rush, 33 pass, 1 INT return, 1 punt return), 14-21 FG, 64-69 PAT, 0-1 2-pt. (0-1 pass). Opponents – 32 TD (16 pass, 15 rush, 1 INT return), 8-12 FG, 28-31 PAT, 1-1 2-pt. (1-1 rush).

NDSU – 74 TD (46 rush, 25 pass, 2 INT return, 1 kick return), 7-11 FG, 73-74 PAT, safety. Opponents – 18 TD (9 pass, 7 rush, 1 kick return, 1 fumble return), 6-8 FG, 18-18 PAT.

NDSU senior quarterback Easton Stick (6-foot-2, 221 pounds) is 47-3 as a starter, one win away from tying the FCS record of 48 currently held by former Bison Brock Jensen, who was 47-5 as a starter.

The 2018 MVFC Offensive Player of the Year is 150-of-147 for 2,385 yards with 25 TDs and five INTs through the air while adding 409 rushing yards and 11 scores.

“He’s playing the game like we ask our guys to play it – like it’s his last go-around, you know,” said Stiegelmeier. “He’s a great competitor, a great leader, a great young man because we know him pretty well. So he’s doing what he can do.

“I think the two quarterbacks in this game are the two best in FCS football, so it will be fun to watch.”

Bruce Anderson (5-11, 210) is averaging 76.8 rushing yards in 11 games with seven touchdowns and Lance Dunn (5-9, 208) is picking up 68.2 yards in 12 games with 12 TDs. Dunn missed the second half of the game against the Raiders last week after scoring four times versus the Bobcats.

Ty Brooks (5-9, 178) has averaged 55.2 yards in 11 games and Adam Cofield (5-11, 200) 37.2 in 13 appearances as they have five and six scores, respectively.

Darrius Shepherd (5-11, 188) is the team’s primary receiver, totaling 53 catches for 869 yards and seven TDs. Eight of tight end Ben Ellefson’s (6-3, 249) 13 catches have ended in the end zone.

MVFC Defensive Player of the Year Jabril Cox (6-3, 231), a sophomore linebacker, leads the way on the other side of the ball with 84 tackles, including 9 1/2 for loss and four sacks. He has four interceptions, two of which he returned for scores.

Strong safety Robbie Grimsley (6-0, 194) has added 77 stops and five picks, and linebacker Dan Marlette (6-1, 226) has 75 tackles. Free safety James Hendricks (6-1, 209) has four INTs. Defensive end Greg Menard (6-2, 240) has recorded eight of the team’s 41 sacks.

“The special thing they do (on defense) is you don’t know what they’re in; they do a great job of disguising,” noted Stiegelmeier “Man, zone, blitz – you don’t know until the ball is snapped. So making checks is very hard against them.”

SDSU quarterback Taryn Christion is 187-of-314 for 2,840 yards with 30 touchdowns and seven interceptions through the air while running for 301 yards and six scores.

The senior, who is 33-10 as a starter, ranks 14th in total offense (12,838), 18th in TD tosses (102) and 23rd in passing yards (11,355) in FCS history.

Pierre Strong Jr. has 981 rushing yards on 97 attempts – 10.1 average – and 10 touchdowns. Mikey Daniel has added 630 yards and 10 scores. C.J. Wilson was back in action last week after missing the previous six games.

Cade Johnson has 64 receptions for 1,243 yards with an MVFC-record-tying 16 touchdowns. Adam Anderson has 702 yards and seven TDs on 46 grabs, while Blake Kunz’s 18 catches have covering 333 yards with two scores.

Junior linebacker Christian Rozeboom paces the defense with 94 tackles, including 9 1/2 for loss, to go with three takeaways, including a pair of picks. He ranks second in career tackles at SDSU with 353.

Dalton Cox has 65 stops.

Ryan Earith has 5 1/2 of the squad’s 20 sacks. Zy Mosley has four INTs, including a pick-six, and Jordan Brown three.

Last meeting

Stick scored on a 5-yard run with 13 minutes to go as the Bison beat the Jackrabbits 21-17 on Sept. 29 in Fargo.

SDSU missed a 48-yard field-goal attempt with 9:15 left. The visitors got the ball back at their own 7 with 5:41 remaining but went three-and-out and punted. They never got the ball back.

Stick was 9-of-20 for 182 yards with two TDs and an INT passing while adding 63 yards and the score on the ground.

