Too Much TV: Taylor

What does a Football Championship Subdivision title mean for a school that’s still in its first year at the NCAA Division I level? That’s what guest Gene Taylor, athletic director at North Dakota State, discusses on this week’s Too Much TV podcast.

Taylor also gets into FCS playoff expansion, Summit League membership and the controversial student-athlete stipend.

Here’s the link.

Also, check back here at 2 p.m. Thursday for the weekly live chat and on Saturday evening for live coverage of the South Dakota State at IPFW basketball doubleheader.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Fargo footnotes

Some leftover notes from South Dakota State’s weekend sweep of North Dakota State in men’s and women’s basketball in Fargo - something that hadn’t happened since 2003-04. Both schools were still in NCAA Division I at that time:

The SDSU men are now 12-0 when leading at the half. It took overtime - and a whole bunch of offense - to get there.
The Jacks hadn’t scored so many points against the Bison in their D-I histories, and nobody had scored so many points against NDSU since Oregon in the 2010-11 opener. (And this wasn’t the first OT game in that span.) SDSU also had more 3s, more free throws and more assists than any Bison opponent this season.
The teams combined for 102 points in the second half (and 27 in the OT) after putting up 50 in the first half.
"It’s such a strange game because in the first half nobody could score, and the second half nobody could get stops, which frustrated that they ended up shooting 50 percent," SDSU coach Scott Nagy said, "because we played great defense in the first half." 

The Bison had won nine in a row at home dating to Feb. 12, 2011. Meanwhile, SDSU improves to 4-1 in conference road games this season and 15-2 vs. teams outside the six power conferences.

SDSU junior guard Nate Wolters scored 27 points, but on 9 of 28 shooting. That’s a career-high for attempts. (His high had been 26 at IUPUI, another road OT win for the club.) The rest of the Jacks - and Scott Nagy only played six others - combined for 30 attempts.
Wolters was one of three to play at least 40 minutes with Brayden Carlson topping out at 44.
Despite the low percentage, the 6-4 Wolters turned in a couple spectacular finishes, none better than an around-the-world move (he swung the ball behind his back) in transition late in regulation.
"I just kind of felt (the defender) going for the steal - I Just decided to do that," he said. "I thought I traveled."

In addition to the significance in terms of the rivalry and the conference standings, the outcome should help SDSU in terms of the upcoming ESPNU BracketBusters event. Both the Jacks and the Bison are set to host games. The pairings - including what games will be televised - are to be set Jan. 30.

Did you notice that most of the second half took place with just two officials on the floor? The SDSU players didn’t. But that indeed was the case because the third got sick.
"I thought they worked extremely hard," NDSU coach Saul Phillips said. "It’s a really tough situation for those two guys to be in." 

The first half of the Summit men’s schedule is in the books. Oral Roberts is in first at 8-1, followed by SDSU (8-1), NDSU (6-3) and two-time defending regular-season champion Oakland (5-4). Everyone else is under .500. The Jacks visit the Golden Grizzlies on Thursday.
The first half of the women’s slate wraps up tonight. SDSU is 8-1 there, too, followed by Oral Roberts (6-2) and UMKC (5-3), Oakland (4-4) and IPFW (4-4).

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Finishing the Fargo freeze

Coming into this season, the South Dakota State men’s basketball team had never won a Summit League game at four different places: IUPUI, Oral Roberts, North Dakota State and Oakland.

That’s far too many (40 percent of the whole), I wrote, to consider the club anything more than a darkhorse come tournament time. It’s one thing to beat a team on your floor, and another to do it on the road.

Well, after winning in Indy and losing in Tulsa, the Jacks move on to the third date of the Prove It Tour with a Saturday contest in Fargo.

This is the most perplexing of the four in that SDSU has finished ahead of the Bison in the league standings in each of the past two years. That’s the case again so far this year, with the Jacks sitting alone in second place, one game back of ORU and one game ahead of NDSU. That adds another layer to the contest - an SDSU win means a two-game cushion for second place with nine Summit games to go, five of those to be held in Brookings.

To be a clear, a loss doesn’t mean SDSU can’t beat the Bison or can’t win the conference tournament, largely because a conference tournament game would be more like a Jacks home game in that it would be held in Sioux Falls. It’s just that proving yourself on the road holds much more water. A win would leave no doubt that the Jacks can contend.

It’s not going to be easy - not on the physical front because the Bison are well-rounded and athletic and certainly not on the mental front as the Jacks have lost 10 straight in the series. (The Sagarin Ratings have NDSU has a one-point favorite.) SDSU players and coaches have been more candid about that this week than in the past, admitting there has been a mental block when it comes to NDSU. In a weird way, acknowledging that might help. Admitting that you have a problem is part of every 12-step program.

