Grand Forks, N.D. Option quarterbacks typically are small and quick. Pittsburg State's Neal Philpot doesn't fit that mold.
"We're used to our quarterbacks being 5-foot-9, 185 pounds," said Chuck Broyles, head coach of the Kansas school that travels to Grand Forks on Saturday for an NCAA Div. II quarterfinal game against the Sioux.
"They'll run the 40 (yards) in 4.4 or 4.5 and not throw the ball very well," Broyles said. "Neal is quite different from that."
Philpot is 6-4 and 245 pounds. North Dakota (11-1) coach Dale Lennon said the quarterback's size changes the strategy of defending the option.
"Usually against the option, you like to get some big hits on the quarterback and try to rattle him," Lennon said. "We're concerned Philpot will get some big hits on our linebackers and rattle them.
"He can break tackles," Lennon said. "We'll want to wrap up and hang on."
While the size of quarterbacks at Pittsburg State (11-1) has changed, so has the entire Gorillas offense. When North Dakota and Pittsburg State met twice in the early 1990s, the Gorillas ran just a handful of plays and relied on execution. Now they use the shotgun passing formation and three wide receivers.
"Our offense isn't predicated on four or five running plays," Broyles said. "We used to throw maybe five times a game. Now we'll throw as many as 30 times."
The offense revolves around Philpot. He's the team's leading passer with 1,281 yards and 15 touchdowns, and also the leading rusher. He has 1,119 yards on the ground, averages 5.2 yards per carry and has scored 16 touchdowns.
Because of injuries, carries among the running backs have been spread around. Anthony Hankins (655 yards, 6.6 per-carry average) is now the featured back for Pittsburg, which has reached the playoffs in 12 of its 13 years in Division II.
The team's yardage is largely dependent upon Philpot's ability to read what the defense is giving up.
"Neal is not a quick starter, but he can make you miss in the open field and is fast once he gets going," Broyles said.
Lennon said he wishes that the Gorillas were as predictable as they were in the past. He was the defensive coordinator when the Sioux began solving the veer option that rival North Dakota State ran. Defending the veer was one of the keys in UND's emergence at the top of the North Central Conference during the last 10 years, but the Sioux have not seen the veer since 1996 and none of the current players have defended it.
"We've had some good success defending the veer, but the offense we'll see is much more complex," Lennon said. "You can't just pin your ears back and go like we did at that time. There's a lot more to prepare for now."
Pittsburg's defense will be tested, too. Sioux quarterback Kelby Klosterman has thrown for 2,429 yards and 23 touchdowns this season and also can scramble out of trouble for big gains.
Klosterman threw six touchdown passes in UND's 42-28 opening-round playoff win over Winona (Minn.) State, tying an NCAA Division II playoff record for touchdown passes in a game.
Both teams also have strong defenses, each leading their conference in fewest points allowed and fewest yards allowed. The Gorillas have three shutouts and have held five opponents to a touchdown or less. UND has held six opponents to 10 points or less.