No. 17 DSU will travel to No. 2 Carroll for first round of NAIA playoffs
The Dickinson State football team learned Sunday afternoon that, for the second consecutive season, it will be traveling to Carroll College in the first round of the NAIA playoffs.
The 17th-ranked Blue Hawks (7-3) will meet the second-ranked Saints (11-0) at noon Saturday at Nelson Stadium in Helena, Mont.
"We're used to the place," DSU head coach Hank Biesiot said. "If you have to go on the road, it's nice to go someplace you're familiar with."
The Blue Hawks have lost all four of their meetings with Carroll in the playoffs this decade. Last year, Carroll won 35-18 at Nelson Stadium and went on to lose to the University of Sioux Falls (S.D.) 23-7 in the national championship game.
The Saints have made the national title game six out of the last seven seasons and have won five titles.
But, Biesiot said DSU is somewhat pleased with the matchup, since they know Carroll well.
"We're happy," Biesiot said. "This is as good of a draw as we probably could have gotten this year."
DSU earned its playoff bid by winning the Dakota Athletic Conference championship and finishing the regular season ranked in the top 20 of the NAIA coaches' poll.
The Blue Hawks entered the idle week ranked 20th but moved up three spots, just like they did last season when they were ranked 17th and leapt to 14th without playing a game in the final week of the regular season.
Biesiot felt throughout that week that if DSU were to make the playoffs, it would draw either Carroll or No. 1-ranked Sioux Falls.
Instead it's Minot State (8-2) that'll be going to play the defending national champions at noon Saturday.
The 14th-ranked Beavers (8-2) earned a share of the DAC title when they defeated Jamestown College and DSU lost to Black Hills State last weekend in the DAC Bowl. Now they get the 11-0 Cougars, who have throttled most of their opponents this season.
The Cougars' closest game was a 28-13 win at the University of North Dakota.
Ironically, both teams are in the process of leaving the NAIA for NCAA Division II and have never played each other.
Carroll and DSU, meanwhile, have met 16 times with Carroll boasting an 11-5 edge. DSU's last win came in the 1990s, long before Mike Van Diest became the Saints' head coach and took Carroll from one of the NAIA's stronger teams to a perennial national title contender.
The NAIA matches up first-round teams not only by their rankings, but also because of proximity in an effort to keep travel costs minimal.
Biesiot feels that if they are going to open up against anyone, it might as well be against one of the top teams in the NAIA.
"You might as well start playing one of the best teams," Biesiot said. "These last few years, that's the way it's worked. They've been a team that when they get in the tournament, they have a history of going to the finals."
No. 17 Dickinson State at No. 2 Carroll College
No. 14 Minot State at No. 1 Sioux Falls (S.D.)
No. 20 Langston (Okla.) at No. 3 Lindenwood (Mo.)
No. 9 McKendree (Ill.) at No. 4 St. Xavier (Ill.)
No. 13 Hastings College (Neb.) at No. 5 Ottawa (Kan.)
No. 10 Cumberlands (Ky.) at No. 6 Lambuth (Tenn.)
No. 11 Missouri Valley at No. 7 Morningside (Iowa)
No. 12 McPherson (Kan.) at No. 8 MidAmerica Nazerene (Kan.)
Teams in top 20 that did not make playoffs:
No. 15 Friends (Kan.)
No. 16 Walsh (Ohio)
No. 18 St. Francis (Ind.)
No. 19 Taylor (Ind.)