Bison offense: highly efficient, productive
FARGO — True, and there’s no debating it, the nonconference schedule for North Dakota State in the last month was two-thirds soft and one-third pretty good — although that game ended up being a rout, also. And there’s also no debating this either: The offense was pretty good, no matter how you slice it.
NDSU enters Missouri Valley Football Conference play Saturday, Sept. 30, against Missouri State as the top-scoring team in Division I FCS football, averaging 56.0 points per game. Most of that came on the heels of scoring 72 against Mississippi Valley State and 56 against Robert Morris University, but putting up 40 in a road win at Eastern Washington is nothing to sneeze at, either.
“We’ve been happy so far how we’ve moved the football as an offense, how we’ve done throwing the ball and how we’ve been efficient,” said quarterback Easton Stick. “It helps when the offensive line is moving people and gashing people in the run game, so that opens things up. We’ll continue to lean on those five guys up front and whoever is rotating in there and they’ll carry us through the Valley.”
Stick, in the process, is quietly moving up the NDSU career charts. The junior is fifth in career passing yards with 3,864, fifth in passing touchdowns with 36, sixth in completions at 288 and seventh in attempts at 475.
He has not thrown an interception this year and has gone 85 straight attempts without a pick, going back to the FCS quarterfinal playoff game against South Dakota State last year. Stick had a streak of 113 attempts without an interception as a freshman. The school record is 143 set by Carson Wentz set in 2014-15.
Perhaps more impressive for Stick — and again it may be padded, taking the competition into account — is his completion percentage. He’s 29 of 40 for an accuracy of 73 percent.
“Just continuing to be comfortable with what we’re doing offensively,” he said. “Something big for me was going through a whole another offseason and seeing things again for the second and third time.”
Stick, a threat to score as a runner with his speed and agility, has 13 rushing attempts. Only a select few of those, however, were designed runs with the rest scrambles or sacks out of a passing situation.
He said the Bison won’t change its running philosophy at quarterback with senior backup Cole Davis out of the lineup for a few weeks with a shoulder injury. The top backup now is freshman Henry Van Dellen, who has had limited game experience.
“We’re going to call our offense and we’re going to play,” Stick said. “That’s how I prefer it, and I know that’s how (the Bison coaches) prefer it. We have to play. Injuries happen, they’re part of football and everybody feels sick for Cole as a senior and a guy who has put so much into our program, but we would be hurting ourselves by limiting the playbook or calls.”
The playbook that has produced 168 points is the most through the first three games since the Bison started a Division I schedule in 2004. It’s the second-most in school history behind the 169 that the 2000 team put up. The previous Division I high was 140 in 2012.
“I think we’ve been pretty effective in the passing game and obviously in the running game, and we have to continue to get better every day,” said running back Lance Dunn. “Especially now that we’re going into conference play.”