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Kevin Schnepf, Published December 21 2013

UNH gets close look at FCS elite against Bison

FARGO – New Hampshire head coach Sean McDonnell saw, in person, North Dakota State’s football team win its first national championship two years ago in Frisco, Texas.

At the time, he thought his team could play with the Bison. After Friday night’s 52-14 FCS semifinal loss, he was left thinking – like so many other coaches who have played the Bison this year – that his program has a ways to go to catch up with NDSU.

“They are the upper echelon,” said McDonnell, who in his 15 years as head coach has guided New Hampshire to the last 10 playoffs. “That’s a hell of a football team and a hell of a football program we got beat by today. Every which way but loose, they beat us.”

It has been said by other coaches who have tried to beat the Bison that the only team that will beat them is themselves. For about the first two minutes of Friday night’s game, it appeared New Hampshire was going to get that favor – when the Bison turned the ball over two times.

But the Wildcats could only come away with a 7-0 lead before the Bison erupted to a 31-7 halftime lead.

“You have to get some turnovers against them,” said McDonnell, whose team was playing in its first semifinal game. “And if you can control the ball a little bit against them, you may have a shot.”

McDonnell compares the Bison to two teams he has faced this season: Towson, which handed New Hampshire a 44-28 loss on Oct. 5, and William & Mary, which handed the Wildcats a 17-0 loss on Nov. 2. Towson, which competes in the same Colonial Athletic Association as New Hampshire, plays at Eastern Washington in today’s other semifinal game.

“That would be interesting, Towson’s offense against North Dakota State’s defense … that would be a good matchup,” McDonnell said, referring to an offense that is led by All-American running back Terrance West. “William & Mary has a physical defense like NDSU. The only problem when you play North Dakota State is they have both a great offense and a great defense.”

NDSU’s offense piled up 509 total yards against a New Hampshire defense that was allowing 21 points per game. All those yards came after New Hampshire’s fast start.

“It was just all downhill after that,” said New Hampshire safety Manny Asam. “We knew all week they were a physical football team. They just execute everything and do it very, very well.”

Meanwhile, the NDSU defense limited the Wildcats offense to 184 total yards.

“As the game progressed, things got bottled up inside,” said running back Chris Setian. “They had a great scheme against us. What can you really say. They were a much more physical team today. When we had our creases, they filled the gaps. They are a high-motor team.”

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor

Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be

found at www.areavoices.com