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Jeff Kolpack, Published November 09 2012

More on the line today than just the Dakota Marker

FARGO – They met at a farmstead at the North Dakota and South Dakota border in 2004 to signify the start of the Dakota Marker game. Today, North Dakota State and South Dakota State will play a game that was envisioned back then.

For all the marbles, or at least a portion of them.

The winner of the Bison-Jackrabbits game will clinch a share of the Missouri Valley Football Conference championship and the head coaches involved in the formation of the Division I era of the two schools say this is the biggest matchup yet.

“The Border Marker was a huge deal initially and it’s still a huge deal,” said SDSU’s John Stiegelmeier. “But there are other things that are special with this game.”

The teams met in 2007 in Brookings for the Great West Football Conference championship. NDSU went into that game unbeaten at 10-0, but the Jackrabbits came away with a 29-24 victory.

That was a time when neither school was eligible for the Football Championship Subdivision postseason and the conference title was the end-all goal.

“We were also trying to fight for some type of national recognition,” said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl of 2007. “But in FCS football, you’re really vying for the playoffs, and so this game has a big implication on the playoffs. If you look at a crystal ball, you would have to say both teams have the potential to be in postseason play.”

New team, but last home game for Martin

It’s been an eventful last several months for Bison senior cornerback Andre Martin, who transferred from Northern Iowa over the summer and was in the starting lineup by the second game. He and his wife also had a baby girl the week of the NDSU-UNI game.

Today, which is Senior Day for the Bison players, marks another special occasion: It will be the last regular-season home game for the seven NDSU seniors. It didn’t take Martin long to form a bond with his new team, either.

“The senior class, and the team in general, have been pretty much like brothers to me,” he said.

Improved defense has Jacks in the title hunt

SDSU qualified for the FCS playoffs in 2009, in part because of a defense that was one of the best in the conference. The Jacks gave up 17.4 points and 289.6 total yards per game.

Those figures slipped to 33.1 points and 405.7 yards last season.

Running back Zach Zenner may get a lot of notoriety for leading the FCS in rushing, but the improvement of the SDSU defense is a big reason it is in playoff contention this year.

“We’ve done a much, much better job of being unselfish and being fundamentally sound,” Stiegelmeier said.

NDSU may have the top-ranked defense in the FCS in scoring and total defense, but the Jacks aren’t far behind. They’re ninth in the country in scoring at 16.3 points and 15th in total defense at 306.4.

“Their defense is stellar,” said Bison quarterback Brock Jensen. “They don’t have that one standout, but they have 11 guys who play as hard as they can.”

Etc. etc. etc.

NDSU assistant football coach Tim Polasek was inducted into the Concordia University (Wis.) athletic Hall of Fame. He was a quarterback and team captain from 1999-2001 and was a two-time first-team all-conference selection. … The seven seniors NDSU will be recognizing are Martin, guard Ty Beckius, cornerback Aireal Boyd, tight end Garrett Bruhn, defensive end Ricky Hagen, center Joe Lund and safety Bobby Ollman. … This will be the 99th meeting between the two schools with NDSU leading the series 53-40-5.


Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia