UNH, North Dakota St. Have Plenty in Common
Fargo, n.d. — The Football Championship Subdivision semifinal playoff game between North Dakota State and New Hampshire will be the first meeting between the schools.
Players on both sides say they have a lot in common just the same.
NDSU offensive lineman Billy Turner and New Hampshire defensive back Manny Asam used the same words earlier this week to describe the other team, such as disciplined, physical and well-coached. Both teams pursue the ball and “play through the whistle,” Turner said.
“They’re kind of like us with the mindset that they come out, they play hard and they try to get the job done,” Turner said.
Said Asam, “It’s going to be a battle because we kind of rely on the same kind of elements to make us successful.”
Those elements include stingy defense — NDSU is No. 1 in FCS in fewest points allowed per game and New Hampshire is No. 14 — and offenses that are effective, if not flashy. The teams have been known to grind down their opponents, especially the Bison. NDSU has held 12 of its 13 opponents scoreless in the fourth quarter.
Something will have to give on Friday night, Bison offensive lineman Zack Johnson said.
“We’re going to still try to wear them down, but from I’ve seen, they don’t get worn down very easily,” Johnson said.
The Bison (13-0) are seeking their third straight FCS title. The Wildcats (10-4) are making their first appearance in the FCS semifinals.
The All-American Turner, who earlier this week was invited to the Senior Bowl, said New Hampshire will be the best team NDSU has faced in this year’s playoffs. Unlike NDSU’s opponents in the first two rounds, he said, the Wildcats go about their business quietly.
“Coastal Carolina came in here and everyone was talking about their offense,” Turner said. “Furman was coming in here just talking about, you know, they beat Georgia Southern, they beat Wofford, they were going to get payback for their conference and what not.
“Each team had something different to say, but I haven’t heard anything out of New Hampshire yet,” he said.
The Wildcats advanced with wins over Lafayette, Maine and Southeastern Louisiana. This will be their third straight game on the road. NDSU hasn’t left town for a month.
The Bison are 9-0 overall at home in the FCS playoffs and have won 10 straight home postseason games dating back to a 1992 victory in the Division II tournament. NDSU’s 22-game winning streak is the longest in Division I, ahead of 15 in a row by Florida State.
The ESPN-driven game day schedule for NDSU will be drastically different from last week, when players met at 7:15 a.m. for the pre-game meal in advance of an 11 a.m. kickoff. Friday’s game at the Fargodome is scheduled to start at 7 p.m., local time (8 EST).
The winner will face either Towson or Eastern Washington in the FCS championship Jan. 4 in Frisco, Texas.
“Friday night lights ... this brings me back to the high school days,” Bison All-American defensive back Marcus Williams said. “There’s nothing better than playing under those lights in front of that crowd.”