North Dakota State to begin title defense

North Dakota State will begin defense of the FCS national championship when its kicks off its 116th season by hosting Robert Morris on Saturday.

The Bison claimed the 2011 FCS championship in Frisco, Texas, with a 17-6 victory over Sam Houston State. They played a record 15 games last season, winning 14 of them, the most since 1990 when the Bison went 14-0 and won the NCAA Division II championship.

NDSU's defense was very solid last year, leading the FCS in scoring defense (12.7 ppg) and ranking eighth in turnover margin (plus-1.20 per game), 16th in pass efficiency defense (110.53), 17th in rushing defense (118.73 ypg) and 20th in total defense (315.93 ypg). The defense allowed only 27 points in four FCS playoff games.

Coach Craig Bohl returns 13 starters, highlighted by running back Sam Ojuri, quarterback Brock Jensen, cornerback Marcus Williams and strong safety Colten Heagle. But he also must replace a handful of key players, including the team's top three leading tacklers, the leading receiver and two experienced offensive linemen.

This is the second meeting between North Dakota State and Robert Morris. The Bison beat the Colonials, 43-17, in the opening round of the 2010 FCS playoffs in Fargo.

North Dakota State has compiled a 238-36-3 record at home since 1964. For the first time, it will play on AstroTurf's GameDay Grass 3D60 infilled turf, which was installed in the Fargo Dome this summer.

The next two most-recent national champions, Villanova (2009) and Eastern Washington (2010), lost their season opener to FBS competition in the following season.