North Dakota State football rounds out non-conference play by hosting a school not seen by NDSU since the pandemic, Central Arkansas.
The Bears from the newly formed United Athletic Conference came to Fargo in 2020 for the lone football game the Bison played during the 2020 fall season. That game was also Trey Lance's last in a Bison jersey and Central Arkansas gave NDSU all they could handle as the herd outscored the Bears 21-8 in the 4th quarter to get the come-from-behind win, 39-28.
Central Arkansas comes into the Fargodome with a 1-1 record, losing their opener at Oklahoma State, 27-13 and last week obliterating NAIA Texas College, 70-2. The Bison are in for their greatest defensive challenge so far this season as the Bears have the 5th-ranked offense in FCS averaging a little over 41 points per contest. The offense is led by former Northern Iowa quarterback, Will McElvain. He has passed for 323 yards and 3 touchdowns so far as well as a 66.7 completion percentage. The Bears can also run the ball as their leading rusher ShunDerrick Powell an all-American last season at North Alabama has run for 158 yards and two touchdowns, he also averages 10.5 yards per carry. The Bears use three running backs like the Bison, all of which have over 100 yards rushing on the season, Powell with 158, Kylin James with 129, and Darius Hale with 101.
The Bears also present a tough task for the Bison offense as Central Arkansas has the ninth-ranked defense, giving up 14.8 points a game. They are a stingy group that doesn't give a ton on the ground, they rank 21st in rushing defense giving up 107 yards a game. Where NDSU can exploit this defense is by passing the ball, UCA gives up 185.5 yards a game through the air and have allowed four passing touchdowns.
For NDSU to be successful in this game they must throw the ball effectively and efficiently. That will setup their ground game that has been to be generous underwhelming so far from the running back position. The Bison quarterbacks have been excellent so far this season but the offense as a whole has struggled in the middle of games. The Bison hope this is the week they go back to a consistent powerful ground game and play action pass game.
The Bison host the Central Arkansas Bears on Saturday, September 16th at 2:30 inside the Fargodome.