Bison coming off a bye typically means “bye, bye” for opponents
(STATS) – North Dakota State has put together a few impressive streaks over the past 12 years. Those types of things tend to happen when your program wins five straight national titles.
One that’s currently alive might be even a bit harder to wrap your head around than the Bison’s half-decade reign atop the subdivision.
NDSU has won 25 straight games coming off a bye heading into Saturday’s playoff showdown with San Diego, which saw exactly how lethal the second-seeded Bison can be with time to prepare in the second round at the Fargodome a year ago.
The Bison (10-1) beat Northeastern on Sept. 16, 2006, after having 15 days off following their opener, and since that day it’s been sayonara for any opponent unfortunate enough to face NDSU off a bye.
Those 26 opportunities with extra rest are a lot more than a team would typically have in a 12-year span, but North Dakota State tends to have more chances than just an open date in the middle of the regular season. This is the seventh straight season the Bison have earned a bye on the opening week of the playoffs. Throw in five trips to the FCS championship game with multiple weeks to rest following the semifinals, and NDSU is far more used to getting some R&R than the average program.
After going through the grind of the Missouri Valley Conference, coach Chris Klieman is quite thankful for the rest.
“One (big thing) is getting guys healthy and getting guys mentally away from the game so that when they come back, they’re recharged not only physically but more so mentally,” Klieman said. “You go on the grind that we did for nine weeks and get your mind away from it, you come back focused and re-energized. Just having 70-less snaps on you from Saturday really means a lot to these guys, especially the older you get.”
San Diego (10-2) found out the hard way last postseason how beneficial some time off can be to the Bison. A week after earning the Pioneer Football League’s first-ever playoff win at Cal Poly, the Toreros were no match for the rested Bison in a 45-7 loss.
That San Diego team rolled to an 8-0 record within the PFL just like this one did, but to Klieman, it’s hardly the same team. And it’s hardly recognizable playing inside a league that doesn’t allow scholarships.
“They are a different-level Pioneer team,” he said. “I think everybody in the Pioneer League would tell you that.
“They’re more experienced. They have their offensive line back. All those (linemen) that played in the playoff game are playing right now. You combine that with a quarterback who’s such a seasoned guy and doesn’t make mistakes and is playing with a lot of confidence.”
Klieman is referring to junior Anthony Lawrence, who threw 349 passes this season and had only two intercepted. Add in 33 touchdown passes and you have a stat line that would make even Tom Brady blush.
As dominant as the Toreros were in the PFL, it was hard to see the 41-10 shellacking they put on Northern Arizona last week coming. They’d lost their two nonconference FCS road games in September by a combined 62-24, but took control early against the Lumberjacks. Lawrence threw for 228 yards and three touchdowns, Emilio Martinez ran for 117 and a score, and San Diego finds itself spending the first weekend in December in Fargo for a second straight year.
“We have great respect for North Dakota State,” coach Dale Lindsey said. “Their program has been at the pinnacle of FCS football for the last five or six years and they gave us a nice little whipping last year. We look forward to playing them again. We feel like we didn’t play our best last year, but we are going to give them our best shot.”
Lawrence threw for just 4.92 yards per attempt in last year’s meeting while North Dakota State averaged 9.9 yards on its 51 total plays, running for 299 yards. Quarterback Easton Stick had 307 yards of total offense – 99 on the ground – without an interception, but lately he’s been a bit careless. The junior threw seven picks in a three-game stretch culminating with three in NDSU’s Nov. 4 loss at South Dakota State.
Bison third-string QB Henry Van Dellen, backup receiver Sean Engel and defensive back Darren Kelley were dismissed from the team Monday for a violation of team rules. In addition, receiver Dallas Freeman was suspended for this week’s game.