Missouri Valley Football Conference play opens this week and the Dakota Marker will be on the line when No. 1-ranked North Dakota State (3-0) travels to No. 6-ranked South Dakota State (3-1) for a 2:05 p.m. kickoff Saturday, Sept. 28, at Coughlin Alumni Stadium (15,000) in Brookings, S.D. The Jackrabbits have won nine straight home games since NDSU's 38-14 win there in October 2011.
TELEVISION: NBC North Dakota network will have live coverage in high definition beginning at 2 p.m.
THE SERIES: North Dakota State has won four straight to take a 55-40-5 lead in the all-time series but South Dakota State has a 27-22-2 edge in Brookings. This is the 10th meeting for the Dakota Marker, which was introduced as the traveling trophy in 2004 when the teams moved to Division I. NDSU has a 5-4 edge in Dakota Marker games including three straight wins. Last year's NCAA second round playoff game did not count.
COACH TO CURE MD: North Dakota State coaches wear the Coach to Cure MD patch this week at South Dakota State as part of the national game day charity project of the American Football Coaches Association. Now in its sixth year, Coach to Cure MD seeks to raise awareness and money to fund research for Duchenne muscular dystrophy, the most prolific lethal genetic disorder of childhood. Fans can donate online at CoachtoCureMD.org or by texting the word CURE to 90999 and a $5 donation will be automatically be added to the next phone bill.
LAST WEEK: North Dakota State rolled to a 51-0 win over Delaware State for its seventh straight home win and 12th in a row overall. Quarterback Brock Jensen was 13-for-20 passing for 138 yards and three touchdowns and running back John Crockett rushed for a game-high 85 yards. NDSU put up 548 yards of total offense and held Delaware State to 189 with just 34 yards rushing. It was the school-record 92nd career win for head coach Craig Bohl.
JENSEN CLIMBS CHARTS: Quarterback Brock Jensen broke the NDSU career record for pass completions Saturday against Delaware State. He passed Steve Walker (535 completions from 2004-07) and is now the school's all-time leader in completions (538) and attempts (868). Jensen also passed Walker for second place all-time at NDSU in total offense (7,152) just 90 yards shy of record-holder Kevin Feeney (7,242 yards from 1995-98).
PICK-SIX RECORD TIED: Cornerback Marcus Williams returned his school-record 20th interception 33 yards for a touchdown against Delaware State. It was his sixth career interception return for a touchdown, which tied the NCAA FCS record set by Murray State's William Hampton (1993-96).
ANOTHER SELLOUT: North Dakota State drew a crowd of 18,995 to the Delaware State game last week. It was NDSU's third straight regular season sellout and 15th sellout overall since 2006.
FIRST TIMERS: NDSU's Cooper Wahlo Jr. collected his first career touchdown reception in the second quarter against Delaware State. It was his second touchdown overall including a punt return in 2011. Redshirt freshman kicker Tom Barneson scored his first four collegiate points with a PAT kick and 27-yard field goal in the third quarter.
GOOD COMPANY: In the past two-plus seasons, North Dakota State has the best winning percentage of any Division I school:
Win Percentage, Division I (2011-present)
1. North Dakota State (MVFC) 31-2 .939
2. Alabama (SEC) 28-2 .933
3. Oregon (Pac-12) 27-3 .900
4. Lehigh (Patriot) 24-3 .889
5. LSU (SEC) 27-4 .871
WILLIAMS AND INTERCEPTIONS: North Dakota State's Marcus Williams has 20 career interceptions, which ranks third-best all-time on the MVFC list. Among active players, he currently leads all of FCS in career interceptions per game (0.43) and career interception return yards (442). His six career INT returns for touchdown tied the FCS record set by Murray State's William Hampton (1993-96).
MVFC Career Leaders - Interceptions
24, Adrion Smith, Missouri St., 1990-93
21, Jeff Smith, Illinois St., 1985-88
20, Marcus Williams, North Dakota St., 2010-present
18, Ty Talton, Northern Iowa, 1995-98
18, Dre Dokes, Northern Iowa, 2003-06
WINNING STREAKS: NDSU has the longest active winning streak in the Football Championship Subdivision at 12 games. The Bison have won seven straight at home and 41 of the last 42 non-conference home games including 31 straight since a 2003 loss to UC Davis.
FCS Winning Streaks (dating back to last season)
1. North Dakota State (MVFC) 12
2. Towson (Colonial) 8
3. North Carolina A&T (Mid-Eastern) 6
4. Northern Iowa (MVFC) 6
5. McNeese State (Southland) 5
Penn (Ivy) 5
ON THE ROAD: Following the season-opening win at Kansas State, North Dakota State has now won 10 straight road games and 13 including two national championship games in Frisco, Texas, and one neutral site win against South Dakota in Sioux Falls, S.D. The Bison have won 18 of their last 22 road games and are 38-20 on the road since head coach Craig Bohl took over in 2003. NDSU is 13-7 in MVFC road games. The Bison have not lost away from Fargo since the 38-31 overtime loss to eventual national champion Eastern Washington in the 2010 NCAA quarterfinals.
