Richmond at North Dakota State FCS Football 2015 Semifinal Breakdown

George Hammond

Richmond at North Dakota State FCS Football 2015 Semifinal Breakdown


No. 7 Richmond at No. 3 North Dakota State, Friday, 8 p.m.

One team is no surprise to be here, the other is one. That’s the scenario for the semifinal matchup between Colonial Athletic Association champion Richmond (10-3) and the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s North Dakota State (11-2). The Spiders, as much as a 12-point underdog to last year’s national runner-up Illinois State, stunned the Redbirds, 39-27, Friday night to earn their first trip to the semifinals since their 2008 national championship season. It snapped the Redbirds’ 19-game home winning streak. Meanwhile, the Bison took care of MVFC rival Northern Iowa, 23-13, to stay alive for a possible fifth consecutive national crown. 

This will be the first meeting between these two schools and one of the key questions is this: How will Richmond handle the noisy Fargodome? The Bison are 15-0 at home during their unprecedented playoff run, and there’s no question the environment has played a factor. For instance, NDSU opened this season on the road with a 38-35 loss to Montana. Two weeks ago, they met again in the Fargodome where the Bison trounced the Grizzlies, 37-6. In the first game, Montana quarterback Brady Gustafson threw for 434 yards. In the rematch, that number dropped to 229 yards.

Many see this contest as similar to last year’s playoff game between the Bison and Coastal Carolina. North Dakota State came away with a 39-32 victory. Coastal moved the ball against the Bison defense, but NDSU also rushed for 327 yards to have more than a five-minute edge in time of possession.

Richmond has a balanced attack led by quarterback Kyle Lauletta, who threw for 369 yards against Illinois State – his fourth 300-yard game of the season. Senior Jacobi Green scored four times as he rushed for 137 yards for the Spiders who totaled 557 yards offense against the Redbirds. Wide receivers Brian Brown and Reggie Diggs each had five receptions for Richmond, which averaged 21 yards per completion. If the Spiders can average anywhere close to that number against the Bison, they’ll be in the game.

But as impressive as the Spiders’ offense was on Friday night, it might have been their defense that raised the most eyebrows. Led by linebacker Trevor Jones, who had a career-high nine tackles, the Spiders held Illinois State’s Marshaun Coprich to 30 yards rushing and just 15 in the first half.

For the Bison, Saturday’s victory over Northern Iowa was similar to many other NDSU victories. The Bison play stout defense, feast on turnovers and always seem to come up big on special teams. They held Northern Iowa’s talented tandem of quarterback Aaron Bailey and running back Tyvis Smith – both 1,000-yard rushers – to a combined 91 yards on 34 carries. Northern Iowa had just 221 yards offense and 11 first downs.

Meanwhile, true freshman Bruce Anderson returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown to give the Bison a 14-10 lead to open the second half, the second straight game he’s returned a kick for a score. And punter Ben LeCompte averaged 45 yards on six punts, placing two inside the Panthers’ ten.

Quarterback Eason Stick, who’s been filling in for the injured Carson Wentz (broken wrist), was 13-of-17 for 116 yards. It’s uncertain whether Wentz will be back for the semifinal.

So how does this one play out? The Spiders’ balance and skill-position talent should be a concern to NDSU. And so should the defense, which completely shut down Coprich. But somehow, some way, the Bison always seem to find a way to win – especially in the Fargodome. Richmond, which jumped on Illinois State early, needs to have the same success against NDSU. It doesn’t want to play from behind even with Lauletta’s talents.

Bison fans like to say no opposing team has scored more than 14 points in its first visit to the Fargodome. We’ll see how that plays out Friday night.

Projected Score: North Dakota State 24, Richmond 20


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