North Dakota State FCS Football 2012 Playoff Capsule

North Dakota State Bison
Missouri Valley


North Dakota State is eyeing another title after defeating Sam Houston State in the championship game last year. Many expected the Bison to take a step back in the Missouri Valley Football Conference pecking order this year, but that has not been the case. The Bison ended the season on top of the conference standings yet again and they have an experienced quarterback and the best defense the FCS has seen in quite some time.

2012 Record: 10-1, 7-1
Coach: Craig Bohl

Big Wins: 9/8 at Colorado State (22-7), 9/29 at Northern Iowa (33-21)
Bad Losses: 10/13 Indiana State (14-17)

NDSU does not just have a talented defense; they have a deep defense too. Depth is always important, but it gets even more important during the playoffs. Every team has some key injuries after 11 games, but the Bison can deal with those injuries better than most. North Dakota State does not have the best defense in the nation just because of depth though. Grant Olson is the leader on the field from his middle linebacker position. He is a great tackler and always seems to be around the ball. The secondary has their own superstar in cornerback Marcus Williams. The opposition will do their best to avoid his half of the field, but Williams will still make a lot of big plays. The emergence of Andre Martin at the other corner makes it very difficult to avoid Williams entirely. The depth is most prevalent on the line. Coach Craig Bohl can keep the front line fresh by rotating a handful of players. That may not sound all that important, but it is a huge boost to the team when an experienced player like Ricky Hagen or a talented youngster like Mike Hardie can come in and be productive while starting ends Kyle Emanuel and Cole Jirik get a rest.

It is really unfair to call the offense a weakness. This is a group that ranked second in the MVFC in total offense and first in scoring offense. Yet, compared to the defense, that is not particularly impressive. The defense can shut down just about anybody. The offense, on the other hand, has had some average showings throughout the year. Quarterback Brock Jensen has been the starter for the better part of two and a half years and he has a lot of playoff experience. This is not a team that is going to get rattled and Jensen almost always takes care of the ball, even when the offensive line is struggling. Sam Ojuri and John Crockett are very good running backs who will split the carries. Ojuri has not been as productive as he was back in 2011, but this is still a potent backfield. NDSU and Jensen have a trio of capable receivers with Zach Vraa, Ryan Smith and Trevor Gebhart. It was hoped one of those receivers could replace the 1,000 yard production of Warren Holloway from the 2011 campaign, but that has proven to be extremely difficult. If North Dakota State is going to lose, it will likely be because they run into a defense that can pressure Jensen and contain Ojuri and Crockett.

Statistical Leaders:
Rushing: John Crockett, RB, 769 yards
Passing: Brock Jensen, QB, 1,935 yards
Receiving: Zach Vraa, WR, 479 yards
Tackles: Grant Olson, LB, 99
Sacks: Cole Jirik, DE, 5.5
Interceptions: Marcus Williams, CB, 4

2012 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 189.30 (29th in nation, 2nd in conference)
Passing Offense: 198.30 (69, 4)
Total Offense: 387.60 (48, 2)
Scoring Offense: 35.30 (13, 1)
Rushing Defense: 62.70 (1, 1)
Pass Defense: 120.80 (1, 1)
Total Defense: 183.50 (1, 1)
Scoring Defense: 11.00 (1, 1)
Turnover Margin: 0.80 (13, 2)
Sacks: 2.70 (19, 4)
Sacks Allowed: 1.70 (42, 5)

Recent Playoff Appearances:
2011    Second Round    Defeated James Madison
2011    Quarterfinals        Defeated Lehigh
2011    Semifinals        Defeated Georgia Southern
2011    Championship        Defeated Sam Houston State
2010    First Round        Defeated Robert Morris
2010    Second Round    Defeated Montana State
2010    Quarterfinals        Lost to Eastern Washington

*all team stats through 11/10


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