FCS Semifinal: Surging UNH must avoid Bison roadblock
New Hampshire (10-4) at No. 1 seed North Dakota State (13-0)
Date & Time: Friday, Dec. 20, 8 p.m. ET
Facts & Stats: Site: Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome (18,700) -- Fargo, N.D. Surface: AstroTurf GameDay Grass. Television: ESPN2. Announcers: Anish Shroff, Kelly Stouffer, Cara Capuano. Home Record: New Hampshire 6-0; North Dakota State 8-0. Away Record: New Hampshire 4-4; North Dakota State 5-0. Series Record: First meeting. Conference: New Hampshire - Colonial Athletic Association; North Dakota State - Missouri Valley. Nicknames: New Hampshire Wildcats; North Dakota State Bison. The Sports Network FCS Ranking: New Hampshire (15); North Dakota State (1). NCAA Playoff Seedings: New Hampshire (NS); North Dakota State (1). Head Coaches: New Hampshire - Sean McDonnell (15th season, 114-70 at New Hampshire and overall); North Dakota State - Craig Bohl (11th season, 102-32 at North Dakota State and overall). Playoff Records: New Hampshire (9-11); North Dakota State (12-1). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: New Hampshire 11 (1991, 94, 2004-12); North Dakota State 3 (2010-12 - FCS Champions in 2011 and 2012). Current Playoff Streak: New Hampshire has won its last three playoff games; North Dakota State has won its last 10 playoff games. Current Win Streak: New Hampshire 6W; North Dakota State 13W. Record vs. 2013 Playoff Teams: New Hampshire (4-2); North Dakota State (3-0).
Game Notes: After last weekend's thrashing of Coastal Carolina, it would appear North Dakota State is well on its way back to the national championship game in Frisco, Texas. But surging New Hampshire may have a few statements to make against the Bison in Fargo on Friday night.
It's the first-ever meeting between New Hampshire and North Dakota State, and, judging by the way the Bison are playing this postseason, it's a bad time for any opponent to come to Fargo to challenge the back-to-back national champions.
In two postseason games at the Fargodome in 2013, North Dakota State has outscored its opponents 86-21, which includes the most recent pounding over the Chanticleers, who entered last weekend's playoff matchup as the third-best scoring offense in the FCS at 42.9 points per game.
Coastal Carolina tailback Lorenzo Taliaferro, the nation's third-leading rusher in terms of yards (1,729), was held to just 53 on 11 carries, including a second-quarter touchdown. The explosive Chants offense only mustered 281 yards against a stifling defense in front of the raucous home Bison crowd. Oh, and North Dakota State has won 22 consecutive games dating back to Oct. 13, 2012. There's that to contend with.
Fortunately for New Hampshire, the Wildcats haven't exactly minded taking on higher-ranked opponents, not only in the playoffs but in the regular season as well.
New Hampshire is 5-2 this season against nationally ranked teams, and has won each of its five previous matchups with those ranked squads. That includes two wins over Maine (the fifth seed in the FCS playoffs) and Southeastern Louisiana last weekend (the fourth seed).
Wildcats quarterback Sean Goldrich carried the team in its win over the Lions in Hammond, La., last weekend. His three rushing touchdowns, including one with 47 seconds to play in the contest that gave the Wildcats the win, doubled his previous season total of rushing scores. Goldrich has thrown and rushed for a combined eight touchdowns in three postseason games.
It's the first time in program history the Wildcats have won multiple playoff games in a season, the first time they've defeated a conference opponent in the postseason, and the team's first trip to a national semifinal game. Since it's the first time these two teams have met - and "firsts" haven't been an issue for New Hampshire this season - wouldn't it seem fitting for the Wildcats to hand the Bison their first loss in over a year?
But it's not just North Dakota State's defense the Wildcats need to be concerned with. The Bison put up 623 yards on offense against Coastal in the quarterfinals, which is the most for the team since 2007. That included seven players combining for 424 rushing yards - the most in 17 years.
Quarterback Brock Jensen is as efficient as they come, and has already gone down as the winningest signal caller in FCS history. When it's all said and done, he could very well be the first quarterback to start for three straight national championship teams.
The Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Dakota State 31, New Hampshire 21.
12/19 05:23:26 ET