Shepherd had five receptions for 118 yards and a touchdown.

Anderson added 58 rushing yards and Dunn 56.

For SDSU, Christion went 19-of-29 for 202 yards with a TD and an INT. Anderson had eight catches for 102 yards and Johnson three for 63 with a score.

Rozeboom made 12 tackles.

Christion hit Johnson for a 3-yard TD at the 5:24 mark of the first quarter. The QB was picked off in the end zone by Jalen Allison later in the period.

NDSU moved on top 14-7 at halftime as Stick had TD tosses of 17 yards to Ellefson and 41 yards to Shepherd.

Chase Vinatieri booted a 39-yard field goal with 4:57 left in the third and Isaac Wallace, who is now injured, rushed 61 yards to paydirt to put the Jackrabbits ahead 17-14 with 17:04 to play in the game.

“They’re a somewhat different team – we evolve, they evolve,” Stiegelmeier said. “We were reminded about crucial plays in the game. There were some big plays that they made and we didn’t make that determined the outcome of the game.”

NDSU held a 389-357 edge in total yards of offense, including 207-155 on the ground, and possessed the ball for 33:27. Both teams had one turnover.

SDSU vs. NDSU – Division I era

The Bison lead 12-6, including 3-0 in the FCS Playoffs. The Jackrabbits are 2-9 in Fargo.

Oct. 9, 2004 – SDSU 24-21 (Brookings)

Nov. 12, 2005 – NDSU 41-17 (Fargo)

Nov. 18, 2006 – NDSU 41-28 (Fargo)

Nov. 17, 2007 – SDSU 29-24 (Brookings)

Nov. 22, 2008 – SDSU 25-24 (Fargo)

Oct. 18, 2009 – SDSU 28-13 (Brookings)

Nov. 13, 2010 – NDSU 31-24 (Fargo)

Oct. 22, 2011 – NDSU 38-14 (Brookings)

Nov. 10, 2012 – NDSU 20-17 (Fargo)

^Dec. 1, 2012 – NDSU 28-3 (Fargo)

Sept. 28, 2013 – NDSU 20-0 (Brookings)

Nov. 1, 2014 – NDSU 37-17 (Fargo)

^Dec. 6, 2014 – NDSU 27-24 (Fargo)

Oct. 3, 2015 – NDSU 28-7 (Brookings)

Oct. 15, 2016 – SDSU 19-17 (Fargo)

^Dec. 10, 2016 – NDSU 36-10 (Fargo)

Nov. 4, 2017 – SDSU 33-21 (Brookings)

Sept. 30, 2018 – NDSU 21-17 (Fargo)

^Dec. 14, 2018 – SDSU vs. NDSU (Fargo)

   ^FCS Playoffs

Biggest key for SDSU

“I don’t think its offense or defense or special teams, I think it’s really everybody playing every play like it’s going to make a difference in the game,” noted Stiegelmeier. “A game like this, if it’s hard fought, which I expect it to be, there are going to be three or four plays that define the game and we need to be ready to make those at any point in the game.”

SDSU – FCS PLAYOFFS

Record: 8-7, including 3-7 on the road

[opponent finish in brackets]

2009 (0-1)

First round, Nov. 28 – Lost 61-48 at No. 1 Montana [runner-up]

2012 (1-1)

First round, Nov. 24 – Won 58-10 vs. Eastern Illinois

Second round, Dec. 1 – Lost 28-3 at No. 1 North Dakota State [champion]

2013 (1-1)

First round, Nov. 30 – Won 26-7 at Northern Arizona

Second round, Dec. 7 – Lost 41-17 at No. 3 Eastern Washington [semifinals]

2014 (1-1)

First round, Nov. 29 – Won 47-40 at Montana State

Second round, Dec. 6 – Lost 27-24 at No. 2 North Dakota State [champion]

2015 (0-1)

First round, Nov. 28 – Lost 24-17 at Montana State [second round]

2016 (1-1) – No. 8

First round, Nov. 26 – BYE

Second round, Dec. 3 – Won 10-7 vs. Villanova

Quarterfinals, Dec. 10 – Lost 36-10 at No. 1 North Dakota State [semifinals]

2017 (2-1) – No. 5 seed

First round, Nov. 25 – BYE

Second round, Dec. 2 – Won 37-22 vs. Northern Iowa

Quarterfinals, Dec. 9 – Won 56-14 vs. New Hampshire

Semifinals, Dec. 16 – Lost 51-16 at No. 1 James Madison [runner-up]

2018 (2-0) – No. 5 seed

First round, Nov. 24 – BYE

Second round, Dec. 1 – Won 51-6 vs. Duquesne

Quarterfinals, Dec. 8 – Won 27-17 at No. 4 Kennesaw State

Semifinals, Dec. 14 – at No. 1 North Dakota State

NDSU – FCS PLAYOFFS

Record: 30-2, including 23-1 at home.

