North Dakota State, behind Stick, throttles Wofford in FCS quarters
(STATS) – They’re not the defending FCS champions for a change, but the North Dakota State Bison are playing like they’re the team to beat again.
Behind junior quarterback Easton Stick’s four total touchdowns, the No. 2 playoff seed hammered seventh-seeded Wofford 42-10 in an FCS quarterfinal Saturday before 17,008 at the Fargodome.
NDSU (12-1), which had a first-round bye and then routed San Diego 38-3 in the second round, will host a national semifinal next Friday night against the winner of Saturday’s quarterfinal between Kennesaw State and No. 6 seed Sam Houston State. The Missouri Valley Conference champ is making a record seventh straight appearance in the semifinals, with the 2011-15 seasons leading to five straight national titles before the Bison lost to eventual champion James Madison in last year’s semis.
“The first thing we did in the locker room was congratulate our scout team,” NDSU coach Chris Klieman said. “We had a phenomenal look on both sides of the ball. We talked about the genuine appreciation for the effort and commitment everybody makes within our program. The look we had by our scout team offense was phenomenal.”
NDSU kept drives going and Wofford (10-3) didn’t, the difference showing in the Bison converting 10 of 13 third-down attempts and the Terriers just 1 of 12 (although they were 3 of 4 on fourth downs).
After trailing 3-0, the Bison scored touchdowns on five of their final six possessions of the first half to put the Terriers away by halftime 35-10. Stick, who is 32-3 as a starter, was 9 of 10 for 157 yards in the half, throwing touchdowns to tight ends Connor Wentz (48 yards) and Jeff Illies (4) and running back Seth Wilson (18). Bruce Anderson scored on 5- and 1-yard runs.
Stick also scrambled for a 7-yard touchdown in the third quarter. He finished with 233 yards of total offense in three quarters of action.
“He was really sharp and seeing everything very well,” Klieman said. “He was seeing all their coverages and rotations. They cut a few guys loose and he found them.”
Wofford, the Southern Conference champ, lost its comfort zone as a triple-option team, and forced to pass the Terriers went just 3 of 12. They were without injured halfback Lennox McAfee, its No. 2 rusher, and had 37 carries for 134 yards – 120 below the Terriers’ season average. Blake Morgan’s 54 yards led the way.
“That was a tough game,” coach Mike Ayers said. “They did what they do better than we did what we do.”
NDSU safety Robbie Grimsley and linebacker Jabril Cox had fumble recoveries and linebacker Chris Board collected a team-high nine tackles in the strong defensive effort.
The Bison head into the semifinals with a 20-1 home record in the FCS playoffs – all this decade.