The coach of the only team to beat North Dakota State this season is confident the winner of Georgia Southern’s game with the Bison will win the national championship game next month.
But Youngstown State coach Eric Wolford isn’t so sure about Saturday’s FCS semifinal game in the Fargodome. Kickoff is set for 2:30 p.m. and the game will be televised on ESPNU.
“They are two tough teams,” Wolford said. “I can’t pick a winner. It’ll be hard-hitting and fun to watch.”
On Nov. 12, Wolford took his team into Fargo and beat previously undefeated North Dakota State, 27-24. The Penguins used a balanced attack — 214 yards rushing, 237 yards passing — to dominate time of possession, holding the ball for 37 minutes of the game and racking up 24 first downs to 11 for North Dakota.
“We made some plays and overall played one of our best games,” Wolford said. “We made some changes defensively and started stopping the run well in the second half.”
In victory, Wolford came away very impressed with the Bisons.
“They’re a big, physical, disciplined team,” Wolford said. “They’re a type of team that likes to keep things in front of them. They have a very good red zone defense.”
Wolford believes, however, Georgia Southern’s triple option attack will create plenty of problems for North Dakota’s defense.
“The style of football they’re getting ready to play with Georgia Southern … I don’t think you can get ready for that in a week’s time,” he said.
“You better start with stopping the fullback and try to keep them going lateral. You have to play disciplined football. If you’ve got the linebacker on the quarterback or the defensive end on the quarterback, you must play assignment-correct football. One mistake or missed assignment and it’s a big play.”
Wolford did point to one advantage North Dakota State has most defenses that rarely see the offense don’t.
“(Bison head coach) Craig Bohl was at Nebraska for a long time under Tom Osbourne,” he said. “He’s going to have a pretty good background as far as how to play the option. He was at Nebraska when they had Tommie Frazier, Lawrence Phillips and all those guys. He’s going to have a lot more experience than a lot of coaches in defending the option.”
Wolford said North Dakota will have a strong home field advantage in the Fargodome, too.
“It’s a great environment – very loud. It’s the loudest environment at this level of football,” he said. “(The noise) can be made it out to be a big deal or not. If you allow it to affect you, it will. You go in with the mindset it won’t affect how you play. You just make some adjustments like no verbal snap count.”
Wolford described the Fargodome surface as “a fast turf. It’s faster than grass. I expect that will be to Georgia Southern’s slight advantage.”
He thinks the game will be close throughout, with each team trying to control the clock.
“Realistically, each team will be lucky to get 60 plays Saturday, so every play is going to have even more importance,” he said. “It should be a great football game. I’ll be watching.”
James Healy can be reached at (912) 489-9402.