Guard Griffan Callahan, SDSU’s lone senior and emotional leader, said that defense and rebounding will be key in ending the drought. You could almost hear him digging his heels into the floor.

The Jacks have the better record, more experience, the best player on the floor (Nate Wolters) and they’re the more rested of the two teams, having won last week’s games in blowout fashion. (NDSU played on the road Tuesday.) In other words, there are no excuses this time, despite the close betting line. SDSU wins, takes control of second place (with first still in reach) and proves itself a legit contender or loses and falls back to the pack, absorbing another mental haymaker from a regional rival.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Too Much TV: Kolpack

The college football season is still in full swing in North Dakota as the North Dakota State Bison prepare to host Georgia Southern on Saturday in the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals.

Jeff Kolpack has covered the Bison for, well, a long time for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead. He’s the guest on this week’s Too Much TV podcast.

Here’s the link.

Also, stop back later this week for all the South Dakota State basketball coverage you can handle. I’ll be in Grand Forks on Thursday (6:30 p.m.), Brookings on Friday (6:30 p.m.) and Seattle on Sunday (1:30 p.m. CT).

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Weekend reflections

A few final thoughts on SDSU’s 38-14 loss to No. 3-ranked North Dakota State on Saturday:

The Jacks have lost three in a row at home (and all by double digits) for the first time in their NCAA Division I history. The most recent such skid came in 2000.

Missouri Valley Football Conference commissioner Patty Viverito was on hand to present the Jacks with the league’s team academic honor. SDSU has dominated that award since joining the Valley.

Five of the last six Dakota Marker meetings have featured some sort of return for a score - and in each case it’s resulted in a win. In that span, there have been three punt returns and three interception returns.
This time, it was Bison receiver Ryan Smith returning a punt in the fourth quarter. Smith is from the Greeno family tree and two of his sisters ran track at the University of South Dakota.
SDSU coach John Stiegelmeier wasn’t pleased with his team’s effort on that play, admitting he was going to look for loafing on the game tape.

The Jacks used some different defensive personnel this week, starting Rodkem Matthews and Bo Helm at safety instead of Anthony Wise and Skyler Luxa with Darryl Jackson at corner instead of Helm.
"We had some young men that we thought had worked hard enough to deserve starting," Stiegelmeier said. "We had some guys that did not start that had been starting that we thought maybe that would motivate them a little bit. I’ve never been a believer in that, but I don’t make all the personnel decisions."

Injury update: LB Erich Feller was limited, LB Chris Tracy got dinged up early, DT Chase Douglas returned in a limited role and QB Austin Sumner seemed to aggravate a foot injury late.

There again were snapping issues out of the shotgun, although SDSU didn’t commit a turnover for the first time this season.
"What am I supposed to say to (center) Will Castle? ‘Don’t do that’? I’ve told him that," Stiegelmeier said. "It’s hurting. And I love those guys."
The coach did, however, put plenty of blame on himself and his staff, too. For instance, he said that the kick out of bounds was a result of asking freshman Ethan Sawyer to do too much.

Jacks tight end Vince Bendetto made five catches after having just four through the first seven games. LB R.C. Kilgore and backup QB Jordan Thomas also had career games in reserve roles.

NDSU committed just one penalty and it came late in the third quarter. SDSU was flagged five times. That makes five weeks in a row that the Jacks have committed as many or more penalties than their opponent.

SDSU set a new season-best in allowing just 327 yards. But it failed to come up with a takeaway for the fourth time this fall.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Marker march

Here’s some stuff in advance of the Dakota Marker game - South Dakota State vs. No. 3 North Dakota State - on Saturday in Brookings. I’ll have live coverage starting at 1 p.m.:

The Bison (6-0) lead the Football Championship Subdivision in scoring defense, allowing 11.2 points per game. Only two teams from the Missouri Valley Football Conference have done that at the end of the season and both won the league title.

This is the fourth week in a row that SDSU (2-5) is facing a Walter Payton Award candidate. However, Bison senior running back D.J. McNorton doesn’t have nearly the stats that the previous three did (70 carries, 351 yards, 7 TDs). He has missed time due to injury and is splitting reps with Sam Ojuri. Still, McNorton is one of 12 players in program history to surpass 2,000 yards rushing in a career.

For all the talk about SDSU freshman Austin Sumner, who is now up for the Jerry Rice Award, NDSU boasts the more efficient quarterback in Brock Jensen. The sophomore broke a school record last week by completing 19 consecutive passes. His completion percentage for the season is 71.8 and he’s thrown nine touchdowns to just one pick.

