Northern Iowa next challenge for Bison defense

Fargo, ND ( - It's like choosing between Halle Berry and Jennifer Lopez, or Channing Tatum and Justin Timberlake.

North Dakota State football coach Craig Bohl thinks he may have narrowed down his dominating defense's best performance in recent years to last Saturday's 20-0 smothering of South Dakota State and Zach Zenner.

"Just off the top of my head, I would say so," Bohl looks back on the win. "During the course of the game, we felt like we had good control of the game. And they're a good offense also. Yeah, I would probably say so. Maybe statistically that would verify that also."

Zenner entered last Saturday's game as the leading rusher in the FCS, but he was held to four yards on eight carries. SDSU managed only nine first downs and 123 yards in the top-ranked Bison's second straight shutout.

North Dakota State has won two straight FCS national titles, posting some outstanding defensive statistics in the process. This season, the Bison rank first in the nation in scoring defense (7.8 points per game) and second in total defense (244.3 yards per game).

On Saturday, the Bison will seek another big effort when fourth-ranked Northern Iowa visits the Fargodome. The two powers, both 4-0 overall, have won or shared the last three Missouri Valley Football Conference championships.

UNI has won four consecutive road games, dating back to last season, for the first time since the 2008 season and holds a 25-20 series lead over North Dakota State, although the Bison have won the last two meetings, including 33-21 in Cedar Falls, Iowa, last season.

The North Dakota State defense, led by All-America linebacker Grant Olson and cornerback Marcus Williams, but blessed with numerous standouts, must slow the Missouri Valley's No. 2 rusher, David Johnson, as well as UNI quarterback Sawyer Kollmorgen, who is second in the conference in pass efficiency and has thrown eight touchdowns without an interception in 96 attempts.