Dakota Showdown

Brian Kimmes

Brian Kimmes

When the Great West Football Conference formed three years ago, SDSU and NDSU were the little guys. Now the border rivals are battling for the conference championship and the Dakota Marker in what may be the most intense game of the season.

The Jackrabbits versus the Bison. North versus South. NDSU versus SDSU. No. 4 versus No. 19. One game for the Great West Football Conference championship. One game for the Dakota Marker. One game to turn a good season into a great season.

On Nov. 18, the Jackrabbit football team battles the North Dakota State University Bison for the Great West Football Conference title. Both teams bring a perfect 3-0 conference record.

“That’s going to be a game,” said Southern Utah Head Coach Wes Meier after Saturday’s game.SDSU has not won a conference title for 43 years, and has never won the Great West Football Conference.

Coach Stiegelmeier said this is the first time he remembers in his 19 years at SDSU that the team has a chance to play for a conference title.

“I don’t think we’re giddy about it because I think we’re really mature,” he said.

Stiegelmeier said playing for the conference title adds to excitement for the game, but his team’s goal remains the same as it has every week: to go 1-0.

The Jacks face their stiffest opponent of the season in the Bison, who enter the game with a 9-1 record and a No. 4 ranking.

“They’re (NDSU) really rolling,” said Meier.

“It’s going to be like a heavyweight fight,” said Stiegelmeier. “They’re a good football team. So are we.”

The Bison’s only loss this season was a 10-9 defeat at the hands of the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis, Minn. NDSU had a chance to defeat the Gophers, but missed a field goal late in the game.

Heading into the final game of the season, the Bison are coming off a 51-14 thrashing of California Polytechnic University in the Fargodome. The Bison lead the Great West in points scored and points given up per game.

SDSU totes a seven game winning streak and a 7-3 overall record. The seven game winning streak is the longest in 43 years for the Jackrabbits.

The Jacks not only face a good football team in NDSU, but a brutal Bison fan base as well. The Fargodome is a difficult place to play. SDSU has struggled in the past, and has never won a game there. In fact, SDSU has lost 21 straight games in Fargo, and has not earned a victory in the city since 1962.

But Stiegelmeier is not worried about past games in Fargo. He said this team is building their own tradition, and excited to be the team to win in Fargo.

“You can’t go out there and have the record in Fargo in your mind,” he said. “We have had success in the Fargodome. We haven’t won.”

Part of the reason why the Fargodome is so difficult to play, according to Stiegelmeier, is because of the NDSU public address announcer.

“It’s their game announcer. It’s a choreographed noise system,” he said.

NCAA rules prohibit game announcers from making noise during the course of a play.

In order to get used to the crowd noise, the team brought out speakers to the practice field in an attempt to get used to the noise level.

Stiegelmeier believes his team can go up to Fargo and beat the Bison.

“We need to go up there and know we can win, number one, and then play our best football game,” he said. “We need to play our brand of football.”

Stiegelmeier identified stopping the run as the key on defense.

“If you don’t stop the run, you’re not going to win a football game, unless some crazy things happen,” he said.

Offensively, Stiegelmeier said the team needs to be patient and accept three- and four-yard gains, and not try to do too much on any one play.

On both sides of the ball, Stiegelmeier identified the importance of doing well on third downs.

“When you’re playing a tough game, it is the third down (that’s important), and obviously it is going to be crucial. That’s how you keep drives going. That’s how you stop drives,” he said.

Bison Head Coach Craig Bohl said he has a great deal of respect for the Jackrabbits’ defense and knows the Jacks will give his team a tough game.

“Their quarterback is playing extremely well, and (when) he’s had a chance to make a play late in the game, he’s done well,” he said. “They (SDSU) will fight to the end.”

Fans interested in traveling to Fargo for the game can sign up in the Students’ Association office for a fan bus traveling to the Fargodome. Deadline is 4 p.m., Friday, Nov. 17.