Coach: Matt Entz
North Dakota Players to Watch:
***Freshman QB Trey Lance (6-2/221)
Lance was recently name the MVFC Offensive Player of the Year, MVFC Freshman of the Year, and MVFC Newcomer of the Year. Lance was also recently named STATS FCS Walter Payton Award winner, which is presented annually to the top offensive player in the Football Championship Subdivision.
The redshirt freshman from Marshall, MN, ranks first in the FCS in passing efficiency (187.8), first in yards per pass attempt (10.03), third in pass completion percentage (.685), and seventh in total points responsible for (216) through 13 games. He was the first freshman to be named Missouri Valley Football Conference Offensive Player of the Year and was the fourth to take the league’s Newcomer of the Year and Freshman of the Year awards.
Lance has attempted a school-record 236 consecutive passes without an interception going 161-for-235 this season for 2,356 yards and 25 touchdowns. He is also NDSU’s second leading rusher with 117 attempts for 829 yards and a team-high 11 TDs for the Bison, who rank first in the FCS in passing efficiency (183.81), second in total offense (488.8 ypg), fourth in rushing offense (298.0 ypg) and fourth in scoring offense (39.8 ppg).
Senior DE Derreck Tuszka (6-5/246)
Tuszka, a senior from Warner, S.D., is the MVFC’s active career leader with 26.5 sacks, which ranks sixth all-time at NDSU. Tuszka ranks third in the conference with 10.5 sacks this season and 10th in the FCS with 0.95 sacks per game. He has 37 total tackles including 15.5 tackles for loss plus three pass breakups, one forced fumble and six quarterback hurries. He is a finalist for the Buck Buchanan Award, presented to the FCS defensive player of the year.
*Junior LB Jabril Cox (6-3/233)
Only a junior, but Cox has already already enough accolades to get him a shot on just about any NFL team. In 2018, he was named the Missouri Valley Football Conference Defensive Player of the Year, while finishing fourth in voting for the Buck Buchanan Award, presented to the top defensive player in the FCS.
Cox has played in 42 games and racked up 236 career tackles. He has 30 tackles-for-loss and 13 career sacks. It will be interesting to see if he turns pro after this season.
Senior FS James Hendricks (6-1/206)
James Hendricks arrived in Fargo in 2015 joining a quarterback room that had Carson Wentz, Easton Stick and Cole Davis. Hendricks knew the road to playing under center was going to be a long one. He and then-head coach Chris Klieman had a conversation in the spring of 2017 about a position change. Hendricks moved to safety that spring and instantly became an impact player.
Hendricks has played in 44 games in his time with the Bison. He has 138 career tackles and 13 interceptions heading into Saturday’s game against Illinois State.
Coach: Brock Spack
Illinois State Players to watch:
Senior RB James Robinson (5-10/225)
Robinson followed up his 297-yard effort in the first round against Southeast Missouri with a 210-yard effort in Saturday’s win against 8th ranked Central Arkansas. In the two games combined, Robinson has carried the ball 78 times for 507 yards with three touchdowns in the FCS playoffs.
Robinson led the MVFC in rushing yards (1,316) and yards per game (109.7) was second in the league in rushing touchdowns (15) and scoring (90 points). He started all 12 games at tailback for the Redbirds.
Senior SS Luther Kirk (6-2/200)
Kirk is another ISU Redbird that is one every NFL scout’s radar. A team captain and a fiery striker, Kirk led the team with 74 tackles, six pass breakups, two sacks, three tackles-for-loss and one forced fumble. It was Kirk’s game-winning sack that put an end to Central Arkansas’ attempt at a comeback last week.
*Junior CB Devin Taylor (6-2/200)
The junior corner from Lansing, MI, led the MVFC with 19 passes defended and ranks No. 6 in the FCS in passes defended with 1.6 per game. Taylor led ISU and tied for fifth in the MVFC with three interceptions. Not afraid to make a tackle, he was fifth on the team with 50 stops this year. Taylor was also named the MVFC Defensive Player of the Week after he recorded his team-leading third interception and finished with a career-high five pass breakups in a win over Missouri State.
*Junior LT Drew Himmelman (6-10/315)
The junior from Geneseo, Il, graded out at over 90 percent for the season. Himmelman was twice named the MVFC Offensive Lineman of the Week. Starting all 12 regular season contest, Himmelman earned MVFC Lineman of the Week honors after the Redbirds rushed for 254 yards and three scores; and again after helping ISU rush for 287 yards in a win over Indiana State.
2019 FCS Quarterfinal
NDSU vs. Illinois State
Saturday, December 14th at 11:00 a.m.