for this game

Playoff preview: North Dakota State at Montana State

Dec 2, 2010 - 2:51 PM Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -


DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 4, 2:07 p.m. ET

FACTS & STATS: Site: Bobcat Stadium (13,500) - Bozeman, Montana. Surface: FieldTurf. Television: ESPN Game Plan/, Altitude. Announcers: Trey Bender, Jay Taylor. Home Record: North Dakota State 6-1; Montana State 6-0. Away Record: North Dakota State 2-3; Montana State 3-2. Series Record: Montana State (20-13). Last Meeting: September 24, 2005 (Montana State, 20-17 at Montana State). Series Streak: Montana State has won two straight and six of the last seven meetings. Conference: North Dakota State - Missouri Valley; Montana State - Big Sky. Nicknames: North Dakota State Bison; Montana State Bobcats. Sports Network/ Ranking: North Dakota State (25); Montana State (6). Head Coaches: North Dakota State - Craig Bohl (60-29 at North Dakota State and Overall); Montana State - Rob Ash (29-16 at Montana State; 205-115-5 Overall). All-Time Record: North Dakota State (612-362-34); Montana State (433-445-33). Playoff Records: North Dakota State (1-0); Montana State (4-3). Previous FCS Playoff Appearances: North Dakota State 0; Montana State 4 (1984, 2002-03, 06).

GAME NOTES: Last Saturday, North Dakota State rode a strong second-half effort to a 43-17 first-round victory over visiting Robert Morris. Trailing 7-6 at halftime, the Bison used a pair of Brock Jensen touchdown passes in the third quarter to establish a lead, then outscored the Colonials 23-3 in the fourth quarter to pull away for the win.

Jensen, a redshirt freshman, threw for a NDSU playoff-record 229 yards and running back D.J. McNorton was his usual stellar self, running for 110 yards and a touchdown and catching two passes for 110 yards and an additional score.

While Jensen was impressive, his exploits pale in comparison to those of Montana State's own redshirt freshman quarterback, Denarius McGhee. The recently appointed Big Sky Conference Offensive Co-MVP has led the Bobcats to a 9-2 record. Perhaps the biggest of those nine wins was a Nov. 20 road victory over Montana, which vaulted the Bobcats to a Big Sky title, an automatic playoff bid, a first-round bye and a No. 4 seed.

McGhee has been stellar, but one wonders if his youth could be a detriment in the postseason. North Dakota State and its opportunistic defense will immediately put that theory to the test. The Bison led the Missouri Valley Football Conference and are tied for No. 11 in the country in takeaways (28), having intercepted 14 passes and recovered 14 fumbles.

Last week, against Robert Morris, the Bison keyed on the Colonials' run-heavy attack, employing multiple run-blitzes and forcing two turnovers in the process. Against McGhee, the Bison will have to adjust to a more skilled passer, but winning the turnover battle will once again be essential.

Perhaps most essential in Saturday's matchup, however, will be location. North Dakota State has thrived in the Fargodome this year, but on the road the Bison are just 2-3 and average a meager 14.6 points per game (compared to 30 at home).

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Montana State 30, North Dakota State 16.