Following last season's opening loss to Northern Iowa, there was no doubt Monday from coach Paul Rhoads and Iowa State players that North Dakota State will not be taken lightly when it arrives at Jack Trice Stadium on Saturday.
Their pedigree — three straight national titles and 24 consecutive victories — would make the Bison hard to overlook. North Dakota State does have a new coach in Chris Klieman this season and handfuls of new players across the field.
Klieman took a look ahead at Iowa State on Tuesday during the Missouri Valley teleconference.
Lets talk about Iowa State and preview Saturday’s game.
Chris Klieman: We’re going into Iowa State and they’ve got a new offensive coordinator in Mark Mangino, so a little bit we’re not sure what they’re going to do. We’ve looked at a lot of film from previous years and even a little bit of Youngstown [State] film [where Mangino coached], but we’ve been kind of prepared for a lot of different offensive looks that we could potentially see. Their defensive staff has remained intact, so we’ve had some pretty good looks there on film.
[Jack Trice] is a great environment to play in. When I was at Northern Iowa we played at Jack Trice a number of times and it’s a great environment. I know there’s a lot of excitement around Iowa State football and the progress that they’ve made in the program. We’re looking for a really good game and a really good challenge for ourselves.
Are you having trouble scheduling FBS opponents given the success you’ve had against them?
CK: We’ve been pretty fortunate, we’ve had pretty good football teams the last three years that I’ve been here. I think all of us in the Missouri Valley down the line are going to have trouble scheduling BCS opponents with the Power 5 realignment and stuff. I know our next one is 2016 at the University of Iowa and [former athletic director] Gene Taylor said we have to continue to play that one. So I’m hoping we play that one, and then beyond that I’m not sure where we’re at.
It looked like the most unknowns were on your offense given what you lost to graduation. How have those guys come along?
CK: We feel good about their progress. Now, it’s just going against each other, so I guess when the lights come on Saturday at 11 a.m., we’ll find out how they’ve progressed. The experience we have with [John] Crockett at running back and [Zach] Vraa at receiver and even a couple of our tight ends back I think is a [positive]. We think [quarterback] Carson [Wentz] is ready to go in this kind of environment, but time will tell. We know we’ve got a big challenge ahead of us this week.
You’ve been involved in about seven games at Jack Trice as a player or coach. Any memorable moments from those games?
CK: We had a couple of wins that were really good [and] we had a couple really tough losses. I know this: It is a great environment for football. I enjoy going to Jack Trice. The fans are great, the environment is great. Probably the only difference for me is I think every time I’ve been there it’s been a night game, so to play this one at 11 a.m. is probably the only change that I haven’t had there yet.