Bison cruise to win over Missouri State
FARGO — North Dakota State played backward Saturday afternoon, Sept. 30, at the Fargodome.
The run-heavy Bison went to the air early for offensive success. Junior quarterback Easton Stick passed for 121 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter to help spark No. 2-ranked NDSU to a 38-11 victory against Missouri State in Missouri Valley Football Conference play before 18,892 fans at Gate City Bank Field.
“Anytime you can start like that and get into a rhythm I think it helps,” Stick said.
The Bison (4-0, 1-0 MVFC) remained unbeaten while winning their conference opener on homecoming. It was the 700th win in program history. NDSU’s closest margin of victory this season is 27 points. Missouri State (1-4, 0-2) was playing its second conference game.
Stick completed 15 of 21 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns against the Bears, averaging nearly 15 yards per completion.
“He threw it awesome today,” said Bison senior wide receiver RJ Urzendowski, who had six catches for 82 yards and a touchdown. “I don’t know what his percentages were. We had a good day in the pass game. It’s something we expect out of him. It was nice to see the passing game move forward today.”
Stick started hot, completing 5 of 6 passes for 95 yards on the opening drive. His only incompletion was a long ball that wide receiver Darrius Shepherd, who got behind the Missouri State secondary, dropped on the second play from scrimmage. Shepherd had two catches on that opening drive for 34 yards.
Stick capped his strong start with 32-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Illies that gave the Bison a 7-0 lead with 11 minutes, 4 seconds to play in the first quarter.
“He had a great day,” Bison head coach Chris Klieman said. “He was very confident in our game plan. He and I talked throughout the week that this might be what they try to do, which is just stack everybody to try to stop us from running the football. … We knew we had to make some hay on one-on-one matchups. He was really sharp.”
The Bison pushed their lead two touchdowns on their second drive, which covered 81 yards in four plays. Running back Bruce Anderson jumpstarted that sequence with a 35-yard run followed by a 26-yard reception. Lance Dunn capped that quick scoring march with an 18-yard touchdown run that gave NDSU a 14-0 lead with 3:48 to play in the first quarter.
Missouri State slowed the NDSU momentum, however, by getting its offense going. The Bears ran 16 plays on their next drive, but were stopped near the goal line after quarterback Peyton Huslig was dropped for a 1-yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the 1.
But the Bears still got some points out of the deal.
Dunn was tripped up in the end zone for a safety on the next play to cut the Bison lead to 14-2 with 9:46 to play in the second quarter. The Bears pulled within 14-5 on a 40-yard field goal from Zach Drake with 3:29 left before halftime.
NDSU wasn’t done, however. Anderson returned the kickoff 64 yards, which led to a 40-yard Cam Pedersen field goal for a 17-5 lead. The Bears had the ball for nearly 21 of the 30 minutes in the first half. Missouri State ran 15 more plays in the first half, but the Bison had a 185-151 edge in yards.
“We’re definitely not put in that situation a lot,” Bison safety Robbie Grimsley said of the time of possession difference in the first half. “They definitely wore us down a little bit. We were getting tired. … We were able to handle the adversity.”
The NDSU defense took control early in the second half, holding the Bears on two straight three-and-outs on their first two drives in the third quarter.
The Bison took a 24-5 lead after Dunn scored on a 44-yard run with 11:12 to play in the third quarter. Stick added a 26-yard touchdown pass to Urzendowski for a 31-5 lead with 13:21 to play in the fourth quarter. Anderson followed that with a 46-yard scoring burst to make it 38-5 with 9:22 remaining.
“I think Stick is a helluva a football player,” Missouri State head coach Dave Steckel said. “That kid is really talented.”