Christion leads SDSU into game against Bison with different trophy ramifications
South Dakota State senior quarterback Taryn Christion has a 2-2 career record as a starter against North Dakota State.
FARGO — During the regular season, rivals North Dakota State and South Dakota State play for the Dakota Marker trophy. The stakes have been raised for Friday's NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision semifinal game at Gate City Bank at the Fargodome.
The winner earns a trip to Frisco, Texas, with a chance to play for another piece of hardware.
“Now, you’re talking about competing for a national championship trophy, an opportunity. It’s a bit of a different twist," SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “They’ve been there, done that. We haven’t. So we need to change that situation.”
The No. 5-seeded Jackrabbits (10-2) come to the Fargodome for the FCS semifinals armed with a quarterback who has had success in the facility. SDSU senior Taryn Christion has a 2-2 record as a starter against the Bison, including a 19-17 victory at the Fargodome during the 2016 regular season.
The top-seeded Bison (13-0) earned a 21-17 victory against SDSU in Fargo earlier this season.
“It definitely adds to the rivalry, especially with what’s at stake now," Christion said. "It’s not just a regular-season game. It’s win or go home, and in this instance, it’s go to Frisco or go home. Definitely both sides want to be in Frisco.”
The 6-foot-2, 225-pound Christion has completed 187 of 314 passes this season for 2,840 yards and 30 touchdowns against seven interceptions. He's led the Jackrabbits to six consecutive victories entering the semifinals.
“I think we have a bunch guys that look at him and say, ‘I want to grow up and be like Taryn Christion,’ because of the type of guy he is,” Stiegelmeier said.
Christion is set to make his fourth career start in the Fargodome on Friday. He thinks that familiarity with the loud Fargodome atmosphere should help the Jackrabbits.
“A lot of it just stems from experience, having played up there before, having played in big games like this," said Christion, a four-year starter. "That’s really where a lot of the calming of the nerves and everything comes down to. ... It definitely helps to have a lot of guys that have had experience playing up there.”
Both teams feature a wealth of experience and success at quarterback. Christion has a 33-10 career record as a starter. Bison senior Easton Stick has a 47-3 career mark. The Bison are playing in the semifinals for an eighth consecutive season. The Jackrabbits are making their second consecutive trip to the FCS semis.
“I think it’s probably the two best quarterbacks right now in FCS football." Stiegelmeier said. "You’re going to see great play of two guys, great leaders out of two guys. ... I think two guys that will do anything they can — run, pass, lead — to win this football game. I believe in our guy, Taryn, and I know Easton very well, having recruited him and talking to him after games.”
SDSU took a 51-16 loss at James Madison last season in the FCS semifinals, an outcome that has fueled the Jackrabbits this season.
“Our guys are motivated from last year’s locker room," Stiegelmeier said of the James Madison game. “They are going to try to take a step for this team and those guys from last year.”
Christion passed for 234 yards and two touchdowns in last season's semifinal game, but also threw six interceptions.
Stiegelmeier said his team will be ready Friday.
“The bigger the game, the less we say," Stiegelmeier said. "We have great, great senior leaders on this team. I think they will say the right things and do the right things at the appropriate time. I’m going to say very little.”