FCS Playoffs: San Diego at North Dakota State
(STATS) – The Matchup – San Diego (10-2) at No. 2 seed North Dakota State (10-1)
Kickoff – 3:30 p.m. ET at the Fargodome (19,000) in Fargo, North Dakota
Coverage – ESPN3
Series – North Dakota State leads 1-0 (only meeting: NDSU won 45-7 at home in FCS second round Dec. 3, 2016)
Players to Watch – San Diego: QB Anthony Lawrence (232 of 349, 3,024 yards, 33 TDs, 2 INTs), RB Emilio Martinez (184 carries, 1,011 yards, 10 TDs), WR Justin Priest (71 receptions, 1,047 yards, 13 TDs), TE Ross Dwelley (47 receptions, 636 yards, 10 TDs), DE Jonathan Petersen (43 TT, 22 1/2 TFL, 15 Sacks, 6 FF); North Dakota State: QB Easton Stick (121 of 193, 1,821 yards, 17 TDs, 7 INTs; 493 rushing yards, 9 TDs), RB/KR Bruce Anderson (170 carries, 796 yards, 6 TDs), LB Nick DeLuca (51 TT, 6 TFL, 2 FF), S Robbie Grimsley (50 TT, 4 INTs, 5 PBU), S Tre Dempsey (36 TT, 5 INTs, 2 PBU)
The Skinny – Stick had 307 yards of total offense and passed for three touchdowns in North Dakota State’s playoff win over San Diego last season. The visiting Toreros, determined to be more competitive in this year’s matchup, enter off a 41-10 beatdown of Northern Arizona. The Pioneer Football League champs have a physical style, reflected in their sack differential – they had 29 and allowed just six. FCS sack leader Petersen has 41 for his career, just 1 1/2 shy of former Southern Utah standout James Cowser’s record. Against NAU, Lawrence threw three touchdowns to raise his season total to 33 against just two interceptions. NDSU’s heartbeat is on defense, and the Missouri Valley Conference champ is tied for second in the FCS in scoring defense (12.3 ppg) and total defense (237.9). In six home games, the DeLuca-led unit has allowed only six offensive touchdowns. The running game with Anderson and Ty Brooks got on track in the final two regular-season games. PK Cam Pedersen is erratic from 40 yards or more, but 10 of his 11 career makes from that distance are in the Fargodome.
Up Next – The winner will play Furman or No. 7 seed Wofford in the quarterfinals on Dec. 8 or 9.
Prediction – San Diego has a similar style to the Bison, but there’s a difference in size and speed. North Dakota State, 34-10.