Wofford vs. North Dakota State FCS Playoffs Quarterfinal Breakdown
It’s safe to say that Eric Breitenstein has carried Wofford on his back this year. But if the Terriers are going to make it to the final four of the FCS playoffs, it will likely be their defense that makes the difference. And Wofford coach Mike Ayers knows it. The Terriers’ defense showed just how good it can be on Saturday when it limited high-powered New Hampshire to 238 yards in a 23-7 second-round victory in Spartanburg, S.C. New Hampshire entered the contest averaging 471 yards.
“The team we played was a real good football team,” Ayers said. “We played hard and they played hard. They have a great scheme and are used to putting up 35 points every day. Our defense did an unbelievable job as far as stopping them. The difference in the ball game came down to the number of times that we were able to stop them. From an offensive standpoint, we had a lot of plays but we were not as productive as we needed to be. We got sloppy with the ball and gave them a chance to get back in it, but the defense answered the bell every time. To win championships, you’ve got to be great on defense. And we’re a heck of a defense.”
The Terriers (9-3) will find out just how good Saturday when they travel to Fargo, N.D., for a quarterfinal-round matchup with defending national champion North Dakota State (11-1), a 28-3 winner over South Dakota State, on Saturday. The game begins at 3 p.m. ET, (ESPN 3). North Dakota State and Wofford don’t have any common opponents this season, but there is one score that can be analyzed for what it’s worth. North Dakota State beat Illinois State 38-20 during the regular season. On Saturday, Illinois State beat Appalachian State 38-37 in the FCS playoffs, and Wofford defeated Appalachian State 38-28 in October. Although the Bison beat Illinois State, the latter was the only team this year to score at least 20 points against North Dakota State.
In Saturday’s victory over South Dakota State, the Bison held the FCS’s leading rusher Zach Zenner to 46 yards on 15 carries, more than 120 yards below his FCS-leading average. It also was the second time the two teams had met; the Bison won the regular-season matchup 20-17 three weeks ago. "Our guys are vets in the playoffs. There's just a different look in their eye," NDSU head coach Craig Bohl said. "Once we get to postseason play they're kicking it into a different gear." So it will be interesting to see how North Dakota State fares against Breitenstein, now the FCS’s top rusher. Breitenstein rushed for 247 yards and three TDs on Saturday. “When he has a good day,” Ayers said of Breitenstein, “somehow, some way, we’re going to win.”
If the Terriers are to spring the upset, Breitenstein will need to have a good day as Wofford is dead last in passing offense. Against New Hampshire, the Terriers completed just 4-of-6 passes for 25 yards. While the Terriers have gained a lot of converts with their performance against South Carolina and New Hampshire, it is difficult envisioning them beating the No. 1 defense in the nation in the Fargodome.
Projected score: North Dakota State 24, Wofford 10