There are four predominant colleges in this area that have the word Dakota in their names.
University of North Dakota
University of South Dakota
South Dakota State University
North Dakota State University
The dominance by NDSU over their competition in the last half decade has been well documented. Five straight championships will do that. Over that time a rivalry with the University of North Iowa has developed. Each team has defeated the other but during the same span, older rivalries have diminished. The days gone by of games between the Fighting Sioux and the Bison are a memory. Sure they've played recently but the team from Grand Forks is still playing catch up. Similarly, contests between the south border rival schools had all been quite lopsided. Well, SDSU got one back in the win column.
It was an ugly game, by both teams. The NDSU pre game crew thought it may have been an 80 + point shoot out, which are fun games to watch but not common on the plains. The final tally didn't even hit half that many points, which is more the norm.
This was a pretty typical Missouri Valley Football contest. For most of the game, the defenses for each team were the clear headline. Until the last possession of the game by South Dakota State, NDSU's defense was as good as they've ever been. They exemplified the bend but don't break mentality as well as it can be. For nearly 60 minutes...nearly. In the end, the offense that the Jacks have could only be limited so much. They got the last laugh yesterday. And a lot of Bison faithful had complaints about it, but I don't think it's as bad as so many wanted to espouse.
1) For a rivalry to get spiced up, both teams have to win and wins such as SDSU had are like Cayenne. Get it into the wound and it burns something fierce. Maybe a blowout is worse but I'm not so sure. A close loss in the closing seconds of the game in the opponents house are some key ingredients to the stew.
2) Losses happen. I was fully on board with the pursuit of another perfect season, but that's not the #1 goal. Championships are. In four of the five championship years we had a loss and last year we had two. Just everybody calm down. The team will get healthy or the fill ins will get coached up. Either way, it will be just fine.
2B) Home field advantage is still very much in play. The SEC of the FCS rarely has had an undefeated team so the odds are in favor of the Jackrabbits not making it through the obstacle course unscathed. NDSU just has to take care of business the rest of the way!
4) This was arguably the best performance by the defense of the year. I'm putting a line through the last touchdown because I'm not delusional enough to think that shutting out Wieneke for 60 minutes is possible. The defense limited him as well as they could yesterday.
If there is anything to be concerned about, I think it is the way that we couldn't handle Goedert. 11 catches, 150 yards and a touchdown are troubling numbers, to put it lightly. But he wasn't the only surprise from SD yesterday, Taryn Christion's legs were a problem all day. The kind of athleticism that both of those guys showed yesterday is rare for this division and could be indicative of problems later this season and next year or longer since Christion's only a sophomore.
Despite the 523 yards of total offense by the Jacks I will say it again, I think this was one of the best defensive performances we've seen. This is an offense with at least two players who seem assured to find their way onto pro rosters, either in the NFL or CFL. That's no joke. Shutting down that kind of talent isn't possible for an entire game. But we only allowed 19 points. 13 over the first 59:58 of the game. The defense stopped three of SDSU's possessions within the five yard line. Forget it being called the Red Zone. Yesterday it was the Green and Gold Zone!
There are always going to be negatives from a loss. A concerning number of injuries. A BAD performance by the offense against the weaker unit of the Jacks. Mental errors. Only time will tell how those things get ironed out but there's no quick fix to the first two issues.
So while it's an undesirable outcome for the Green & Gold, it could be the renewal of one of the old rivalries and for at least one game next season, gives the team an added thing to play for - the Marker. Though hopefully none of them need that as a motivator next year!