[opponent finish in brackets]

2010 (2-1)

First round, Nov. 27 – Won 43-17 vs. Robert Morris

Second round, Dec. 4 – Won 42-17 at No. 4 Montana State

Quarterfinals, Dec. 11 – Lost 38-31 OT at No. 5 Eastern Washington [champion]

2011 (4-0) – No. 2 seed

First round – BYE

Second round, Dec. 3 – Won 26-14 vs. James Madison

Quarterfinals, Dec. 10 – Won 24-0 vs. Lehigh

Semifinals, Dec. 17 – Won 35-7 vs. No. 3 Georgia Southern

Championship, Jan. 7 – Won 17-6 vs. No. 1 Sam Houston State

2012 (4-0) – No. 1 seed

First round – BYE

Second round, Dec. 1 – Won 28-3 vs. South Dakota State

Quarterfinals, Dec. 8 – Won 14-7 vs. Wofford

Semifinals, Dec. 14 – Won 23-20 vs. No. 5 Georgia Southern

Championship, Jan. 5 – Won 39-13 vs. Sam Houston State

2013 (4-0) – No. 1 seed

First round – BYE

Second round, Dec. 7 – Won 38-7 vs. Furman

Quarterfinals, Dec. 14 – Won 48-14 vs. Coastal Carolina

Semifinals, Dec. 20 – Won 51-14 vs. New Hampshire

Championship, Jan. 4 – Won 35-7 vs. No. 7 Towson

2014 (4-0) – No. 2 seed

First round – BYE

Second round, Dec. 6 – Won 27-24 vs. South Dakota State

Quarterfinals, Dec. 13 – Won 39-22 vs. No. 7 Coastal Carolina

Semifinals, Dec. 19 – Won 35-3 vs. Sam Houston State

Championship, Jan. 10 – Won 29-27 vs. No. 5 Illinois State

2015 (4-0) – No. 3 seed

First round – BYE

Second round, Dec. 5 – Won 37-6 vs. Montana

Quarterfinals, Dec. 12 – Won 23-13 vs. Northern Iowa

Semifinals, Dec. 18 – Won 33-7 vs. No. 7 Richmond

Championship, Jan. 9 – Won 37-10 vs. No. 1 Jacksonville State

2016 (2-1) – No. 1 seed

First round – BYE

Second round, Dec. 3 – Won 45-7 vs. San Diego

Quarterfinals, Dec. 10 – Won 36-10 vs. No. 8 South Dakota State

Semifinals, Dec. 16 – Lost 27-17 vs. No. 4 James Madison [champion]

2017 (4-0) – No. 2 seed

First round – BYE

Second round, Dec. 2 – Won 38-3 vs. San Diego

Quarterfinals, Dec. 9 – Won 42-10 vs. No. 7 Wofford

Semifinals, Dec. 15 – Won 55-13 vs. No. 6 Sam Houston State

Championship, Jan. 6 – Won 17-14 vs. No. 1 James Madison

2018 (2-0) – No. 1 seed

First round – BYE

Second round, Dec. 1 – Won 52-10 vs. Montana State

Quarterfinals, Dec. 8 – Won 35-0 vs. No. 8 Colgate

Semifinals, Dec. 14 – vs. No. 5 South Dakota State

   Note: Title games played in Frisco, Texas.

Injury report

“Levi Brown is out for sure,” said Stiegelmeier. “Other than that, we have two guys that we will not know about until the game and one until (Thursday) morning.

“We’re hanging in there. Our trainer’s the most valuable player right now.”

FCS PLAYOFFS

[Games on ESPN2]

Semifinals

Friday, Dec. 14

No. 5 South Dakota State (10-2) at No. 1 North Dakota State (13-0), 7 p.m.

Saturday, Dec. 15

No. 7 Maine (10-3) at No. 3 Eastern Washington (11-2), 1 p.m.

Championship – Saturday, Jan. 5

Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas

11 a.m. 


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