Contrary to the casual thought, South Dakota State’s Zach Zenner and Indiana State’s Shakir Bell won’t be carrying the ball on every play this Saturday. They may be the top two rushers in Division I Football Championship Subdivision – Zenner at 219 yards per game at Bell at 203. Moreover, Bell set an all-time Missouri Valley Football Conference record last week for most yards rushing in one game with his 349 against Drake University (Iowa). But both head coaches say a more balanced attack will win out in the league opener in Terre Haute, Ind.
“We’re not going to run it on every down, the kids can’t carry it on every down,” said ISU head coach Trent Miles. “We can’t win football games that way.”
Miles said Zenner reminds him of former SDSU running back Kyle Minett, an All-American who finished his career in 2010,
“I hope they lock on just Zach Zenner because we’re not going to just lock on Shakir,” said SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier. “They have a great team. I wish we had them at home on grass but we don’t.”
Elsewhere around the Valley:
- North Dakota State and South Dakota are the only two Valley teams still playing non-conference games this weekend. The Bison, by the way, are making up fast ground in the conference statistic for most times being ranked No. 1. NDSU has been on the top spot eight times since moving to Division I. Southern Illinois is still the conference leader in total weeks being ranked first with 16, with most of those coming in 2004 and 2005. UNI has been the top-ranked team 11 times with six of those coming in 2007. NDSU is tied with Youngstown, which was ranked first eight times in 1997 and 1998.
- The Northern Iowa at Youngstown game will be the first time the teams have met as nationally-ranked teams since 2007 when the top-ranked Panthers beat Youngstown 14-13 in Cedar Falls, Iowa. UNI has won 11 straight in the series. But the Panthers, despite being ranked in both major FCS polls, have yet to register a Division I countable win. They’re 1-2 with the victory being against Division II Central State (Ohio).
- USD, which plays at Northwestern, will try to be the 10th FCS team this year to beat a Football Bowl Subdivision team. That would tie a record. NDSU (Colorado State), Youngstown (Pittsburgh) and Illinois State (Eastern Michigan) have already pulled off that feat this year.
- Western Illinois has ditched its 3-4 defense that included the funky Leatherneck rover position in favor of a more traditional 4-3.
- Illinois State is 3-0 for the first time since 1991.