North Dakota State, the No. 1 seed in the NCAA Football Championships and the top-ranked FCS team in the nation, brings a 13-1 record into Saturday's finals at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco.
The Bison feature the nation's top-ranked defense and a talented array of offensive talent.
North Dakota State leads FCS football this season in both total defense (223.3 yards per game) and scoring defense.
Offensively, quarterback Brock Jensen has thrown for 2,216 yards and 17 touchdowns while running backs Sam Ojuri and John Crockett have combined for 1,911 yards rushing and 19 touchdowns. Crockett has rushed for 956 yards and nine scores while Ojuri has 955 yards and 10 touchdowns to his credit.
Last week, North Dakota State head coach Craig Bohl faced questions about the upcoming NCAA Division I championship game in Frisco. Here were his responses:
Q. What is the biggest challenge your team faces headed into the 2013 championship game Saturday?
COACH BOHL: Last year we had certainly a more veteran football team. I think we had six starters on the team who are seniors, several were fifth year seniors and we had I think four or five on defense. So you know, we are not near as veteran, so the maturity level working through a playoff and making sure you're able to play at a high level every week, that's more challenging.
Q. Is there one thing you feel like you notice from opponents that maybe you didn't run into last year as defending national champions?
COACH BOHL: I think the obvious one is each week as you go in, you're not going to take anybody by surprise but you're going to get everyone's best shot. That usually comes into play from about the middle of the first quarter and after that it's playing football. Outside of that, it's been a very rigorous year just like last year.
Q. Going to Frisco, that was a completely new experience for all the players involved. What could be the one thing, not as much a game plan but also in preparation, whether it be practice or film or whatever, what's the one thing you'll do differently this year from last year?
COACH BOHL: I don't know, I thought our preparations last year were pretty significant. We have had to alter our practice routines a little bit because of weather and facility issues and so that's probably the main difference.
Q. Because it's the same two teams, the same three‑week build up, is the feeling the same or is it different? Is there a comfort level this time around?
COACH BOHL: Certainly familiarity comes into play and I'm sure Coach Fritz and Sam Houston feel the same way. You go through the first time and you look at your preparation and what the environment is going to be like and all the different settings.
Pretty much all that is the same as what it was last year, other than we are going to wear different color jerseys and so are they. From that standpoint, I don't think there's any built‑in advantages because we are playing a team that's been through the same experience that we have. It does feel different but nonetheless, it does not feel any less exciting.
Q. What do you think gets overlooked about your offense?
COACH BOHL: I think they do a great job of taking care of the football and time of possession. We have been able to maintain long drives and have a good turnover margin, stay on the field. We have been able to control the football particularly when we get the lead and all those things to leverage our defense and also it has put our offense in good position.
Q. Can you talk about Brock Jensen's development?
COACH BOHL: He's been a two‑year starter, actually a three‑year starter. I've been in a lot of big ballgames. He always seems to rise to his best when he plays in the biggest games and a lot of that, I guess that's his competitive nature because he always prepares very well. He's been a guy that has got the skill to throw the football short and deep and then also the toughness to run the football.
Q. You had mentioned your practice routine is altered a bit; have you been practicing in odd places?
COACH BOHL: Well, we have been able to stay inside the dome. We have just had to alter our days a little bit here and there and put a little bit different times, but nonetheless, I think we are on task.
Q. You know, last year one of the big plays was that fake punt, and I've covered enough games to see that you have a lot of things up your sleeve and usually they seem to work. What's the key to pulling that off I guess?
COACH BOHL: Having good players is the most important thing. And every ballgame, you all look at things to try to find an edge and certainly last year that proved to be a good play in the game. And the other thing I think, too, is typically if you do tons of different fakes, that can cause problems and we have got done a lot of those things, so maybe that added some surprise.
Q. How is their offense different this year from last, if at all?
COACH BOHL: It is different. They have a different play‑caller, and their quarterback is throwing the ball significantly better. And so they have got a lot more threats. Last year, while they threw the ball some, they were not near as effective as what they are this year and so that's going to really stress our defense.
Q. You guys have a week to prepare for the game. How are you feeling about getting down to Frisco and starting practice down there and going through that whole routine?
COACH BOHL: Well, what we have found typically is by the time you get to Frisco, most of your game plan is going to be pretty much entrenched and all you're really trying to do is just get yourself acclimated to surroundings. There are a lot of festivities that are for the student athlete, and so we want to make sure that we are focused on the game plan at hand before we are able to get down there. Because once you get down there, between different luncheons and pictures and press conferences and other activities, there's really not near as much time to really get focused on the game.
Q. Talk about their defense? Only allowed two rushing touchdowns versus FCS opponents. How are you looking to attack them?
COACH BOHL: Well, I appreciate you bringing that up, because much has been talked about their offense and defensively, you've got a lot of skill guys. You've got an All‑American safety who is at the point of attack. Great tackling group; I don't know if we placed a better tackling defense all year long; I know we haven't. A lot of speed on defense, a lot of times that's big plays and structurally the guys are in the right spot. So you have got really good players with a lot of speed and that have good ability that are in the right spot and as a result, that's a difficult defense to move the ball against.
Q. You talked about going down to Frisco and not getting a lot done because of the pageantry; I know that's part of the experience, trying to give the players the experience, do you particularly like that or do you enjoy that or is that just something that's a distraction? How do you look at all that stuff?
COACH BOHL: Well, certainly, it is not a distraction if you handle it right. I think NCAA and team Frisco has really done a great job to enrich or heighten the championship event for our student athletes. And so there's a lot of, as you said, pageantry or activities and all those things are great and they are well meaning. But we need to be able to do is to enjoy those things and not allow those things to become more important than the task at hand and the task at hand is getting ourselves to go down and play great on Saturday the 5th. That's our approach.
We have talked to our players about that and it's nice that we are here, there's no school, no anything else in football and so we are really grinding away getting our guys prepared so they can enjoy those events.