AMES — It’s no secret in the halls of the Iowa State football offices what the challenges of playing North Dakota State will be.
The Bison are coming off their third-straight FCS national championship and own a 24-game winning streak. It’s an NDSU squad that also took down Kansas State in Manhattan, Kan. in last year’s season opener and hasn’t lost to an FBS program since 2009.
“They have our kids’ full attention and they should,” ISU Coach Paul Rhoads said Monday. “We’re going to need great preparation the rest of the week to put us on the field and give us an opportunity come Saturday morning.”
The team that beat the Bison in 2009? Iowa State.
That win against North Dakota State came in Rhoads’ first game as a head coach. Now in his sixth year at the helm, Rhoads sees similarities in how the coaching staff views the players and how people on the outside may view the program.
“There’s not a lot of expectations for the 2014 group (and) there was certainly not a lot of expectations for the 2009 group,” Rhoads said. “They were coachable, we’re coachable.”
ISU players know all too well the other side of playing an FCS opponent after losing to UNI in last year’s season opener. The 28-20 Panther win was a bit of a shock to the system of the players in Cardinal and Gold, which is why center Tom Farniok feels there was a change in focus by the players this fall during camp.
“It motivates us to not let us happen again,” Farniok said of last year’s loss to an FCS program. “Whatever point spread people say, (North Dakota State thinks) they should come in here and win and we’re coming in here thinking we should win.”
Defensive end Cory Morrissey sees the season openers every year as a game that can set the tone for the entire season. He said starting fast will be as important as ever against North Dakota State.
The Bison are primarily an old-school offense with a fullback and tight end set. In studying film of the team, Morrissey said he’ll have to be ready to shed blocks from a variety of the NDSU players.
“I’ve always got to be on my toes,” Morrissey said.
Named the starting quarterback on Aug. 18, junior Sam Richardson said coming out fast offensively is all that is on his mind. He was hampered by injuries almost immediately last year, but started eight games as a sophomore and threw for more than 240 yards in the first four games.
Richardson said he’s been treating them just like any other FBS school Iowa State will face, and the Bison aren’t known for giving up many freebies.
“I think defensive-wise, they’re not going to mess up any assignments or anything like that,” Richardson said. “You’re not going to get many free ones out there so you just have to play a sound football game to stick with them.”