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Jeff Kolpack, Published December 07 2012

Bison defense faces another Walter Payton Award finalist

FARGO – The Walter Payton Award that goes to the outstanding player in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision is only in its fourth year. But already, North Dakota State is getting well-versed with the talent.

When Wofford College running back Eric Breintenstein steps onto Gate City Bank Field today for the FCS quarterfinals, he will be the fourth finalist the Bison will have faced in the last three years. So far, NDSU has held its own in individual matchups, but is 2-2 against those teams.

Eastern Washington quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell was just 13 of 32 passing in the FCS quarterfinals two years ago, but his team came out a 38-31 overtime victor. In 2011, NDSU held Indiana State running back Shakir Bell to 79 yards in a Bison win, but Bell came back to get 53 of his 96 yards in the fourth quarter this year, a 17-14 ISU win.

NDSU shut out Lehigh quarterback Chris Lum in last year’s quarterfinals. Lum was 25 of 52 passing with two interceptions. Now comes Breitenstein, who leads the FCS in rushing at 158.3 yards per game.

“It’s an incredible honor,” he said of being a Payton finalist. “It’s a huge team award. We’re a real small school but this is some national attention we deserve.”

Southern has edge, but Valley catching up

History does not favor the Missouri Valley Football Conference versus the Southern Conference in the playoffs, although the Valley is making up ground. Wofford’s Southern Conference has a 13-4 advantage on the Valley, but including regular-season games, the Valley has won four of the past five meetings.

Etc. etc. etc.

Illinois State’s overtime win over Appalachian State last week marks the 10th time the Missouri Valley has had at least two teams reach the quarterfinals. The Valley had three teams make it this far in 2003 and 2006 and has had at least one team reach the semifinals in 12 of the last 16 years.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546. Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia