FARGO — North Dakota State will be minus one starting safety, but is expected to get another one back for Saturday’s Division I Football Championship Subdivision semifinal playoff game.
Senior free safety Daniel Eaves tore the meniscus in his knee last Saturday in the 24-0 win over Lehigh University (Pa.), an injury that caught Bohl by surprise when notified of it. It’s the same knee that kept Eaves out of three games earlier this season.
Senior John Pike, who is second on the team with four interceptions, will start in his place. If NDSU wins Saturday, the title game in Frisco, Texas is not until Jan. 7, so Eaves’ season is not necessarily over yet.
But to get to Frisco, the Bison will most likely need the run-support excellence of strong safety Colten Heagle against the triple option attack of Georgia Southern. He’s expected to return from a thumb injury, Bohl said, although confirmation may not come until today or Wednesday.
Heagle is fifth on the team in tackles with 62 despite missing three games.
The Eagles will bring a ground game that is averaging 334.1 yards per game and a total offense that is averaging 442.9. The last three games – Alabama to end the regular season and playoff games against Old Dominion and Maine – saw GSU gain 302, 477 and 360 yards on the ground respectively.
The 302 yards against the Crimson Tide particularly caught Bohl’s attention. Alabama will play LSU for the BSC National Championship Jan. 9 in New Orleans.
"I saw the University of Alabama who is coached by Nick Saban and supposedly the next guru of defensive football give up 300-and-some yards against these guys," Bohl said. "And Saban looked haggard in the press conference after, saying ‘I’m just glad it’s over.’"
Bohl said his defensive staff has been working non-stop to try and come up with a plan to slow the Eagles down. Certainly, having Heagle back would help.
This is an offense that is unique," Bohl said.
He said indications are that wide receiver Ryan Smith will return to the lineup. Offensive guard Tyler Gimmestad and his sprained ankle came through the Lehigh game OK and he’s expected to start against GSU.