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Lance, NDSU rally to win in their only fall appearance

FARGO (AP) — Trey Lance threw two touchdown passes and ran for two more scores and three-time FCS defending champion North Dakota State rallied with a 21-point fourth quarter to beat Central Arkansas 39-28 on Saturday in the Bison’s lone fall game

The Bison extended their winning streak to 38, the longest in FCS history, and home streak to 29, the longest active run in Division I. They will take part in the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s spring season with an eye on winning a 17th national championship.

“It wasn’t as if we were off,” North Dakota State coach Matt Entz said. “It’s a game of inches. We needed to settle down a bit and get into our comfort zone.”

The game was a de facto audition for Lance, judged to be a potential first-round pick if the redshirt sophomore declares for the NFL draft. As last season’s Walter Payton Award winner, he threw 28 touchdown passes with no interceptions in 287 attempts but that run ended Saturday when he had a pass picked by Nick Nakawaasah in the third quarter. That led to Breylin Smith’s TD toss to Lujuan Winningham that gave the Bears a 20-18 lead.

Lance, who had thrown 307 passes without an interception, had little to say about the end of that streak and declined to talk about whether he is turning pro.

“It’s just playing football,” he said about the interception. “I really don’t have anything else to say about that.”

In the fourth quarter, Lance ran for a score and, after Smith and Winningham connected for another TD, threw to Hunter Luepke for a 32-28 lead. Luepke added the final points on a 13-yard run with under two minutes remaining.

“I’m just doing what I can to help the team win on Saturdays,” Luepke said.

Lance rushed for 143 yards on 15 carries and was 15-of-30 passing for 149 yards.

Smith was 25 of 38 for 226 yards, three scores and two interceptions.

Central Arkansas (2-1) opted out of a potential spring season with the Southland Conference and is playing a 10-game schedule this fall. The Bears were conference co-champs with Nicholls State last season.

Fan attendance at the usually packed 18,700 capacity Fargodome was limited to players’ families. The official attendance was 471.

“It was tough right away,” said linebacker James Kaczor, who led the Bison with 11 tackles. “I think we were a little bit flat coming out but we all picked it up after that.”