By all benchmarks, Youngstown State was the class of 1-AA football when North Dakota State moved up to Division I.
The Penguins won four national championships in the 1990's and were widely respected in the subdivision. North Dakota State's first Missouri Valley Football conference game was a matchup with YSU, where the Penguins dominated the Bison. Early on in this series history, it was titled Youngstown's way. The Penguins won three of the first four games between the two, including two wins in Fargo in 2009 and 2011. The latter spoiled NDSU's perfect season, handing the Bison their only loss in that first championship season.
That was the background for this game in 2012. Youngstown came into this matchup with a 4-0 record and the number three ranking in the country. The Penguins had an FBS win in their back pocket as well, knocking off Pittsburgh earlier that season. Quarterback Kurt Hess was one of the best in the country and was poised to lead the Penguins to another win in Fargo.
NDSU entered this game after a major momentum win, beating Northern Iowa on the road for the first time since 1976. The Bison had dominated their first four opponents, which included Colorado State out of the Mountain West. The Bison beat the Rams 22-7 back in September.
This game featured the number one and three ranked teams in the country, which to this day is tied for the highest ranked game in Fargodome history. NDSU and SDSU were also ranked one and three when they played at the Dome in September of 2018. The crowd that day was also a record at the Dome, 19,065 were on hand for homecoming.
Wahpeton's Ryan Smith stole the show that day, racking up 172 all-purpose yards. Smith had a receiving touchdown and a punt return touchdown in what turned into a 48-7 rout of the Penguins.
#NDSUSeasonOpenerCountdown: #98: @TheRealMarcWill will have a couple of appearances on this countdown, his first comes on these two 98 yard touchdowns in 2012. A 98 yard pick 6 vs Youngstown and a 98 yard kickoff return vs Illinois State. pic.twitter.com/udGf03cm3U— Dom Izzo (@DomIzzoWDAY) May 25, 2019
Smith joins Dom Izzo and Jeff Kolpack to reflect on this game.