FARGO, N.D. -- The FCS semifinal between Montana State and North Dakota State marks the second consecutive time these two teams have faced off in the postseason. The Bison defeated the Bobcats 52-10 in the second round last go-around. However, it's a new year and NDSU has a new coaching staff, but the Bison are ready to get back to their third straight championship game.
“It’s win or go home and like I said, there’s a chance at Frisco on the line -- 14-0 doesn’t mean anything without getting to the big game," said Spencer Waege, a sophomore defensive end for the Bison.
While this is the first semifinal appearance for MSU in 35 years, the Bison have won seven of the past eight national titles, so this stage of the game is nothing new.
“I guess we don’t really know different around here. Being a fifth-year senior, I’ve been here four times since I was playing. It’s just another game on the schedule for us,” said Ty Brooks, an NDSU running back.
But North Dakota State isn’t being complacent, especially against an MSU offense with a lot more diverse schemes than last year when they played the Bison in Fargo.
“Their running backs are really talented and their running backs aren’t afraid to run the ball either. But at the same time, their quarterback will want to throw it too. So that will be something different. I don’t think Illinois State wanted to throw against us,” Waege said.
North Dakota State is coming off a mere 9-3 win over the Redbirds in the quarterfinals. Illinois State's defensive coordinator is Travis Niekamp, who spent two seasons prior with the Montana Grizzlies, and the Bison believe there may be some information sharing between him and the Cats on how to stop the machine in Fargo. However, the Bison say they need to focus on themselves and capitalize on their opportunities.
“We were in the red zone three times and came away with nine points. We wouldn’t be having this conversation if we were able to score some touchdowns. And I know you can’t predicate anything on ‘if’s.’ We just didn’t get it done,” said first-year Bison head coach Matt Entz.
“We just got to go out and play our game. Physicality, whoever is the more physical team is probably going to come out on top, and I like our odds,” Brooks said.
Montana State and North Dakota State kick off at noon (MST) Saturday. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.