Photos: North Dakota State Athletics & South Dakota State Athletics

Offensive Line Will Be In The Spotlight For The 2023 FCS National Championship

Offensive line dominance has played a large role for both North Dakota State & South Dakota State throughout each of their paths to Frisco for the 2023 FCS National Championship. The Bison average 273.3 rushing yards per game, which ranks third in the country for the season, while South Dakota State has averaged 239.6 rushing yards per game throughout their FCS Playoff run. Both programs have allowed less than 18 sacks this season and both rank inside the Top-40 nationally in sacks allowed. 

The Bison offensive line is led by FCS All-Americans Cody Mauch and Nash Jensen. Mauch and Jensen have a combined 130 games of experience for the Bison, which make them one of the most experienced duos in the entire country. Mauch spoke about the importance of chemistry and continuity for the Bison offensive line at the NCAA FCS National Championship press conference on Wednesday.

“I think it’s how well we mesh with each other. That’s the reason we play so well on Saturdays because it’s a position where you’ve got to trust all five guys, even if you’re not necessarily playing next to a guy, but you’ve got to be able to trust him for what calls they’re making off the edge or anything like that. The bonds that we’ve built in the offseason and off the field is a big reason why we play well together and we mesh so well.”

The South Dakota State offensive line is also led by multiple FCS All-Americans as Mason McCormick and Garrett Greenfield both earned that honor this season. McCormick highlighted the importance of building close relationships along the offensive line and credited the success of this season to the tight bonds that the offensive formed before the season.

“I think we’ve had some really good offensive lines. I would argue that this is probably the closest our offensive line has ever been. We’re honestly a bunch of best friends and there’s really no bickering back and forth when people mess up. Everybody’s got confidence in each other and that definitely allows for a more relaxed approach and just go out there and execute to our best ability.”

The matchups along the line of scrimmage will play a major role in the outcome of this matchup in Frisco. Both defensive line units are loaded with talent as the Jacks lead the FCS in rushing defense (82.9 Yards Per Game) and the Bison rank sixth in the country in total sacks (38 Sacks) this season. South Dakota State is led by two FCS All-Americans in Caleb Sanders and Reece Winkelman, while FCS All-American Spencer Waege has been unblockable at times for the Bison defense this season. Both Mauch and McCormick spoke about the challenges of facing talented defensive lines for the second time this season. 

Mauch: “I think one of the biggest things is just how hard they play. They’re similar to our defensive line in the fact that they have their four guys, but then they have another four guys ready to go and they’ll rotate a lot of people. So there’s always fresh guys in there and no matter who you have in there, if you are on the backside of a play, you know you have to hold your block longer because it could be a backside defensive end chasing the ball down and making a play ten yards downfield.”

McCormick: “They’re physical, they’re big. I think the biggest thing North Dakota State has done over teams is how hard they play and they play football the right way and it’s definitely fun to be apart of that. I really enjoy playing teams that play the game the right way and just best on best.”

South Dakota State and North Dakota State will bring the Dakota Marker rivalry to Frisco, TX on January 8 as kickoff is at 2pm/ET on ABC.

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