Over the past seven years, college football has seen an influx of teams from the lower FCS division coming up and catching their FBS big brothers by surprise.
One of those teams that has recently had success against the upper level teams, is North Dakota State. Since 2006, the Bison are 6-3 against FBS teams, with wins over Kansas, Colorado State, Central Michigan and three wins over Minnesota. The Bison are 3-0 in the past three seasons.
And the North Dakota State team that’s visiting Manhattan on Friday might be the best they’ve ever had. The Bison return 18 starters from a team that has won 28 of 30 games the last two years, including back-to-back FCS championships.
The Bison are seeking to become just the third team to win three straight FCS titles, which Appalachian State did from 2005-07.
“If you look at the experience we have out there, the chemistry and the ability, it’s a good football team,” North Dakota State coach Craig Bohl said. “I’ve not coached a team since I’ve been here that’s as veteran, well-schooled and as talented.”
The Bison have found success over the past two seasons, at least in some ways, just as Kansas State has. North Dakota State features a stingy defense, and an offense that will run the ball often and control the clock.
Defensively, they held opponents to 234.5 yards per game and just 11.5 points per contest.
Linebacker Grant Olson, who finished with 148 tackles last season, leads the defensive unit. He also set a school record with 29 tackles in one game last year. Linebacker Travis Beck finished with 98 tackles.
“Defensively, they’ve been really amazing,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “I mean the numbers, when you think about it, people average somewhere in the vicinity of 11 plus points per ball game against them. In 11 ball games last year, they held opponents to 10 or less points — that’s hard to do by accident. And two, 240 yards per game is all their defense will allow — that’s pretty darn good.”
On offense, the Bison return running backs Sam Ojuri and John Crockett, who both eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark and combined for 21 rushing touchdowns.
Snyder’s attention was caught by quarterback Brock Jensen, who completed 207-of-338 passes for 2,331 yards with 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions.
“They have a quarterback that has been playing there since, as long as I’ve been here,” Snyder joked. “(He’s) very adept at what he does, has real control of that offense. They’re a possession oriented offense, not unlike ours here, they eat up the clock on you.”
As a whole, Snyder said the Bison are a team that looks quick on film, maybe more so than they’ve been made out to be. Teams North Dakota State have played over the last two seasons have commonly referred to the Bison as the toughest squad they played.
Snyder thinks they might be one of the toughest they’ll play.
“There’s a lot of things that stood out (on tape),” he said. “I think number one, which I’ve shared with our players, is this is a faster football team than people want to envision — they run around. Secondly, I think it’s as aggressive and quote, unquote, tough a football team as you’ll lineup and play against. I think they play with a great deal of confidence.”
And the Bison have reason to be confident of course, with this group of North Dakota State starters being undefeated in games against FBS teams, and winners of 28 of the last 30. Add in those two straight national titles, and the Bison are a formidable foe for any team.
North Dakota State will be a veteran team going against a K-State defense full of fresh faces, and a quarterback making his first career start.
Snyder said he knows they will be facing a tough team to start the season. And it doesn’t get any easier in week two, when the Wildcats play Louisiana.
“You’ve seen it, you read all the stuff, it’s a tremendously talented, gifted and quality football team,” Snyder said. “And next week it’s the same thing, so it’s into the frying pan, out of the fryer.“re a possession oriented offense, not unlike ours here, they eat up the clock on you.