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Jeff Kolpack, Published November 27 2012

Rematch presents 'unique' challenges for NDSU, South Dakota State

FARGO – North Dakota State and South Dakota State ventured into a new frontier when both schools moved to Division I. On Saturday, they’ll dive into an unexplored wilderness in the name of the Division I Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

They’ll play for the second time in four weeks in the second round of the FCS playoffs. It’s a quick turnaround that both head coaches called “unique” on Tuesday.

“But it makes it more exciting, and our guys are poised and ready to go,” said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl. “Football coaches are notorious for being chess players, so we’ll see where we match up well. Typically, it will be a play or two that will decide the game, so you try and eke out every advantage you can.”

NDSU’s last playoff rematch with a conference team was in 2000 when it defeated Nebraska-Omaha 43-21 in the NCAA Division II quarterfinals. Before that, it was a 1995 first-round game when the Bison beat North Dakota

41-10. Both of those were on the road.

The UND games that year were played in a span of three weeks. The last time the Bison had a home playoff game with a conference opponent was back in 1991 when Minnesota State-Mankato handed them a 27-7 loss.

South Dakota State’s rematch experience only goes to the regular season, when the Jackrabbits and South Dakota played twice in the same season from 1989-92. The teams split the first year, but the Jacks swept the Coyotes the last three seasons.

“This one is unique in the sense we played for a share of the conference championship and now we play for the opportunity to move to the next round in the playoffs,” said SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier. “This is much more in my opinion a heated rivalry and a bigger game for our program than the (games) with the University of South Dakota.”

The Bison defeated the Jacks 20-17 that gave them a share of the Missouri Valley Football Conference. NDSU went on to win the title outright while the Jackrabbits were selected to the 20-team playoff field as an at-large team.

It will be the fourth postseason game in Jackrabbits history. They lost to Youngstown State in the 1979 Division II playoffs, lost at Montana in the 2009 FCS first round, but defeated Eastern Illinois 59-10 last weekend.

“I guess people talk about making history,” Stiegelmeier said. “I’d like to make more history, go up to North Dakota State and play our best football and try and go one step further.”

It’s historic in the FCS in that it’s the earliest conference matchup since the playoffs started in 1978. The field went to 20 teams in 2010, so any league matchups before that in this round would have been paired by the committee.

The Missouri Valley matchup is the talk of the playoffs. NDSU defensive coordinator Chris Klieman, for instance, called a friend of his in the NFL on Monday night for advice to bounce some ideas off of him.

“It’s something a lot of us haven’t experienced, so it’s a unique situation,” Klieman said. “But that’s the hand we’re dealt, so let’s go play.”

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

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia