‘It’s going to be a challenge’

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After a 52-24 blow-out win against No. 12 Western Illinois, the No. 10 Jacks will host its toughest opponent of the season, North Dakota State, at the Dakota Marker Game.

NDSU does not lose very often. In fact, they are 91-7 since 2011. One of their losses came last year when the Jacks won the Dakota Marker Game 19-17 in Fargo, North Dakota. Head coach John Stiegelmeier thinks he may have figured out the formula.

“Play 60 minutes of Jackrabbit football,” Stiegelmeier said. “That means you handle adversity and excitement the right way, you play in the present and play like it’s your last play, every play.”

The Jacks have been overmatched in time of possession in their two losses this season — which was also instrumental in the Jacks’ loss to NDSU in last year’s FCS quarterfinals. The Bison held the ball for more than 40 minutes.

“We have to have a great plan and there’s no secret to the plan,” said NDSU head coach Chris Klieman. “You got to keep their offense on the sideline.”

In the two previous games, the SDSU defense has given up 41 points in the first half and only 13 in the second half. If the Jacks are going to defeat the Bison the defense will need to play more like they did in the second half of those contests and make tackles in the open field.

“We need to work on tackling,” Stiegelmeier said. “That’s tough toward the end of the year, because you want to stay fresh and not beat each other up.”

NDSU has been every bit as dominant this year as they have in the past. The Bison love to run the ball and are averaging 277 yards per game which is first in the MVFC.

The Bison will be without their leading rusher, Lance Dunn, who suffered a torn labrum two weeks ago against Western Illinois. Dunn was the leading rusher in the conference before sustaining the injury.

“I feel awful for Lance. It’s not the first guy it’s happened to,” Klieman said. “But, I hope it’s the last.”

Junior running back Bruce Anderson has been just as effective in the backfield for the Bison this season. He averages 80 yards per game, which is fourth in the MVFC, and has found the endzone four times on the year.

Since the Bison run the ball so much, junior quarterback Easton Stick has the least amount of yards passing in the MVFC. Stick has contributed to the running game for the Bison though, with 361 yards on 44 touches and five touchdowns.

It isn’t like Stick doesn’t have targets to throw to, the Bison just choose to run the ball more frequently. RJ Urzendowski has caught 24 passes for 383 yards and seven touchdowns. Darrius Shepherd has caught 25 passes on the year for 354 yards, but hasn’t found the end zone yet.

“He is a competitor, a great player,” Stiegelmeier said of Stick. “He doesn’t slide, he dives ahead like a rocket and is fun to watch.”

NDSU fields the best defense in The Valley, allowing only 10 points per game. On the ground, running backs haven’t garnered many yards against the Bison. Opponents are averaging 69 rushing yards per game. The Bison have been able to stop passing attacks as well, giving up 119.1 yards per game.

Quarterback Taryn Christion and the Jacks offense don’t have a normal passing attack, though. The offense had 579 total yards of offense against Western Illinois. Christion had 424 total yards with six touchdowns and wide receiver Jake Wieneke had 97 yards and three touchdowns.

If the Jacks want to come away with a victory they cannot turn the ball over, which won’t be easy. The Bison have forced 22 turnovers this season which is tied for fourth in the FCS.

“They just have one of the best defenses in the nation so you know it’s going to be a challenge,” Wieneke said.

Looking at the NDSU defensive line, they have made a habit of harassing quarterbacks. As a team, the Bison have gotten to opposing quarterbacks 27 times this season.

Saturday will be the first sellout in Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium history and Stiegelmeier and his team are excited about it.

“You guys [the fans]are going to be a part of history” Stiegelmeier said of the sellout crowd. “I hope and expect that the 19,340 fans that show up come to impact the game.”

Kickoff is at 2 p.m. for the Dakota Marker that the SDSU Jacks currently hold. The game can be viewed on Midco Sports Network.

The Collegian will be live on Facebook for our Pregame Show for further insight on the game. Sports Reporter Trenton Abrego will also be punished for being the most off on his score prediction by taking pie to the face. Tune in at 5:30 p.m. Thursday on The Collegian’s Facebook page.

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