This week the NDSU ‘Bison’ take their 14–0 unbeaten record down to Frisco, TX to defend their national title against the Eastern Washington ‘Eagles’ (12–2) in the NCAA FCS Championship Game.
The Bison have been to Frisco six times and won each time, but history tells you little about any team’s chances. The Bison are wearing their lucky green “Harvest Helmet” (13–0 since 2015) but you can’t rely on luck. The Bison rely on hard work.
This is the first FCS championship game between teams from the the Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC) and the Big Sky Conference. This is hard to believe as both conferences are so dominate in the NCAA FCS. Combined they had 26 teams reach the Championship game but never at the same time.
The NDSU ‘Bison’ have the edge today if only because they are undefeated. Only four teams have matched this feat in the FCS: Eastern Kentucky (1982), Georgia Southern (1989), Marshall (1996) and NDSU (2013).
NDSU and EWU have played three times. In the 2010 FCS quarterfinals, the Eagles won 38–31 in overtime, which stopped the Bison’s playoff run. (The Eagles went on to win the National Championship that year.) In 2016 NDSU won at home 50–44 in overtime again. In 2017 the Bison won 40–13 at Cheney WA. But that was a young Eagles team. Coach Aaron Best has his 2018 team in playoff form with 27 seniors. Will the Bison stomp the Eagles? Will today’s game going into overtime? Or will the Eagles fly high and outscore the Bison?
Head Coach Chris Klieman; players: Easton Stick, Dan Marlette, and Seth Wilson met with the media following their 44–21 playoff win over South Dakota State
NDSU Head Coach, Chris Klieman
(I’m losing) my voice again, but I’m gonna start with this: never underestimate the power of people that love each other and support each other. Because.. All the things that happened this week.. all it did was galvanize that locker room. All it did was bring everybody closer together. I know people thought it was gonna pull us apart; thought it was gonna be a distraction. (But those) people don’t know (our) locker room. (We) have 24 unbelievable seniors. We have a bunch of coaches that do love and care about each other. I’m a firm believer: if you’re honest with people and let them know what’s going on: they’ll be okay. They’ll buy into it and say, ‘Okay coach. If it happens we’re happy for you.’ I can’t thank Matt Larson (NDSU Athletic Director) enough for allowing me to finish this journey with these 24 guys. I told him, ‘I brought them all in here: some true seniors and some five-year seniors. I gonna go out with them.’ (I) can’t thank those guys enough. I can’t thank Matt Larson enough. I can’t thank Gene Taylor (Kansas State Athletic Directory and former NDSU AD) and the support of the Kansas State Athletic Department..to say, ‘Hey, finish what (you) started (at NDSU).’ That means the world to me. The next thing I’ll say before I open up for questions is: Easton Stick is the best player in college football period. He’s the best player in college football and we’re lucky to have him. We were down a bunch of guys and I said, ‘Easton you may (have to) carry the thing (football) 30 times, but we’re gonna ride you.’ And he said, ‘Let’s just keep going coach.’
The NDSU ‘Bison’ host the SDSU ‘Jackrabbits’ in the semifinal game of the NCAA FCS playoffs.
The unbeaten Bison are still ranked #1. SDSU is ranked #5 but could easily be #2 due to their strength of schedule, and playing in the Missouri Valley Football Conference (MVFC). The ‘Jacks’ came closest to beating the Bison earlier this year 21 to 17. The Jacks are designed from the ground up to play the Bison, having played them 108 times since 1903. Will this be the game that punches the Jacks’ ticket to Frisco or will the Bison make their seventh trip to the National Championship Game to take on #3 Eastern Washington?
NDSU Head Coach, Chris Klieman; DE #91 Derrek Tuszka, WR #83 Dallas Freeman, QB #12 Easton Stick, and RB #8 Bruce Anderson discuss their FCS Playoff win over Colgate.
NDSU Head Coach, Chris Klieman
Let’s start off by congratulating Colgate. That’s a really good football team, (they’re) well coached. I mentioned to their coach before the game how impressed I was with their football team, and after the game as well. They’re well coached, they are disciplined, they’re hard nosed kids, and (I) have a lot of respect for those guys.
On the flip side, I have a ton of respect for our guys. They had a great week of practice. (Our players) had great focus and energy. We tried to change the narrative on them a little bit.. (regarding who) I thought.. is the best defense in FCS. I think we probably proved that out today. We challenged the offense, challenge the ‘Rams’, (and) challenge the offense, ’If we can get nine points, we got a chance because (the Raiders) don’t give up a whole lot (of points). Our guys took it to heart. We had a pretty spirited Thursday and Friday (practice.) Our guys were focused and ready to play. I’m excited for (our) guys. Take nothing away from Colgate: that’s a really good team and an excellent program. (I have) so much respect for Coach Hunt, but the Bison were gonna be pretty tough to beat today.
The NCAA FCS Quarterfinal game between the NDSU ‘Bison’ and the Colgate ‘Raiders’ was played Saturday morning in the Fargodome.
The Bison and the Raiders have never met on the field before. Coming into this game Colgate had only lost one game this season and that was to Army. They also posted five shut-outs. More impressive, they beat the James Madison ‘Dukes’ 23 to 20 last week in the second round of playoffs. JMU was on everyone’s short list to go to Frisco, TX for the National Championship game. On paper the Raiders have the best defense in the FCS. Would Colgate prove it on Gate City field?
