In this week’s edition of My Thoughts Exactly, Daniel “Pinto” Gunderson looks at how Wofford College could pull off an upset against North Dakota State University Saturday, December 8 at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
Many people that talked about the Bison’s second round Football Championship Subdivision playoff game against South Dakota State University were worried. Worried about the familiarity the opponent had with North Dakota State University and the building they play in.
After the Jackrabbits failed to show up last Saturday in a 28-3 drubbing, many of those same folks were breathing sighs of relief, considering the Jacks as NDSU’s toughest opponent they would face from here to Frisco, Texas.
I have to admit, I was one of those with that same thought process. Now, however, as I start to look at the Wofford Terriers, I see a team that won’t lay down easily for NDSU.
First, we start with the defense. Wofford uses a 3-4 defense. This is the type of scheme NDSU has longed had troubles with. Southern Illinois University runs this type of defense and rarely has there been a game that the Bison blow out the Salukis.
Wofford had the best scoring defense in the Southern Conference, giving up 16.8 points per game. The University of New Hampshire was in the top 10 nationally for scoring offense at 36.5 points per game. Wofford held them to seven points in their 23-7 victory last Saturday.
NDSU’s offense has been suspect at times this season and relies heavily on an effective run game. Wofford had the best rush defense in the SOCON, giving up 121 yards per game.
Second, Wofford has played in intimidating places before and played well. Back on October 20 of this season, Wofford defeated Appalachian State University 38-28 in Kidd Brewer Stadium in front of 27,115 fans.
They were tied with the University of South Carolina with 11:57 to go in the fourth when the Gamecocks finally pulled ahead for good. That was in front of a crowd of 79,982. Fargo might not intimidate them like it did Lehigh or James Madison.
Third, Eric Breitenstein. The senior fullback is big. He is listed as 5’11” and 230 pounds. He is a Walter Payton Award finalist. He has run for 1,900 this season, including 247 and three touchdowns against UNH last week. He is now the leading rusher in FCS football, averaging 158 yards per game and 7.1 per carry.
He is the star of Wofford’s triple option offense, which is much different from the offense Georgia Southern University ran last year. The Eagles wanted to use their speed, but the Terriers would rather run right at you rather than around you.
At 7 yards per carry, you have to assume he is getting to the linebackers and secondary virtually untouched. Four quarters of trying to take down a back his size will eventually wear your team down. NDSU’s lack of depth at linebacker and safety could be exposed by Breitenstein.
A team that plays good defense, is not intimidated by a big crowd and runs the ball with great ability is the perfect mix for an upset. Of course, SDSU had the same formula and that one ended up being a one-sided game in favor of NDSU.
The lack of familiarity with the type of offense Wofford runs is the biggest difference between SDSU and Wofford. You throw something at a team that only has a week to prepare for it becomes tougher to put together a game plan for.
I see the possibility of Wofford walking away from this quarterfinal matchup with the win. Chances are not as slim as everyone would think. Wofford could spoil the party.
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.