The two statistics of note entering the Dakota Marker game Saturday are Zach Zenner’s 166 yards a game that leads the FCS in rushing and the 64.5 yards rushing that NDSU gives up per game, which ranks second in the FCS stats. Something will probably give in that area.
It’s been said in our video blogs that teams that have given NDSU the trouble the most in the past couple of years are the ones with a good running back. Youngstown State’s Jamaine Cook ran for 147 yards two years ago in the Penguins’ win at the Fargodome and Shakir Bell got some valuable yards, especially late in the game, in a 17-14 win earlier this year, again at the dome.
Certainly, Zenner will get the ball and he’ll play a factor somehow in this game. But these big games usually come down to the play of the quarterbacks and their ability to not turn the ball. That most likely will be the case again Saturday. NDSU needs Brock Jensen to be his 65 to 70 percent passing efficiency self. SDSU needs Austin Sumner to provide some big plays with his right arm and not be the guy that’s thrown 13 interceptions this year.
Last year, Jensen was 20 of 25 for 178 yards and no interceptions. Sumner was 18 of 31. Two years ago, NDSU’s Jose Mohler was 14 of 20 with no interceptions while Thomas O’Brien was 18 of 42 with four interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns in a 31-24 NDSU win. Three years ago, NDSU’s Nick Mertens was 15 of 31 with two interceptions; O’Brien 13 of 21 with no interceptions and SDSU won that game.
The last time the winning team threw an interception in this series was 2004 when SDSU’s Brad Nelson was picked off once. He made up for it by throwing for the winning touchdown in the final 30 seconds in a 24-21 SDSU win.