In this week’s My Thoughts Exactly, Daniel “Pinto” Gunderson discuss the second round Football Championship Subdivision playoff game between South Dakota State University and North Dakota State University.
The fears of many North Dakota State University football fans came to fruition this past weekend when South Dakota State University’s football team won their first round game against Eastern Illinois University 58-10.
The victory set up a meeting between the Missouri Valley Football Conference, I use this word lightly, rivals at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome on Saturday, December 1 at 3 p.m. This is the second game between the Bison and the Jackrabbits this season. The first one took place on November 10, also in Fargo. The Bison won that game 20-17.
The win guaranteed plenty of things for NDSU. They hung on to the Dakota Marker for another year and won at least a share of the MVFC title. Now, a mere three weeks later, the Jacks will be back in town with more than a rock and a title on the line.
The fear that I referenced in the first paragraph is not something drubbed up by fanatics. It is real and should be recognized. Last year, the Bison got the opportunity to play three teams in the playoffs that had never experienced a sold-out Fargodome.
It was a distinct advantage for the Herd, specifically in the Lehigh and Georgia Southern games. Both high powered offenses could only muster a combined seven points in eight quarters of play.
That advantage won’t exist when SDSU steps on to the field in Fargo on Saturday. They have been there, they have done that and they have, in fact, won there. They also have the type of team built to win on the road in the playoffs.
They are a run-dominated, ball controlling and defensively stout team. This makes it tough for teams to crack them.
Sophomore running back Zach Zenner just ran for 295 yards and three touchdowns in his first ever playoff game. The offense controlled the ball for 37 minutes. The defense held a team that was 6th in the nation in passing to 221 yards passing.
They have the looks of a 2010 NDSU team on the cusp of something great. If you remember, NDSU wasn’t supposed to go to Montana State and dominate the Bobcats like they did in Bozeman, Mont.
It is worth being a little bit apprehensive before Bison fans get on the 2011 National Championship soapbox to yell out the accolades of last year. Frankly, they didn’t play a team like the Jackrabbits in 2011 on the way to Frisco.
However, before fans start screaming at the FCS committee for setting the Bison up with this dangerous opponent in round two, remember November 10.
Remember how SDSU made the mistake of having 12 players on the field after a timeout allowing the Bison to go for a touchdown instead of a field goal when the Jacks trailed 13-10 late in the fourth quarter.
That is a coaching staff that is unprepared in a big situation. The Bison have not made those types of mistakes in the past two years.
Remember how the Bison defense held the Jackrabbits to 135 yards of total offense prior to a late fourth quarter 74-yard touchdown drive by SDSU. That drive made the game 20-17 but meant little in the grand scheme of things.
Remember how the nation’s leading rusher coming into the game, Zenner, could only muster 43 yards rushing against the Bison defense. Remember how putting the game in sophomore quarterback Austin Sumner allowed the Bison “D” to sack Sumner five times.
Remember how an SDSU player ended the season of junior defensive lineman Leevon Perry. The player, junior offensive guard Alex Parker, dove at the legs of Perry away from the play and after the play was over.
That player, who wears the number 65 and should be starting on Saturday against the Bison, won’t be easily forgiven by Bison fans. He may have also ignited a rival that has been equivalent to puppies fighting. Awe shucks that is cute but there is no ferocity in this.
That will all change at 3 p.m. on Saturday, December 1 at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome when the 100th meeting between the Bison and the Jackrabbits kicks off.
Fear, anxiety, excitement and anticipation will fill the week leading up the series’ biggest game ever played.
Daniel “Pinto” Gunderson is the producer of the Mike McFeely Show, which can be heard 2-5 p.m. every weekday on 790 KFGO. You can follow him on Twitter @pintoKFGO or friend him on Facebook.