North Dakota State vs Iowa State football: Getting to know the Bison defense


While the offense may be missing some major pieces from the 3-straight FCS championship run, North Dakota State’s staple and a big reason why they’ve been so successful is on the defensive side of the ball. One key to defeating FBS teams at the beginning of the season was to make things hard for the opponent to do anything on offense, and they’ll have the same threat against Iowa State coming into this year.

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Starting lineup

  • LE: Mike Hardie (91, Sr)
  • DT: Nate Tanguay (99, RFr)
  • NG: Brian Schaetz (61, Jr)
  • RE: Kyle Emanuel (53, Sr)
  • SLB: Esley Thorton (9, Sr)
  • MLB: Carlton Littlejohn (38, Sr)
  • WLB: Travis Beck (52, Sr)
  • CB: CJ Smith (6, Jr)
  • SS: Colten Heagle (20, Sr)
  • FS: Christian Dudzik (35, Sr)
  • CB: Jordan Champion (5, Jr)

Outside of defensive tackle (where the Cyclones are facing their own problems), the entire defense is littered with juniors and seniors. Carlton Littlejohn, who’s one of their spotlight defenders at linebacker, started at Sam before moving over to Mike in the last six games of the year. He led the team with 89 total tackles (40 solo), seven of them recorded for a loss.

Kyle Emanuel, Travis Beck, CJ Smith, Colten Heagle, and Christian Dudzik all started every game last season. Heagle, Beck, and Dudzik were all in the top five in total team tackles. Emanuel led the team with an astonishing 10 tackles for loss and 7.5 sacks. Smith had 15 pass deflections and 3 interceptions. Dudzik led the team with 6 interceptions.

Last season, the defense was near the top of the FCS and definitely a threat to break through the opponent’s offensive line. As a team last year, they recorded 81 tackles for loss and  44 sacks — most of that production is coming back in 2014.

Iowa State will have one of the toughest challenges in the nation by facing this defense on Saturday, especially with having to install a brand new scheme. Hopefully they’ll come out a little less unscathed than the season opener last year against Northern Iowa.