No. 1-ranked Bison blitz Bobcats, cruise into FCS quarterfinals
FARGO — Montana State ripped off a 71-yard pass play on the first play from scrimmage during the NCAA Division I FCS second-round playoff game Saturday afternoon, Dec. 1.
The early adrenaline rush didn’t last for the Bobcats.
No. 1-ranked North Dakota State scored at will in the first half and cruised to a 52-10 victory before 17,005 fans at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
NDSU limited Montana State to a field goal after that long pass play. The Bison rolled from there with 38 unanswered points.
“I don’t think anything shifted. They were just better than us,” said Bobcats wide receiver Kevin Kassis, who was on the receiving end of that 71-yard strike from quarterback Troy Andersen. “I wouldn’t be surprised if they win the national championship.”
The Bison (12-0) will host Colgate University (N.Y.) next weekend in the FCS quarterfinals. The defending national champions advanced to the quarterfinals for the ninth consecutive season. The Bison have won 18 consecutive games, dating back to last season.
“That tradition is definitely huge,” said Bison safety James Hendricks, who had four tackles and two pass breakups.
The Bison were dominant on the ground against the Bobcats, rushing for 407 yards on 44 attempts, averaging 9.2 yards per carry. Lance Dunn (127 yards), Bruce Anderson (118) and Ty Brooks (103) each rushed for more than 110 yards for NDSU, which finished with seven rushing scores to tie a school postseason record. Dunn ran for four scores to tie the school’s single-game postseason record.
“It was just a dominant performance,” Bison head coach Chris Klieman said. “I’m really pleased with the guys.”
Dunn scored all his touchdowns in the first half as the Bison built a 38-3 halftime lead. NDSU averaged 10.6 yards per play in the first two quarters with Anderson gaining 110 heading into the half.
“You can see how dominant NDSU is at the line of scrimmage,” Bobcats head coach Jeff Choate said.
The Bobcats took an early 3-0 lead with 12:53 to play in the first quarter, settling for a field goal after the long Andersen-to-Kassis pass play gave Montana State the ball first-and-goal at the Bison 4-yard line.
“NDSU is really, really outstanding in the low-red (zone) area,” Choate said. “We can’t get the ball down there and settle for field goals.”
The Bison scored on all six of their first-half possessions. Dunn powered into the end zone from the 1 to cap a nine-play, 60-yard drive and NDSU led 7-3 with 8:06 to play in the first quarter. After the Bison defense stopped the Bobcats on three plays to force a punt, Robbie Grimsley returned the kick 28 yards to the MSU 43. NDSU took just four plays to go up 14-3.
Dunn got the touchdown from 11 yards out. Anderson’s 32-yard touchdown run and two more scores from Dunn made it 35-3 with 6:16 to play in the second quarter.
“Our focus was coming off the ball, hitting them straight in the mouth and getting them moved,” said Bison offensive lineman Luke Bacon.
Cam Pedersen booted a 27-yard field goal after the Bison blocked a Bobcats punt to give NDSU a 38-3 lead heading into halftime.
“Our focus … was laser sharp,” Klieman said.
Brooks and Adam Cofield added rushing touchdowns for NDSU in the second half. Brooks zipped into the end zone from 30 yards out to give the Bison a 45-10 lead with 3:33 to play in the third quarter. Cofield had a 1-yard scoring run to stake NDSU to a 52-10 lead with 9:57 to play in the fourth quarter.
“Our offensive line was dynamite,” Klieman said.
Montana State scored its lone touchdown in the third quarter. Andersen scored on a 51-yard touchdown run on a fourth-and-1 play to cut the Bison lead to 38-10 with 5:47 to play in the third quarter. Andersen rushed for 129 yards on 24 attempts to lead Montana State.
Choate said the Bobcats couldn’t find an answer for the Bison running game and added part of that started with NDSU quarterback Easton Stick making the right calls at the line of scrimmage.
“Every time we tried to counter punch, they were one step ahead of us,” Choate said. “It’s almost like playing a triple-option team when you have a quarterback with that much intelligence.”