ESPN visits Fargodome for Top 10 clash

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After hosting the pregame "SportsCenter on the Road" on Saturday, North Dakota State would like to provide some victorious highlights for ESPN that afternoon.

The network will broadcast the program from Fargo for the third straight year from Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome prior to No. 3 North Dakota State's homecoming game against a No. 10 Northern Iowa team that dealt the four-time defending champions their only defeat last season.

"We are excited to have another opportunity to feature our university and athletic program in front of a national television audience," director of athletics Matt Larsen told the school's official website. "Our fans are a big part of our success, and we want as many of them as possible to be part of this special event."

They'll get to see the Bison try to extend their run after winning their last three games by an average of 24.3 points. Star quarterback Carson Wentz completed 19 of 27 passes for 183 yards and a touchdown and also ran for 54 yards and a score in last Saturday's 28-7 win over South Dakota State in Brookings.

Senior cornerback C.J. Smith played a key role in helping North Dakota State hold stud receiver Jake Wieneke to just three catches for 39 yards. The sophomore had totaled 26 receptions for 528 yards and six scores in his first three games.

Since Smith has returned after missing a season-opening 38-35 loss at Montana due to injury, the Bison have allowed an average 10.0 points and 168.3 yards in three games. They've also held opponents to a combined zero rushing yards in the last two.

"More game experience has helped us with some of the young guys on the defensive front," coach Chris Klieman said. "In the coverage aspect of it, there's no question that C.J.'s arrival back from missing the Montana game was a big lift for us."

Klieman's squad had won 33 consecutive games by an average of 23.5 points before Northern Iowa pulled off a stunning 23-3 home win last November. The Panthers got 138 rushing yards from David Johnson - now in the NFL with Arizona - and held Wentz to 15-of-25 passing for 132 yards, picking him off once.

Northern Iowa, which had dropped the previous three meetings by an average of seven points, now hopes to snap North Dakota State's 25-game home winning streak.

The Panthers dropped their Missouri Valley Conference opener last Saturday, 21-13 at No. 4 Illinois State. They played tough defensively, limiting a Redbirds team that had totaled 101 points and 933 yards in its previous two games to 241 total yards.

"On the defensive side, they're playing very well," Klieman said. "They shut down a really good Illinois State team, especially in the second half. We'll have our hands full. They've always played (us) really well, particularly on defense."

Northern Iowa, though, will try to get its offense on track after struggling to produce points while managing a season-low 250 total yards last weekend. Sophomore Aaron Bailey completed 7 of 17 passes for 108 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions, while senior Sawyer Kollmorgen was 5 of 14 for 38 yards and a pick.

"Bailey has had a couple good games and a couple that weren't so hot," Panthers coach Mark Farley said.