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Montana and its 'street cred' set for second round playoff matchup vs. Bison

North Dakota State and the Grizzlies haven't played since the 2015 playoffs

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North Dakota State's Brian Schaetz tackles Montana quarterback Brady Gustafson as teammate Jalen Allison, background, intercepts the pass and returns it for a touchdown in the 2015 FCS playoffs at the Fargodome.
David Samson / The Forum
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FARGO — They’re neighboring states with storied football programs. But North Dakota State and the University of Montana haven’t met all that often since the Bison moved to Division I FCS football in 2004.

The 2:30 p.m. second round playoff game Saturday at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome will be the first between the two schools since 2015. That was the year the teams played twice; the season-opener at Montana that resulted in a 38-35 Grizzlies win and a playoff game later that season in December, which was a 37-6 NDSU victory.

Montana earned its way to Fargo this weekend with a 34-24 win over Southeast Missouri State in the first round last Saturday night. NDSU is seeded third in the 24-team tournament and had a first-round bye.

Montana has the FCS record for most consecutive playoff appearances with 17 set from 1993-2009. But NDSU is gaining on that mark with its 13th in a row this season.

“It’s a fun time of the year at NDSU preparing for the second round of the playoffs,” said NDSU head coach Matt Entz.”We’re going to start with another program that has great tradition, great success. This is a program that has a lot of street cred to it. The kids know who Montana is."

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NDSU is preparing with fullback Hunter Luepke highly doubtful. The senior is continuing to get other medical opinions on his injured shoulder, Entz said. Luepke was hurt at Southern Illinois three weeks ago.

Count University of Montana head coach Bobby Hauck as probably not expecting NDSU’s NFL draft pick hopeful to play.

“We probably have got to prepare a little bit for him to be in the game,” said Hauck at his weekly Monday press conference.

But the news on standout defensive lineman Eli Mostaert continues to be more promising. He’s been out with a broken leg suffered in early September against North Carolina A&T.

“He’s running, that always makes me smile when I see guys running in practice,” Entz said. “When they start running I want to know why they can’t be playing but our medical staff doesn’t quite see it the same way I do.”

Entz said tight end Joe Stoffel, injured in the last regular season game against North Dakota, is jogging in practice and is listed day-to-day. Stoffel is the second starting Bison tight end to miss time. Noah Gindorff has been out for the season after undergoing surgery after the University of Arizona game in September.

NDSU will enter the Montana game having won 38 straight after an open week. That streak includes 21 home games, eight road games and nine title games in Frisco, Texas. It also gave the Bison time to rest and further put behind the news of three contributing players entering the transfer portal in cornerback Marques Sigle, running back Dom Gonnella and receiver DJ Hart.

“I tried to put it behind me as quickly as I could,” Entz said. “You guys know me well enough, I probably took it personal when those three young men came in and said they were moving on. But as you sit back and reassess and analyze things, what I’m excited about now is we get the opportunity to find three other young men who want to be here and we get to coach the heck out of the guys that are currently here.”

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Entz didn’t rule out looking at younger players on his roster for this week.

“I think that was one of the benefits of last week, we did a ton of drill work special teams-wise just trying to identify who’s elevated themselves since August until now,” Entz said. “Who can help us on a kickoff cover, who can help us on a punt team or a punt return somewhere if we need them to. “But we’re going to redshirt as many kids as we can just because of the nature of the COVID year and how that impacts our roster management right now.”

On the honors front, the Bison put eight players on the all-Missouri Valley Football Conference first team led by Luepke's dual selection as a fullback and all-purpose player. Others were left tackle Cody Mauch, left guard Nash Jensen, defensive end Spencer Waege, linebacker James Kaczor and safeties Dawson Weber and Michael Tutsie. Long snapper Hunter Brozio was a second team pick.

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Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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