FARGO - For the third straight game, North Dakota State will face a senior quarterback who is on his third year as a starter. The challenge at Western Illinois on Saturday will be to control record-setter Sean McGuire.
The 6-foot-3, 228-pound McGuire set school records in passing touchdowns and passing yards in a loss at Illinois State last week. The previous marks were 30 years old.
"I've always been really impressed with McGuire," said NDSU head coach Chris Klieman. "He's a guy I like watching on film. I don't like watching live because he's a really good football player. But watching him over the last three years, he has tremendous poise."
Last week, NDSU had to overcome quarterback Eli Dunne's 362 passing yards in a 56-31 win at Northern Iowa. It was the second-best effort of Dunne's career behind 418 yards passing in 2016 against Missouri State.
NDSU had to deal with South Dakota State's Taryn Christion two weeks ago. The Bison got their first Dakota Marker win against Christion in three years.
In McGuire, the Bison will face a quarterback who spreads the field targeting a variety of receivers. The NDSU defense, however, has held him in check the last two years. McGuire had a combined no touchdown passes and three interceptions.
Both games were virtually identical. He was 17 of 28 for 185 yards in NDSU's 24-12 win at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome last season. McGuire completed 19 of 27 throws for 183 yards in a 21-13 NDSU win at WIU in 2016.
"You can hit him and he's going to stand right in the pocket and deliver the ball," Klieman said. "You talk about the starters in this league, there's another guy that can put a team on his back and carry them to a win."
McGuire has 8,269 career passing yards heading into the Bison game. In comparison, NDSU senior quarter Easton Stick has 6,792 passing yards.
"There's been a rich tradition of some pretty good quarterbacks who have played here," said WIU head coach Jared Elliott. "What makes him so special is all the intangibles and what he does off the field. Everything he's achieved he's worked for. The amount of work that young man has put in behind the scenes is remarkable."
Elliott calls McGuire a "contagious player" with the rest of his teammates who plays the game with a linebacker mentality.
"If you have a tough quarterback, you have a tough football team," he said.
Who: North Dakota State at Western Illinois
When: 6 p.m. Saturday
Where: Hanson Field, Macomb, Ill.
TV: KVLY (NBC Network)
Radio: 1660-AM, 107.9-FM, 92.7-FM