In the first meeting between the Dickinson State football team and Presentation College (S.D.), the Blue Hawks had their way with the Saints in a 59-0 win at home on Sept. 22. On Saturday, Oct. 27, the teams will square off again, but this time Presentation will be different and will be at home.
"It's definitely more difficult. You're a lot more familiar with each other. You know exactly what they're gonna run," senior safety Cain Boschee said. "They know our scheme, defensively. We know their scheme, offensively. They know who to go towards, and we know who to go towards, too. It's definitely a lot more difficult to beat them twice."
Since their loss to the Blue Hawks over a month ago, the Saints have toppled Waldorf (Iowa), who beat Dickinson State in Iowa on Oct. 6. Presentation has also won over Valley City State, who Dickinson State defeated at home in a close contest on Saturday, Oct. 20.
What's more, Dickinson State has struggled on the road this season, going 2-2, putting up only one dominant performance in a win against University of Wisconsin - La Crosse. The Blue Hawks have narrowly outscored opponents 100-88 on the road.
"We have our traveling down. Waking up on game day is going to be our big thing," junior offensive lineman Tobin O'Brien said. "I think it'll be huge (potentially) going into playoffs to have a huge travel game this week and prepare us later on down the road."
One of the biggest changes Presentation has made over the course of the season is shifting to a three-man front on defense. The team still allows more than 30 points per game, but head coach Pete Stanton said the change has clearly done them good, and his team will have to adjust.
"A lot of it is just being more patient with our blocks on the O-line," O'Brien said. "We're going to be sticking on our blocks a little bit. Then we'll be climbing to the backers a little slower. On a 3-4 defense they want those backers to fill, so we're just going to have to be patient."
Stanton said he's stressing success on third down this week. While Presentation converts on 46 percent of its third-down plays, the Blue Hawks held them to 2-for-17 during their last meeting.
The Saints offense is powered by senior quarterback Austin Eggl, who is ranked third in the NAIA with an average of 315 passing yards per game. Over the past two contests, he's thrown 107 passes, completing 67 of them, or 63 percent.
"You just gotta try to keep him out of rhythm. If he gets in rhythm, he's really tough to deal with," Stanton said. "You see that on tape. He gets going on that (run-pass-option) game, and he gets comfortable and it's our job defensively to try to make him uncomfortable."
In their last meeting, the Blue Hawks limited the Saints to just 172 total offensive yards, 132 of which came in the air.
Another big challenge standing between the Blue Hawks and another win, is the amount of players that will spend the game on the sidelines or not even travel at all.
Senior defensive lineman Mitch Mehrer, along with junior linebacker Kevin Brown are both questionable and will be game-time decisions. Junior Jeremy Poyer, another defensive lineman, will be out again, along with freshman Jameson Crisafulli on special teams.
"I will say, on that end of it, one, our other guys have stepped up fine and two, we can't get into thinking that we're the only team in America that's going through this," Stanton said. "Everybody we're playing and everybody around has the same problems."
Out this week with a concussion is junior defensive back Jason Thibault and freshman Corbin Wood.
Despite all the challenges, the Blue Hawks are keeping one thing in mind: this game is essentially a playoff game, and they need a win.
"The energy is play to win every week now," Boschee said. "We know that if we lose, we're gonna be done. We'll probably be out of the rankings. We just got to play every game like it's your last."