(Stats Perform) – North Dakota State’s FCS dynasty boasts an incredible 33-1 home record in its FCS playoff history.
When the UIW Cardinals step inside the Fargodome for a semifinal-round showdown Friday night, they’ll be doing so on the six-year anniversary of the Bison’s loss – 27-17 to eventual national champion James Madison in a 2016 semifinal.
While NDSU captured last year’s FCS title – and the ninth in an 11-season span – its lineup has been set back by key injuries all season. UIW and its dynamic offense pose a huge threat of pulling off an upset in their anticipated matchup.
Following is a capsule preview of the UIW at North Dakota State semifinal:
No. 7 seed UIW (12-1) at No. 3 seed North Dakota State (11-2)
Kickoff – 7 p.m. ET Friday at the Fargodome (18,700) in Fargo, North Dakota
Series – North Dakota State leads 1-0 (Bison won 58-0 on Sept. 13, 2014 in Fargo)
Coaches – UIW: G.J. Kinne (12-1, first season); North Dakota State: Matt Entz (47-7, fourth season)
5 Players to Watch – UIW: QB Lindsey Scott Jr. (292 of 408, 4,404 yards, 59 TDs, 6 INTs; 632 rushing yards, 9 TDs), RB Marcus Cooper (192 carries, 1,324 yards, 12 TDs; 27 receptions, 3 TDs), WR Darion Chafin (63 receptions, 1,211 yards, 17 TDs), WR Taylor Grimes (76 receptions, 1,144 yards, 15 TDs), LB Kelechi Anyalebechi (112 tackles, 10 TFL, 2 INTs, 2 FR, 3 TDs); North Dakota State: QB Cam Miller (141 of 202, 1,710 yards, 11 TDs, 3 INTs; 365 rushing yards, 14 TDs), RB Kobe Johnson (103 carries, 762 yards, 5 TDs); LT Cody Mauch (FCS All-American, eighth in Walter Payton Award voting), DE Spencer Waege (41 tackles, 15.5 TFL, 8 sacks), S Michael Tutsie (60 tackles, INT, 5 PBU, FR)
Notable – UIW’s No. 1 FCS scoring offense (53-point average) is coming off a 66-63 win at Sacramento State – the highest-scoring game in the playoffs’ 45-year history – and the Cardinals did so with more rushing yards (342) than passing yards (237) for just the second time this season. Scott has set FCS single-season records for TD passes (59) and overall TDs (68). While the Southland co-champ will surely surrender time of possession (just 26 minutes, 13 seconds on average), it can’t sacrifice on disciplined play (81 penalty yards per game compared to NDSU’s 49-yard average). The Cards surrendered a whopping 738 yards to Sac State, including 333 on the ground, which is NDSU’s calling card offensively. However, in the Bison’s 27-9 quarterfinal-win over Samford, they added RB TaMerik Williams (foot) to a long list of injured players, which includes All-America FB Hunter Luepke. Williams (679 yards, eight TDs) hopes to be healthy and rejoin Johnson, who’s now the team’s rushing leader. The Missouri Valley power’s defense, which boasts an experienced secondary, is surrendering only 160.1 passing yards per game (No. 4 national ranking), but it includes a season-high 279 to Samford. While Miller will have designed runs and step up against pressure, he will face a UIW pass rush that has 43.5 sacks. Bison LG Nash Jensen is scheduled to play in his 69th career game, an FCS record.
Up Next – The winner will play either No. 1 seed South Dakota State (12-1) or No. 4 seed Montana State (12-1) in the FCS championship game on Jan. 8 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
Prediction – North Dakota State 29, UIW 27