Spring 2021 FCS Quarterfinal Playoff Preview: North Dakota State at Sam Houston

GAME PREVIEW: North Dakota State Bison at Sam Houston Bearkats
TV: ESPN
Streaming:ESPN3 (subscription req’d)
Radio: KSAM 101.7 FM, Bison Radio Network

North Dakota State is in the postseason for the 11th straight season dating back to 2010 when the Bison advanced to the FCS quarterfinals in their first appearance.  Overall, NDSU has a 37-2 record in the FCS playoffs. 

North Dakota State’s Matt Entz was named FCS Region 4 Coach of the Year for the second straight season by the American Football Coaches Association.  And for the first time since 2017, the Sam Houston Bearkats will host an FCS quarterfinal game at Bowers Stadium.  Sam Houston is 14-0 in home playoff games, while head coach K.C. Keeler has won all 28 playoff games that he has coached on his home turf. 

North Dakota State Bison (7-2 overall, 5-2 in Missouri Valley)

North Dakota State has a 14-1 record against teams from the Southland Conference, including a 39-28 home victory over Central Arkansas in October.  The Bison are 5-0 in the playoffs against Sam Houston (4-0) and Nicholls (1-0). 

Last week, North Dakota State rushed for 422 yards and scored 35 unanswered points to beat Eastern Washington 42-20 in the first round of the FCS playoffs.  Freshman Dominic Gonnella rushed 20 times for 163 yards and his first two career touchdowns while redshirt freshman Jalen Bussey had 13 carries for 143 yards.  The Bison ran the football on 57 of their 68 offensive plays, including 26 straight at one point midway through the fourth quarter.  NDSU held the ball for more than 35 minutes and converted 8 of 10 third down opportunities. 

Sam Houston Bearkats (7-0 overall, 6-0 in Southland)

Junior Isaiah Downes came up with an interception on fourth and goal with 48 seconds left to preserve a 21-15 victory over Monmouth in the opening round FCS playoff game at Bowers Stadium last Saturday.  Running back Ramon Jefferson had touchdown runs of 56 and three yards to lead the Sam Houston offense with 98 yards on nine carries.  Wideout Cody Chrest accounted for the Bearkats’ other score, a 13-yard pass from quarterback Eric Schmid, who was 12-of-24 for 133 yards passing. 

The defense was key for Sam Houston.  The Hawks had 398 yards of total offense compared to the Kats’ 257 yards, but Sam Houston had two turnovers, 16 tackles for loss and six sacks – three by Markel Perry, one each by linebacker Quentin Brown and defensive lineman Chris Scott, and half sacks by defensive linemen Scean Mustin and Jevon Leon.  

Fearless Prediction

North Dakota State can run the football, but the Sam Houston defense is among the best in the FCS at stopping the run.  The Bearkats will win this game and advance to face either North Dakota or James Madison in the semifinal round.  

Sam Houston 24 North Dakota State 23

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