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December 18. 2013 9:28PM

Allen Lessels' UNH Notebook: Bison are fast and furious


Dec 14, 2013; Hammond, LA, USA; New Hampshire Wildcats head coach Sean McDonnell watches during warmups prior to kickoff against the Southeastern Louisiana Lions at Strawberry Stadium. New Hampshire defeated Southeastern Louisiana 20-17. (Crystal LoGiudice-USA TODAY Sports)

DURHAM

THEY start fast. They finish fast. They aren't bad at all in the middle of the game either.

The North Dakota State University Bison, to be sure, are going to be a handful for the University of New Hampshire football team in an FCS semifinal match at 8 p.m. on Friday (ESPN2) in front of 18,000-plus fans in the Fargodome.

The Wildcats are 10-4, have won six straight games, three consecutive playoff games and are in the national tournament semifinals for the first time.

The Bison have dominated the FCS the last two years.

They are 13-0 this year and have gone 22 straight games overall without a loss and are 9-0 in home FCS playoff games.

"They're a team, if they get ahead of you, it's pretty much over," said UNH senior safety and captain Manny Asam. "They consume time (on offense). They eat up time."

The Bison get ahead of most people, usually by large amounts.

Most of the Wildcats, head coach Sean McDonnell included, watched North Dakota State clobber Coastal Carolina, 48-14, in the quarterfinals last Saturday afternoon on ESPN while they rested up for their own game that night against Southeastern Louisiana.

The Bison led 17-0 after one period and 31-0 before Coastal Carolina scored in the closing seconds of the first half.

"It was a fast start and it wasn't just the offense," McDonnell said. "It was defense and special teams, too. That was something to behold. I was sitting in the hotel room and it was like, 'Oh my.' Everyone on the team plays downhill. It was pretty impressive."

The numbers are staggering.

The Bison have outscored their opponents 131-20 in the first quarter of games and 153-71 in the second for a halftime edge of 284-91. The margin is 121-51 in the third period and a difficult-to-imagine 89-6 in the fourth.

The pressure will be on the Wildcat defense to at least slow senior quarterback Brock Jensen (30 TDs passing, eight rushing and six interceptions) and his talented group of weapons. Senior Sam Ojuri has rushed for 1,239 yards this year and junior John Crockett needs four yards to hit 1,000. Junior wide receiver Zach Vraa has 59 catches for 1,064 yards and 13 scores.

North Dakota State allows just 11.4 points a game, which leads the nation.

"We have to put up points fast," said UNH sophomore quarterback Sean Goldrich. "We have to come out of the gate flying around and make a statement to let them know we're not going to be a run-over team ... We have to come out right from the beginning and show them that we're here to play and we're not going anywhere."

North Dakota State has won its first two playoff games by 31 (Furman) and 34 (Coastal Carolina).

The Bison came from behind and Jensen led a late touchdown drive for a big FBS win at Kansas State, 24-21, in their season opener and rallied to beat then No. 4-ranked Northern Iowa, 24-23, on Oct. 5. Kansas State wound up 7-5 and will play Michigan on Dec. 28 in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl in Tempe, Ariz.

Nobody else has come closer than 18 points to them.

.

THE WILDCATS are one of two Colonial Athletic Association teams left in the tournament. Towson is on the other side of the bracket and pays at Eastern Washington on Saturday at 2 p.m. The two semifinal winners play for the national championship on Saturday, Jan. 4 at 2 p.m. in Frisco, Texas ...

CAA teams have won four of the last 10 FCS titles. Delaware won in 2003, James Madison in 2004, Richmond in 2008 and Villanova in 2009. Two CAA teams have never met for the title and Delaware was the last league team to make the championship game in 2010. The Blue Hens lost to Eastern Washington, 20-19, that year ...

UNH has a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver for the second time in school history and first since 1993. Junior Nico Steriti is at 1,021 yards for the season and senior wide receiver Justin Mello is at 1,020.

alessels@unionleader.com


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