FARGO - North Dakota State and the University of Delaware have never met on the football field, a series that will debut Saturday at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. The Blue Hens are nothing new to Bison head coach Chris Klieman, however.
As the defensive coordinator for Northern Iowa, he was tasked with trying to control the Delaware offense in the 2007 FCS quarterfinals. The Delaware quarterback was Joe Flacco and it didn't turn out well for the Panthers.
Their season ended at home in the UNI-Dome with a 39-27 loss to the Blue Hens.
"It wasn't very good, we couldn't tackle him," Klieman said. "He dialed us up pretty good. He put a good whupping on us."
Klieman said getting a handle on the 6-foot-6 Flacco was hard-and the Panthers had some top-caliber FCS defensive linemen at the time. Klieman likened Flacco to former Bison quarterback Carson Wentz with his arm strength and sheer size.
"He was a first round talent," Klieman said. "He's probably similar to what people see when they see Carson when you saw that kid on the field, how big he was. He was 6-6 and 240 pounds and I'm like, holy cow, how are we going to bring this guy down? That was a nightmare of a game."
Delaware reached the title game that season losing 49-21 to Appalachian State, which was the third straight title for the Mountaineers.
Flacco was a first round draft choice in 2008 of the Baltimore Ravens. He was the 2012 Super Bowl most valuable player for the Ravens.
Blue Hen QB adjusts to receiver
Delaware's top receiver was formerly the team's starting quarterback. Joe Walker has 12 receptions and two touchdowns in three games at a position where he's spending his senior year.
He started 10 games each at quarterback as a freshman and sophomore and started the first five last season before being replaced by J.P. Caruso. He made the switch to receiver in the offseason.
"It's somewhat rare to have the abilities to do both positions at a high level and to be able to make the transition and make it relatively seamlessly," said Delaware head coach Danny Rocco. "It also takes an unselfish person."
Walker had a storied high school career at Martin Luther King High School in Philadelphia, throwing 48 career touchdown passes. That was a Public League record.
"Joe is a captain and he's a captain for all the right reasons," Rocco said. "He is committed to this football team.
Redbirds seeking FBS win
It's a light week around the Missouri Valley Football Conference with only three non-conference games schedule before league play kicks off next week. Northern Iowa is a heavy favorite hosting Hampton, but the other two including the Bison game have some heavyweight implications.
Illinois State is at Colorado State with the Valley looking for its first FBS win of the season. So far the league is 0-7.
The Rams can throw the ball. They're 11th in the country in passing at 336.8 yards per game against one Pac-12 Conference opponent and two from the SEC.
"They know who they're playing, they see the size of the venues and who they've played," said Illinois State head coach Brock Spack. "Our players know what they're up against. We have guys who played at Northwestern a couple of years ago. We've played at North Dakota State which is a difficult place to play."
The Redbirds beat Northwestern 9-7 in 2016.