NDSU heads back into the mountains in search of an 11th trip to the FCS championship game

Photo Courtesy: NDSU Athletics
Photo Courtesy: NDSU Athletics

NDSU heads back to Montana to take on the #2 Grizzlies in search of another national championship appearance.

The Bison are coming off of a 45-17 pounding of #3 South Dakota last Saturday in which they jumped out to a 21-3 lead and never looked back. NDSU rolled up over 400 yards of total offense while holding the Coyotes to under 300 yards and forcing three turnovers. This week however has been a mess for the Bison as head coach Matt Entz is leaving after the season to become the linebackers coach at USC. The players have rallied around Entz and are preparing for a game at one of the most hostile environments in college football.

The #2 Montana Grizzlies have followed a similar path to NDSU this season but instead of three losses they have one bad loss to Northern Arizona. That game caused a quarterback change and then magic happened for the Grizz as new quarterback Clifton McDowell hasn't lost a start and behind other explosive offensive weapons in Jerry Rice Award-winning running back Eli Gilman and return specialist Junior Bergan. The Grizzlies average 32 points a game which is 14th in the FCS.

On defense the Grizz give up only only 16 points a game which is 4th in FCS. They are led up front by the Big Sky Defensive Player of the Year in #99 Alex Gubner. He is a game-wrecking nose tackle who can cause major problems up front for the Bison. Their best defensive player is #42 Riley Wilson, the Hawaii transfer is their best linebacker and best blitzer as he leads the team in sacks with 8.5

For NDSU to advance to yet another title game they will have to contain Clifton McDowell who is a true dual-threat and also put pressure on him as Montana's offensive line has struggled recently in their pass blocking. On offense NDSU should look to find more big plays as Montana's secondary ranks 65th in pass yards allowed so get Eli Green and others the ball. This will allow NDSU resurgent ground game to get going and score points as NDSU is now ranked 3rd in scoring offense.

Kickoff between the Bison and Grizzlies is set for 3:30 PM on Saturday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula, Montana. The game can be seen on ESPN2.