Bison head to Missouri State with a packed resume of wins over ranked opponents
FARGO -- It was No. 6 Charleston Southern to open the season. That overtime slugfest was followed by another overtime victory, this time over No. 8 Eastern Washington.
FARGO - It was No. 6 Charleston Southern to open the season. That overtime slugfest was followed by another overtime victory, this time over No. 8 Eastern Washington.
It was a step up in divisions with Iowa, then ranked No. 11 in the FBS. The 23-21 win got the Bison into Missouri Valley Football Conference play with some momentum and the Bison continued their winning ways with a 31-10 win over No. 20 Illinois State.
Four teams. Four ranked opponents. A 4-0 record.
North Dakota State has put itself in prime position for another successful season.
"The Missouri Valley Conference as we know is a tremendous conference," said NDSU head coach Chris Klieman.
It was the first time the Bison played four straight ranked teams since 2008 when they had Youngstown State, Southern Illinois, Western Illinois and Northern Iowa to open conference play. It was quite the introduction to the league for NDSU, which joined what was then known as the Gateway Football Conference that season.
This week, the Bison head to Missouri State with a vastly different resume-as defending champions in both the Missouri Valley and the FCS. The Bears struggled mightily last year finishing 1-10, with their only win over an NCAA Division II school.
That included a 55-0 loss at NDSU late in the season.
But the Bears were also under a first-year head coach Dave Steckel, who seemingly was starting from scratch in building a program.
"I think you can take last year's film and throw it," Klieman said. "Most of their guys have a year of experience and are faster and more athletic. From a skill standpoint, they have a number of guys who can beat you. They have good team speed."
Moreover, the Bison and Missouri State's Plaster Field have not exactly been pen pals. The Bears almost knocked NDSU out of the 2010 playoffs with a 3-0 win in the last game of the regular season. The Bison struggled to win 21-17 in 2012.
Adding to the intrigue this Saturday: MSU is coming off one of its biggest wins in years with a 45-24 drubbing of nationally-ranked Indiana State in Terre Haute, Ind.
"I think they'll get a good crowd, they're 3-1 and coming off a big win," Klieman said. "It was a big win on the road. We're going to work on the noise this week for sure."
Klieman said receiver and kick return specialist Eric Perkins will most likely be sidelined this week with a thumb injury suffered in the win over Illinois State. Sophomore Darrius Shepherd will take over as the main punt returner.
It appears running back Bruce Anderson should return to practice this week, Klieman said. He missed the Illinois State game with a sprained ankle. The Bison also lost backup linebacker Aaron Mercadel to a knee injury for two to three weeks, Klieman said.
The problem there: starting middle linebacker Matt Plank is taking Mercadel's spot on special teams.
"That's football, everybody is going through it," Klieman said. "Nobody is going to be making any excuses."