From the for-what-it’s-worth file, SDSU has played the 117th-most difficult schedule in Division I to this point, according to the Sagarin Ratings. NDSU is 210th in strength of schedule, last in the Valley. (The point: The Bison made good use of their larger budget in terms of crafting a schedule.)
Also, the Sagarin Ratings have the Bison as a 17-point favorite on the road.

SDSU leads the Valley in passing offense by more than 50 yards per game. However, Jacks coach John Stiegelmeier had some frank words when asked about his team’s lack of a ground attack.
"I think we overestimated the maturity and the ability of our offensive line," he said. "There have been times where the scheme looks good, but we’re not getting it done."
Coming into the season, that unit was thought to be one of the two best on the team (along with the linebackers).

Injury update: SDSU offensive lineman Alex Olinger is done for year - for real this time. (He dressed last week after coaches said he’d undergo season-ending surgery.) Defensive tackle Chase Douglas is questionable. Running back Zach Zenner and Sumner are both fine after getting dinged up late against UNI.

You know how the Jacks have a tendency to throw interceptions that get returned for touchdowns? Well, NDSU cornerback Marcus Williams has made a habit of cashing in on pick sixes with two this year. He also returned the second-half kickoff for a score last week against Missouri State.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

Tuesday Tidbits

We’ve got a special Missouri Valley Football Conference edition for you as the league held its annual media day Monday via teleconference. A few notes from each of the nine member programs in order of predicated finish:

1. Northern Iowa
Coach Mark Farley had to reschedule his time with the media because he was repping the school in a golf fundraiser hosted by PGA Tour player Zach Johnson … The Panthers will be searching for a new kicker … Farley on the prospects for the season: “When I go back and look at last year, I just felt that (QB) Tirrell Rennie, our football team did a phenomenal job putting together the season we did with an inexperienced football team. This year, we’re going in with the experience so we’re looking forward to seeing what we can put together on the field.”

2. North Dakota State
Brock Jensen has already been named the starting QB, putting the Bison ahead of where they were last year … Coach Craig Bohl called graduated DL Matt Gratzek arguably the best player in the Valley last year … NDSU is in search of a new punter, a point of concern.

3. Southern Illinois
The Salukis return all five starting offensive linemen and two of them are all-conference picks … Paul McIntosh is the favorite to win the QB battle, but the program landed a solid transfer in A.J. Hill from Northern Illinois. His brother, Nick, played the same position at SIU. … Coach Dale Lennon put the blame for last year’s lackluster season on inconsistency.

4. South Dakota State
The Jacks face another challenging non-league schedule as Southern Utah, Cal Poly and Illinois all finished above .500 last year … Turnover margin is going to be a point of emphasis … Coach John Stiegelmeier said this of embattled returning QB Thomas O’Brien: “He needs to play better, he needs to take care of the football, he needs to mature. He’s played a lot of football for us and this is the year he needs to put his foot down and make plays.”

5. Illinois State
Coach Brock Spack said this is the best team he’s had since joining the school and the previous two both finished over .500 … The Redbirds return 10 starters on offense … The defense struggled last year. How does Spack expect to fix that? “It’s not what we do, it’s how we do it,” he said.

6. Indiana State
The Sycamores weren’t picked last for a change, but they were picked relatively low considering they have 19 returning starters and six all-conference individuals … The program has grown up under coach Trent Miles going from three seniors to five seniors to seven seniors to now 20 seniors … The team will place two FBS foes this year, a major change from when it used to play two non-DIs per season.

7. Western Illinois
Why are the Leathernecks tabbed so low coming off a run to the second round of the playoffs? Because they graduated stars QB Matt Barr and LB Kyle Glazier … WIU returns 12 starters … Wil Lunt and juco transfer Josh Hudson are competing for the QB job.

8. Youngstown State
Eric Wolford begins his second year as coach with seven returning starters on offense led by Walter Payton candidate Jamaine Cook … The Penguins are focused on finishing games after blowing a handful of fourth-quarter leads last season … Wolford is also changing the approach to road games because YSU travels a minimum of six hours for every away date.

9. Missouri State
Why were the Bears picked last? Largely because they play Oregon and Arkansas - two teams in the BCS Bowl Series last year - and have their first four games on the road. That’s followed by the home opener against UNI. “In the state of Missouri we’ve got a little financial problem,” coach Terry Allen explained. “We need the money for our athletic department. That’s something the football program can do and that’s why we took those games on.” … The biggest personnel issue will be replacing four-year QB Cody Kirby.

Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.

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