FARGO, N.D. —
"It works at this level. Georgia Southern has proven that. A number of teams have proven that," NDSU defensive coordinator Chris Klieman said. "It just goes to the old adage, if you can run the football and play defense, you're going to have the chance to win a lot of football games."
The key to defending the Eagles? Olson said the Bison should have a "guy on pitch, guy on quarterback, guy on dive." Klieman said the Bison linebackers need to get a clean shot at the ball carrier and finish their tackles.
"That QB has made a ton of people miss," Klieman said of McKinnon. "And if you make the first guy miss it's a foot race. Not too many people are catching him right now."
Like Wofford, Georgia Southern's offense neutralizes NDSU's most explosive defender, two-time All-American cornerback Marcus Williams. Even though most teams throw away from him, Williams has five interceptions, including one he returned 98 yards for a touchdown.
Olson said Williams has a difficult assignment trying to stay sharp for a surprise pass.
"He has to cover his man every single play. And 65 out of 70 snaps they're not even going to pass the ball so he's running downfield doing nothing," Olson said. "But it's those five other snaps when they throw it deep, he has to be perfect."
The game is a repeat of last year's semifinal in which the Bison defeated the Eagles 35-7 at the Fargodome. Bison head coach Craig Bohl said this year's edition of Georgia Southern is more athletic and explosive, especially at quarterback, than last year.
Conversely, Georgia Southern head coach Jeff Monken, whose team played Alabama last year, said NDSU is the closest thing to the Crimson Tide he's seen in his three years with the Eagles.
"They've got a great defense," Monken said of the Bison. "They don't hold people to 11 points a game because they have one player. They've got a bunch of guys who play good and they are well-coached."