Friday night will be a game that many have seen before, as South Dakota State and North Dakota State square off for the 109th time.
This game with extra meaning though, with a trip to the FCS Championship in Frisco, Texas on the line.
“That’s the unique thing about a rivalry and then you throw the fact on it it’s not isn’t just a regular season game, it's not just an early round playoff game like it’s been before this is for a big chance to go to Frisco,” said North Dakota State Head Coach Chris Klieman.
North Dakota State visited Brookings for the Dakota Marker game in September, handing the Jackrabbits their closest loss of the season, 21-17.
“I think we just didn’t play clean enough to win. I think we played hard but we didn’t play clean enough to win that day, and I think we’ve come a long way since then and obviously they have to. But we’re just excited to be able to fix those mistakes and have another shot at them,” said SDSU senior safety Brandon Snyder.
“There’s going to be a couple plays that make a different in the game, and that was so true in that football game. We handled the environment, which is really hard to do in Fargo. We played good enough defense to win the game but we just didn’t make that last play on offense, and our guys remember that,” said South Dakota State Head Coach John Stigelmeier.
These two teams are no strangers come the postseason either. The Bison have put an end to the Jackrabbits playoff run three times since 2012 all in Fargo, but both coaches say expect a much closer battle this time.
“They do a great job of preparing for us, and we have to do a really good job of maybe showing some different looks,” said Klieman.
“We expect a hard fought game, and we need to be ready. The 11 guys on the field need to be ready to make a game winning play. That’s probably why there’s trick plays because we don’t have to practice the base stuff as much as if you’re facing a new opponent. But again we’re all going to do our work, we’re all going to plan our game plan and this is going to come down to what I believe a couple plays and a hard fought football game,” said Stiegelmeier.
South Dakota State enters 2-10 in the last 12 matchups against North Dakota State, but have gone 2-2in the last four meetings, with two of those being determined by four points or fewer.
“How many different variations are we going to see of something new, you know both sides of the ball? We’re going to do some new things, Stig is going to do some new things. You have to when you play each other as much as we play each other. So now it comes down to being able to adapt and adjust,” said Klieman.
One of the reasons that bring top ranked NDSU and fifth ranked SDSU to the semi-finals is the senior quarterback showdown between Easton Stick and Taryn Christion.
“I know Easton, we recruited their quarterback, and he is a great competitor. He throws the ball really well, I do think he runs the ball better than he throws it. I think you’re going to watch the top two quarterbacks in FCS football. Two great quarterbacks, two great records behind their names, both in terms of statistics and team accomplishments. It will be fun to watch those two guys compete. I’ve got a lot of respect in Easton Stick and the North Dakota State program and I think they have the same for our program,” said Stigelmeier.
Christion is fifth in the FCS with 30 passing touchdowns this year, while Stick sits on top nationally averaging 9.66 yards per pass attempt.
“Christion is a great, great football player and makes their offense go, and the more you watch him, the better he is, and I’ve watched him now for four years and I’m so impressed with how he handles himself, so impress how he gets them into the right call,” said Klieman.
SDSU looks to put an end to NDSU’s FCS long 19-game winning streak, while punching their first ever ticket to Frisco.
“It would mean a ton to go up there and take the next step in the Fargodome. Will it be easy no? Can we do it yes. Our players are phenomenal in terms of being on the same page of being one heartbeat and when you say embrace it, they embrace it. We don’t assume to be here, but we appreciate the opportunity to be here and we will make the most of it,” said Stigelmeier.
“You know we’re not intimidated by any means by going up there and playing in the Fargodome, if anything we’re excited about it. If we don’t get to Frisco and win a national championship, I’m going to be disappointed because we have a lot of talent on this team and we can definitely do it,” said SDSU senior quarterback Taryn Christion.
Kickoff for Friday’s game is at 7:00 p.m. and will be broadcast nationally on ESPN 2.