North Dakota State (7-2) vs. Youngstown State (5-4)
Time: 1:00 P.M CT, Saturday, November 14th
TV: NBC ND, plus ESPN3 - Brian Shawn (play-by-play), Lee Timmerman (Analyst) and Beth Hoole (Sideline)
Last week: NDSU beat Western Illinois 59-7 at home, Youngstown State beat Missouri State 47-7 at home
All-time series: Bison lead the series 5-4 (38-14 NDSU in Fargo, November 2014)
Vegas betting line: NDSU (-7.5) Over/Under (54 points)
Five things you need to know
1) North Dakota State’s rushing attack has exploded for 971 yards over the past three games, an average of 324 yards per game. NDSU ran for 243 yards on 57 carries at Indiana State—NDSU’s most rushing attempts since 2008 at Illinois State. The Bison followed that with a season-high 397 yards at Southern Illinois averaging 8.3 yards on 48 carries. NDSU had nine different ball carries combine for 331 yards last week against Western Illinois. North Dakota State leads the Missouri Valley Football Conference in rushing offense and is 13th in the FCS averaging 232.0 yards over nine games.
2) North Dakota State left tackle Joe Haeg was added to the STATS FCS Offensive Player of the Year watch list Nov. 4. He is the first lineman on the watch list since Villanova’s Ben Ijalana in 2010. Haeg was first team All-America in 2014 and the Top Collegiate Offensive Lineman by the FCS Athletic Directors Association. He has been named Offensive Lineman of the Week twice this season by the Missouri Valley Football Conference and has helped pave the way for the top rushing offense in the league. NDSU quarterback Carson Wentz was a preseason nominee for the award, but was removed from consideration after being sidelined with a wrist injury after six games.
3) NDSU running back King Frazier was named Offensive Player of the Week, linebacker Nick DeLuca was named Defensive Player of the Week, and right guard Jeremy Kelly Offensive Lineman of the Week in the Missouri Valley Football Conference after the 35-29 win at Southern Illinois. Frazier had runs of 41, 50 and 51 yards and finished with 16 carries for a career-high 177 yards and one touchdown. DeLuca had a career-high 20 tackles including one for a loss and one pass breakup as NDSU limited the league’s top-rated offense to a season-low 398 yards of total offense and 121 rushing yards. It was the first career award for both players. Kelly had nine knockdown blocks and a team-best 88 percent grade on technique without allowing a sack or quarterback hurry
4) North Dakota State limited Western Illinois to 1 yard rushing in the first half and 33 yards on the ground altogether while holding Nikko Watson, the second-leading rusher in the MVFC, to just one yard on four carries. WIU’s no-huddle offense ran only 47 plays, 28 fewer than its average. It was the third straight week the Bison defense has risen to the challenge. NDSU limited the top-rated offense in the MVFC to a season-low 398 yards of total offense and 121 rushing yards at Southern Illinois and held an Indiana State team averaging 438 yards to just 201 yards of total offense.
5) North Dakota State leads the nation in time of possession and has only been out-clocked once in the last 25 games (South Dakota, 2015). The Bison are averaging an FCS-best 37:21 over nine games. NDSU also ranks second in third down conversion defense (26%), third in third down conversion percentage (53%), third in first downs allowed (121), fifth in fourth down conversion percentage (73%), seventh in net punting (39.21), eighth in pass efficiency rating (157.88) and ninth in rushing defense (100.2).
Youngstown State players to watch
1) Hunter Wells, quarterback: As a freshman last season, Well was named to Missouri Valley Football Conference's All-Newcomer Team, finished second in the league's voting for the Freshman-of-the-Year Award and was seventh in the voting for the Jerry Rice Award which honors the FCS's top freshman. In his sophomore campaign, Wells is completing 55.7% of his passes with a TD/INT ratio of 13:7.
2) Jody Webb, running back: The true junior is averaging 6.1 YPC on over 110 carries this season with six rushing touchdowns through the first nine games. The Penguins have a two headed rushing attack with Webb and Martin Ruiz. Between the two backs, they've combined for 1337 rushing yards and 10 rushing scores.
3) Derek Rivers, defensive end: Rivers was a first-team All-Missouri Valley Football Conference in what was a breakout season and had more sacks as a sophomore then he did tackles as a freshman. Rivers has been a one man wrecking crew once again with 41 total tackles, 13.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks, so the Bison offensive line will have to keep him in check.
Keys to the game
1. Quick start: NDSU is outscoring their opponents in the first half by 122 points with a margin of 198-76 and that'd be huge for the Bison to get off to a quick start on the road at Stambaugh Stadium. That means the Bison have to continue to establish the running game where the Penguins are vulnerable as they're giving up 161.7 yards per game and almost two touchdowns. That means that King Frazier, Bruce Anderson and Easton Stick could be in line for some big days.
2. Stopping the run: Youngstown State is averaging 200 rushing yards a game and over two rushing scores, so the Bison front seven is going to have a stout game. Guys like Nick DeLuca and Robbie Grimsley are going to have to provide help in the run game and force the Penguins to beat you through the air.
3. Big plays: The Bison have had big plays in each of their few games, whether it's Easton Stick on the read option, King Frazier off the edge or Zach Vraa going above defenders to make SportsCenter, NDSU is going to have to make the big plays and contain Youngstown State's. NDSU has to make sure the Penguins don't grab the momentum early at home.