While fans of the North Dakota State University football team, and presumably the entire town of Fargo, head to Frisco, Texas, there are several things on their minds. Where are we going to eat? Where are we going to drink? Where are we going to sit at the Pep Rally? How much are we going to be Towson University by?
All of those things are reasonable questions but the one question that I keep coming back to is about Towson’s dynamic junior running back Terrance West. Can NDSU shut down this elite running back? The answer to this question every time it has been asked this year has been a resounding yes.
Before I try and convince you, and perhaps myself, why this running back is different than say a Zach Zenner, let me give you some facts on Terrance West.
A Baltimore native, he was recruited out of high school by ACC schools like Maryland and Clemson. Unfortunately, his academics were not up to snuff and he had to go to prep school for a year.
Even after that year, his grades were not up to ACC standards and so he went searching for another school to play football at. Rob Ambrose, the head coach for Towson University, ended up convincing West that Towson was the school for him.
Ever since then, West has been a beast for the Tigers, racking up 4,750 yards and 83 touchdowns on the ground in his three years at Towson. What is more amazing is that nearly half of his career totals have come in one season alone.
So far this year, he has run for 2,410 yards and 40 touchdowns on the season. Only three times this season has West been held under a 100 yards rushing and in one of those games he had over 100 yards receiving. He also is a touchdown machine. Only once this season has he not had a multi-touchdown game.
He has the size, listed at 5’11” and 233 pounds, and speed to run between the tackles or outside of them. He doesn’t need a dominate offensive line to be good. He just needs five guys to put a body on a defender to be effective.
The Bison defense has allowed 100 yards or more rushing this season six times but has faced game changing running backs, like West, only three times. Zach Zenner of South Dakota State, David Johnson of Northern Iowa and Lorenzo Taliaferro of Coastal Carolina are the three running backs that come to mind.
NDSU held Zenner to four yards and no touchdowns, they held Taliaferro to 53 yards and a score and Johnson ended up with 142 yards and a score. Johnson’s numbers are a bit skewed since over half of those yards came on an 85-yard touchdown run.
Taking all these things into consideration, the biggest factor in Saturday’s game for Towson is the amount of carriers West receives. With Zenner, SDSU only handed the ball to him eight times. Johnson only carried the ball 12 times and Taliaferro carried it 11 times.
West comes into Saturday’s game averaging 26 carries a game while the team averages about 45 carries a game. NDSU will need to get Towson out of their comfort zone, which is running the ball, quickly. Otherwise, once West starts to get into a rhythm, it is tough to get him out of it.
Outside of West and his running, this team does not possess much else. The defense is a risk taking defense but they give up a lot of yards through the air. The quarterback is banged up and nothing special. The receiving core does not have one guy that worries you.
It will be on West to keep Towson in this game and lead them to the victory. Otherwise, we will be seeing NDSU completing three-peat.
You can follow Daniel "Pinto" Gunderson on Twitter at @pintoKFGO or friend him on Facebook. You can hear him on his weekly podcast show on kfgo.com, 740thefan.com or on iTunes called “The Pinto and White Shadow Show.” Pinto is a radio producer within the Midwest Communications-Fargo company.