’13 vs. ’14 teams: Is there really much difference?

It’s been talked about a lot of this season and even head coach Chris Klieman on more than one occasion said this year’s team is not as good overall as the 2013 national title team that went 15-0 and was rarely challenged during the season. It’s generally a safe assumption that team was deeper, especially on defense, than this year’s crew and the backfield and receivers were perhaps a half step above this year’s team in overall talent. But on the whole, is last year’s team that much better?

I’ve referenced this before but statistically, they’re about the same and in several areas, and there are some spots where this year’s team that plays Sam Houston Friday night for the right to go back to Frisco is better. Let’s evaluate the 15-game and 14-game seasons of ’13 and ’14.

  • The 2014 team is better in fewer turnovers (14 to 18), punting average (44.6 to 43.7), passing defense (149 to 165), sacks given up (14 to 18) and turnover margin (plus 9 to plus 5).
  • They are virtually even in passing yards (195 to 200), time of possession (33.58 this year to 33.40 last year), opponents scoring average (13.9 this year to 11.3) and average total yards given up (266 to 256).
  • The 2013 team had a better scoring average at 38.7 points a game to the 33.1 this year, although you could argue last year’s team had a Division II schedule and this year’s team had a tougher non-conference schedule and the Missouri Valley on the whole had a higher GPI than last year. This year’s team is averaging 12 more penalty yards a game (53 to 41).

The 2013 team bombed its way through the playoffs with beatdowns on Furman, Coastal Carolina and New Hampshire. On the flipside, those three were new to the Fargodome, which has not been the case so far this year. South Dakota State has been here a lot lately and Coastal was making its second appearance in a row. Experience makes a difference.

Wednesday’s hot links

Sam Houston: breaking down the stats

By this time of the year, statistical analysis provides a rather comprehensive look at each team throughout the season. Normally, anyway. In the case of Sam Houston State, you can probably throw away the first seven games when Sam started the season 3-4 and take a look at the current eight-game win streak, the surge that got them to Friday night’s FCS semifinal game at the dome.

Overall, the Bearkats have a couple of deficiencies in a couple of departments: points allowed at 27.7 per game and total yards given up at 421 a game. Those are the 15-game totals but perhaps a more accurate reflection is to look at the last eight (and in reality I’m throwing out the 76-0 Houston Baptist game because, well, it’s Houston Baptist). In those seven wins, the Bearkats gave up an average of 24.7 points and 430.6 yards per game. The point total is slightly less than the season average but the Kats have given up more yards per game in the victory streak.

What’s that tell us? The offense has gotten better over time, at least ball control in critical times of games, and the team is finding ways to win. Much like the Coastal Carolina game, if the Bison want to get back to Frisco, they’ll have to continue their turnover-free offensive performances and find a few stops somewhere in the second half.

Tuesday’s hot links

  • In addition to studying for finals, the Bison are opening the books on Sam Houston State in preparation for Friday night’s showdown at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome, writes Kevin Schnepf. “They’ve got a ton of ability to make big plays whether it’s running the ball or throwing the ball,” head coach Chris Klieman said. See WDAY’s report here.
  • The defensive strategy shifts for the Bison men’s basketball team as they host Akron tonight.
  • As usual, we’ll have live blog coverage during Friday night’s NDSU-Sam Houston State semifinal game. Look for pregame and postgame shows right here.


Here come the ‘Kats

Sam Houston State comes to Fargo on Friday as the hottest team in the FCS, many will look at SHSU and stare at the D2 loss to Colorado State-Pueblo, but since then the team has won 10 of 11 and found itself on the offensive side of the ball. This is a completely different team than Bison fans got to know in 2011 and 2012; Brian Bell, Tim Flanders and Richard Sincere all graduated last year, Willie Fritz left Huntsville for Georgia Southern. In came K.C. Keeler, former Delaware head coach and he brought a boatload of transfers with him.

Keyshawn Hill leads Sam Houston’s running attack into Fargo on Friday night.

17 transfers in fact; and some impressive ones in that. The one that jumps off the page is LaDarius Brown, wide receiver from TCU, who was dismissed for marijuana possession, he’s SHSU’s deep threat with 43 receptions for 780 yards and seven touchdowns. The quarterback is Jared Johnson, a dynamic threat with both his arm and his legs; he’s completed just 57 percent of his passes, but has thrown for 21 touchdowns, to go along with nearly 1,000 yards rushing and add in six touchdowns. Keyshawn Hill is Flanders’ replacement, he waited three years for his time and has shown he’s impressive, he’s over 1100 yards rushing with 18 touchdowns, going for nearly six yards a carry.

Defensively is where SHSU struggles, they are allowing nearly 28 points per game, giving up 22 rushing touchdowns and 30 passing touchdowns; to compare that with NDSU, the Bison have allowed just 21 touchdowns combined all year.

It may be oversimplifying things to say NDSU’s offense needs another strong game like what happened on Saturday, but stopping the Bearkats three headed monster will be the biggest key of a win on Friday night.

JUST IN: Kyle Emanuel was just named the Buck Buchanan award winner for 2014, that goes to the best defensive player in the FCS. Emanuel racked up 16.5 sacks during the regular season, becomes the first NDSU player to win an individual award since the Bison moved up to Division 1. Emanuel will be at Chris Klieman’s weekly press conference, that can be seen LIVE on WDAY’Z Xtra at 11:30 am this morning on Channel 29 on Cable One, 596 on MidContinent and wday.com


Saturday night’s hot links

  • After allowing just one regular-season opponent to score more than 17 points against them (Northern Iowa’s 23), the Bison have allowed 24 and 32 points in their two playoff games. As Kevin Schnepf points out in his column, we can’t expect cakewalks in this year’s playoffs. “I think people really need to understand how special this 2014 Bison team is because we are able to win in situations that we have been put in … close games,” says NDSU running back John Crockett.
  • Jeff Kolpack writes about how defensive tackle Brian Schaetz had little left in his tank at the end of the game. The Bison defense was tested to its break point by Coastal Carolina but had just enough to get it done when it mattered most.
  • Crockett wasn’t finished after his 70-yard TD run to put the Bison on the board. The senior rushed for 227 yards – a Bison playoff record – and scored twice. Plus, he set the school’s single-season rushing record of 1,724 yards heading into the semifinals. NDSU’s hard-fought 39-32 victory over Coastal Carolina now sets up a Friday night showdown (see ticket information here) at the Fargodome with a trip to Frisco on the line. The opponent: Sam Houston State.
  • See WDAY’s report on the game here with postgame interviews.
  • Notebook: Devin Brown’s 98-yard kickoff return gave Coastal Carolina the spark it needed to answer the Bison for a 17-17 tie in the second quarter. Plus a Bison injury update.
  • The boxscore from Saturday’s victory.
  • Adding to the big-game festivities in town Saturday, the Bison men’s basketball team rolled past the University of North Dakota at Scheels Arena. WDAY hightlights
  • Tag your Instagram photos with #inforumfm from Saturday’s Fargodome scene.


Media Blog Postgame Show vs Coastal Carolina

Another nailbiter at the Fargodome, but it’s another NDSU win. The Bison defense was pushed around by Coastal Carolina as the Chanticleers were poised to pull off the upset, but John Crockett saved the best performance of his career for when NDSU needed it the most, ripping off 227 yards and two touchdowns to propel NDSU into the semifinals for a matchup with Sam Houston State. Join Big E, Jeff and me as we break down NDSU’s 39-32 win and preview next week’s game.