Division I Road Winning Streaks
1. Oregon (Pac-12) 16
2. North Dakota State (MVFC) 10
Northern Illinois (MAC) 10
Alabama (SEC) 10
5. Dartmouth (Ivy) 7
Lehigh (Patriot) 7
BISON IN NCAA TOP 10: North Dakota State leads the nation in third down conversion percentage going 28 of 42 for 66.7 percent. The Bison are also first in fumbles lost (0), third in fewest penalties (2.33/gm) and scoring defense (10.3 ppg), fourth in fewest penalty yards (21.67/gm), fifth in punt return defense (0.0 ypg), seventh in fewest turnovers lost (2), and 10th in scoring offense (43.7 ppg) and total defense (284.3 ypg).
SMITH AMONG PUNT RETURN LEADERS: North Dakota State wide receiver Ryan Smith is the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision active career leader in punt returns (74), punt return yards (783) and punt return touchdowns (2), and Smith is fourth in punt return average (10.6). Junior free safety Christian Dudzik has handled all four punt returns this year.
JENSEN ON THE NCAA CAREER LIST: North Dakota State quarterback Brock Jensen is among the NCAA active career leaders ranked fourth in total TDs responsible for (72) and fifth in completion percentage (.620). Jensen is 35-5 as NDSU's starting quarterback and is within reach of the FCS record of 43 wins by Armanti Edwards at Appalachian State from 2006-09.
FOUR IN A ROW: North Dakota State is the first team in Missouri Valley Football Conference history to win a game against an FBS foe in four straight years (Kansas-2010; Minnesota-2011; Colorado State-2012; Kansas State-2013). No other MVFC team has won three in successive seasons.
NATIONAL TEAM OF THE WEEK: North Dakota State was named the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl National Team of the Week by the Football Writers Association of America on Sept. 3 following its 24-21 win at Kansas State. NDSU is just the second Football Championship Subdivision team to be recognized. The other was Appalachian State in 2007 following its opening game win at No. 5-ranked Michigan.
TURNER OFFENSIVE LINEMAN OF THE WEEK: Left tackle Billy Turner was named Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Lineman of the Week by the league office on Sept. 2. Turner graded out at 96 percent with 10 knockdowns. He was responsible for zero quarterback hurries or sacks in front of quarterback Brock Jensen, who was 21-for-30 for 165 yards. Turner helped paved the way for a rushing attack that outgained Kansas State 215-41 on the ground including 127 yards by running back Sam Ojuri. NDSU had a 12-minute advantage in time of possession.
HEAGLE DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK: Strong safety Colten Heagle was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Week on Sept. 1. Heagle led NDSU with seven solo tackles including two stops for loss at Kansas State in his first game back since a knee injury at Colorado State last September. He made a tackle in the backfield on third-and-2 in the first quarter to force a Kansas State punt and NDSU scored on the next possession for a 7-0 lead before going on to a 24-21 victory over the defending Big 12 champions.
JENSEN DELIVERS LATE: Quarterback Brock Jensen was 21-for-30 with two touchdowns and one interception at Kansas State and scored the game-winning touchdown on a 1-yard run with 28 seconds left. Jensen completed 14 of 15 passes in the second half including 7 of 7 on the game's final drive which covered 80 yards in 18 plays over 8 minutes, 30 seconds.
LeCOMPTE KEYS SPECIAL TEAMS: Punter Ben LeCompte averaged 42.2 yards on four punts at Kansas State including three inside the 20 (at the 3, 8 and 12). LeCompte also handled all five kickoffs, leaving the first four short to avoid returners and getting a touchback with 28 seconds left in the game. Senior middle linebacker Grant Olson's first career interception with 19 seconds left in the game sealed NDSU's 24-21 victory.
BISON PICKED TO WIN VALLEY: North Dakota State has been picked to win the Missouri Valley Football Conference crown in 2013. NDSU, the defending national champion, has won 28 of its past 30 games (going 14-1 each year). The Bison were a unanimous choice to repeat, earning 39 of a possible 39 first-place votes, in a poll conducted by league coaches, media and sports information directors. The Bison return 18 total starters from a team that went 14-1 overall and 7-1 in the conference last year.
Named to the preseason all-MVFC offensive unit were quarterback Brock Jensen, offensive tackle Billy Turner, wide receiver Ryan Smith and kicker Adam Keller. Representing NDSU on the all-conference defensive squad were defensive end Cole Jirik, defensive tackle Leevon Perry, linebacker Grant Olson, cornerback Marcus Williams, punter Ben LeCompte and return specialist Ryan Smith. Linebacker Travis Beck was honorable mention. Jensen is on the preseason Payton Award (FCS Offensive Player of the Year) Watch List, and Olson and Williams are on the Buchanan Award (FCS Defensive Player of the Year) Watch List.
A preseason favorite has claimed the league crown 15 times (in 27 previous polls). North Dakota State was picked to win the league last season.
2013 Valley Football Preseason Poll
Team (first-place votes) Points
1. North Dakota State (39) 390
2. South Dakota State 323
3. Northern Iowa 269
4. Illinois State 264
5. Youngstown State 253
6. Indiana State 197
7. Southern Illinois 188
8. Missouri State 123
9. Western Illinois 77
10. South Dakota 61