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Playoff preview: Robert Morris at North Dakota State
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
FCS FIRST ROUND: ROBERT MORRIS AT (25) NORTH DAKOTA STATE
Kickoff: 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 27
Facts and Figures - Site: Fargodome (27,851) in Fargo, N.D. Records: Robert Morris, 8-2; North Dakota State, 7-4. Television: None. Series record: First meeting. Last meeting: None. Conferences: Robert Morris, Northeast Conference; North Dakota State, Missouri Valley Football Conference. Coaches: Robert Morris, Joe Walton (103-69-1 in 17th season at Robert Morris); North Dakota State, Craig Bohl (59-29 in eighth season at North Dakota State). The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS ranking: Robert Morris, unranked; North Dakota State, 25.
What to know: North Dakota State received an at-large bid despite being blanked, 3-0, in its season finale against Missouri State. The Bison used three different quarterbacks in the game and compiled only 120 yards of total offense.
The shutout illustrates (to the extreme) a lack of scoring offense, which has been the Bison's Achilles heel this season. They average just 21.8 points per game (second-to-last in the MVFC). Three elements have propelled them to the playoffs: running back D.J. McNorton, a stellar defense and an emphasis on protecting their home turf.
To wit, McNorton is No. 19 in all of the FCS in rushing yards per game (101.6). This clip is impressive considering defenses load the box to stop him, forcing the worst passing offense in MVFC (157.1 yards per game) to beat them.
The defense does its part as well, ranking No. 8 (tied) in the FCS in scoring defense (16.6 points per game) and No. 1 in he MVFC in rushing defense (107.6 yards per game).
And home field advantage? The Bison are 5-1 in the Fargodome this season.
Enter NEC champion, Robert Morris.
The Colonials claimed the conference's first-ever automatic bid on Nov. 6 in a 42-24 trouncing of perennial NEC power Central Connecticut State.
The Colonials have a special back of their own in Myles Russ, who ranks ahead of McNorton with 124.6 rushing yards per game (No. 6 FCS). As with the Bison, the Colinals rely heavily upon the run, but unlike the Bison, the Colonials manage to turn those runs into points (29.6 points per game).
They also have quarterback Jeff Sinclair, who has provided the program with a serious shot in the arm since being inserted into the starting lineup midway through the 2009 season. Sinclair is 13-4 in his career as a starter.
The Bison became eligible for the FCS playoffs in 2008. They have won eight national titles at the Division II level, while the Colonials have appeared in two postseason games in their rather brief history (the ECAC Bowl in 1996 and 1997).
Despite its faults, North Dakota State does hail from the MVFC, a decidedly more competitive conference than the NEC, but Robert Morris appears to have momentum to burn.
The winner will face fourth-seeded Montana State.
Prediction: Robert Morris, 21-9
11/23 17:07:09 ET