As former North Dakota State defensive end Cole Jirik said, the Bison play South Dakota State for a trophy. But it’s Northern Iowa week they circle on the calendar. While it’s true NDSU vs. UNI is the game where the hits get bigger and the post-play extracurriculars go a bit longer, the NDSU-SDSU rivalry has gotten much more bitter in the last year on the field and between fan bases.
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What was once a friendly rivalry between two programs who made the Division I transition together has turned feisty, fierce and sometimes petty. And all it took was a 19-17 Jackrabbit win last October, snapping an eight-game losing streak.
The winning side was confident after and bragged. Understandable. The losing side was annoyed and said wait and see who has the last laugh. Also understandable. But it was no secret the animosity was growing.
If you’re on the Jackrabbit side, you don’t like NDSU because it has soaked in all the spotlight during the 2010s while you’ve had a solid program yourself, but have been eliminated three times by the Bison in the playoffs. You’re annoyed of their fans because any time you tweet something positive about your team, there’s always someone replying with a photo of five national championships.
If you’re on the Bison side, you don’t like SDSU because, after one win last season, the Jackrabbits believed they were taking over the Missouri Valley Football Conference. You’re annoyed of the jabs and subtweets coming from Brookings.
It all reared its ugly head on social media before, during and after the two MVFC co-champs met in the FCS quarterfinals.
As they should have, the Jackrabbits treated the win and bringing the Dakota Marker back to Brookings as a huge deal. When NDSU fans trolled, SDSU, probably regrettable in hindsight, responded.
After both teams finished the conference schedule at 7-1, one Jackrabbit assistant didn’t like the idea of sharing the title with the Bison.
Fast forward to the playoffs, the football gods gave us all a treat, matching NDSU and SDSU up in the quarterfinals as the No. 1 vs. No. 8 seeds. The anticipation and tension built all the way until gameday.
After quickly falling behind 10-0, the Bison began to dominate the game en route to a 36-10 win, much to the liking of a former NDSU quarterback.
And the satisfaction of victory was shown by former players and current Bison assistant coaches.
During the postgame press conference, NDSU head coach Chris Klieman was asked plenty of times about the revenge factor. He didn’t take the bait, but did say “motivated” or “motivation” several times.
A week later in the semifinals, the Bison’s run of five straight national championships came to an end in the Fargodome when James Madison won convincingly 27-17. An SDSU assistant coach fired off one last zinger.
But hey, why stop there. The summer suddenly turned into a subtweet battle of who had the best football camp. Yes, really.
One former NDSU football player who grew up in South Dakota wasn’t impressed.
While it was all fun and games on which Twitter account could win the world pettyweight championship, it turns serious this week when NDSU visits Brookings. The Jackrabbits came into this season with national championship aspirations. They have had an underwhelming season so far with two losses, but the Jacks still have one of the most talented offenses in the country.
Meanwhile, the Bison want the Dakota Marker back. And they want to show who still runs the MVFC.
Many people in the offseason said the gap between SDSU and NDSU is shrinking quickly. We’ll get our first chance to see how true that is Saturday.