The NDSU ‘Bison’ host the second around of the NCAA FCS Playoff today.
The Montana State ‘Bobcats’ are ranked 23rd. Unfortunately for them, NDSU is ranked #1. NDSU hasn’t played Montana State recently, but we have played them 34 times since 1914. In 2010 The Bison beat the Bobcats 42–17 in Bozeman – also a second round playoff game. Montana State has never played in the Fargodome, having bought out the only game they were scheduled to appear. This is a sore spot for NDSU and its fans. Will NDSU get its revenge or will MSU jump 23 spots in one game?
Montana State head coach Jeff Choate previews MSU’s upcoming trip to Fargo to face defending national champion North Dakota State.
Coach Choate in this pre-game press conference manages to summarize the ‘Bison’ football team. He pulls no punches about what he expects to see on Saturday. It almost seems like he’s throwing in the towel before he gets on the field. [For Jeff’s opening statement, see below.]
Montana State football coach, Jeff Choate, on North Dakota State
Obviously.. now we turn our attention to arguably the standard-bearer for all of college football, not just the FCS.. when you look at the success that (NDSU) they’ve had.. nobody can really match what they’ve done over the last decade. You (can) include Alabama.
I think Coach Klieman is.. the perfect guy for that job. It’s not just that he’s I’ve been a winner there at North Dakota State, (but) that he was a winner when he was a player at UNI, as a coach at UNI, and is a guy that is doing a great job continuing the legacy and putting his own stamp on things there.
Offensively, they have a wide variety of personnel groups. (Over) a five-day breakdown, we (saw) 14 different personnel groups. They play a lot of bodies up front, multiple Tight End and Fullback sets. They’re a run first team. I think they run the ball about 68% of the time. That sets up some pretty explosive things in the pass game for them.
They got a four-year starter in (QB #12) Easton Stick who’s the Missouri Valley Offensive Player Of The Year and very deservingly so. I think he’s an amazing player.
I love their Tailbacks: The (RB #10 Lance) Dunn kid, the (RB #8 Bruce) Anderson kid: Thick fast physical runners that fit their style very well. They’ve definitely recruited to that. (WR #20 Darrius) Sheppard: kind of a big play-making receiver on the outside. Number 20, you can see he competes for the ball, has excellent speed; a good route runner.
They’ve got a variety of different ways they use their Tight Ends and Fullbacks in the pass game, but also to get the run game going.
Their offensive line is big. I mean six-five; three-oh-five there abouts is their average.
So four guys with over 400 yards rushing. Stick has over 2,000 yards passing; 400 yards rushing. (He) does not make mistakes. (He) operates the system when it’s not there: he’ll use his feet to get more, or he’ll throw the ball away. He values the football. (An) extremely intelligent player.
On the defensive side they’re Base Four Down. They’ve got great personnel, they just do. That (LB #42) Jabril Cox kid: he could play anywhere, anywhere! He’d be starting at Notre Dame.. I mean this guy is a football playing Jesse (Genius?) He is six-two plus; 230, can run; will hit you. I think second on the team in interceptions with four; two Pick-Sixes. You better know where he’s at. (DE #96 Greg Menard) Ninety-six, a twitchy DE, an excellent pass rusher.
They’re in the right spot, if you show them the same thing over and over and over again: everybody’s reading the book the same way on that team. They’re an exceptionally well coached team. You can just see.. they’re pointing things out pre-snap formation. Through the film (study) they see it once and they know it. That’s how well prepared they are. They’re not an overly aggressive team. They blitz about 30% of the time. If you get them in the red zone, if you hit it with tempo, or if you hit him with a shot play.. they’re gonna come with some pressure. Definitely, on Third Down and extra long, you want to stay out of.. because whether they’re bringing four or five or six (it) doesn’t really matter, they seem to find a way to get home.
(They) roll (rotate) a lot of guys on the d-line as I said. The guy that stands out the most on the front (is) the Menard kid, number 96. (I’ve) already talked about Cox. Then a guy that is probably their leading tackler – he’s around the ball a lot – the (SS #5 Robbie) Grimsley kid, number five, the Safety. They’ll plug him down at different spots; so he’s unaccounted for in the run game. He’s an excellent tackler. You can tell he knows exactly where he’s supposed to be and how to get there. It’s impressive.
They have good team speed which shows up in the kicking game. Shepard is a dangerous punt returner: when he gets the ball in his hand, he can go at any time.
A general comment about this group: when you combine exceptional personnel with tremendous commitment and great coaching you win championships and that’s what North Dakota state has done over and over and over again. You don’t see a lot of players on this roster that are dressed as redshirt freshmen or freshmen. Most of the guys in there – two Deep – are Juniors and Seniors. (NDSU) they’ve developed them physically. They’ve put the time in. They bought into the system. They understand the process and they’ve earn their right to play as Juniors and Seniors. I’m sure (no one) wants to be the guy that don’t win it. That’s a Championship Culture . There’s a financial commitment by the University, and their community supports the program tremendously well. They have an outstanding coaching staff led by Coach (Chris) Klieman and they have great personnel. (It will) be a fun trip. I’m excited to go see this place. I’m excited to measure ourselves against a team: the caliber of North Dakota State.