NDSU freshman QB Stick looks to build off successful debut
FARGO, N.D. (AP) The Easton Stick era is off - and surprisingly running - at North Dakota State.
Stick, a highly touted redshirt freshman from Omaha, Nebraska, has been advertised as the heir apparent to the starting quarterback job at NDSU, based in part on a high school career that saw him pass for more than 4,000 yards and 37 touchdowns. But when he was unexpectedly thrust into the spotlight last week, he did most of his damage with his feet.
Stick ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns in a 28-14 win over Indiana State. He became the first Bison player to rush for more than 100 yards this season.
''I don't know if I ever carried the ball 17 times before, but that's fun,'' Stick said. ''Anytime, as a competitor, you want the ball in your hands. So that was something I really enjoyed.''
Stick's debut performance provided a needed boost for the four-time defending Football Championship Subdivision champions after star quarterback and NFL hopeful Carson Wentz went down with a wrist injury. Stick, described by his high school coaches as a fearless player, admitted that the Wentz setback was a jolt.
''Hearing the news for the first time, it was a big surprise. It was kind of tough to stomach everything those first couple days,'' Stick said. ''But after that, it was just nose to the grindstone and you're kind of back into a routine. That's what we're doing this week.''
The Bison (5-2, 3-1 Missouri Valley) travel to Southern Illinois (3-4, 2-2) on Saturday, where Stick will face a team that has not lost at home this season.
Several of Stick's high school coaches and others gathered in Omaha last week to watch the NDSU-Indiana State game on TV. Andy Yost, who was the offensive coordinator at Creighton Prep during Stick's career, said he wasn't surprised to see Stick guide the Bison to victory, though it left him joking about whether he should have called more running plays for his QB.
''I was a little bit leery about getting my quarterback hurt. Obviously if I had to redo it, I probably would have him carry the ball a lot more,'' Yost said, chuckling.
It wasn't that Stick's passing was horrible against the Sycamores. On a wet and windy day in Terre Haute, Indiana, he completed nine of 20 passes for 126 yards, one touchdown - to high school teammate RJ Urzendowski - and one interception. Coach Chris Klieman said he expects the passing results to improve each week.
''I thought he did everything we asked him to do as far getting us into some calls, changing a couple of plays, running the ball with authority,'' Klieman said. ''There are some things he would say he missed as far some of our checks as well as some communication with our wide receivers, which we've got to get cleaned up.''
Said Stick: ''Part of it is just getting more comfortable. It's been a while since I played in a game. I just have to understand that you've got to stand in there and kind of decide when you need to force stuff and make plays and when you've got to take what's given to you.''
Yost, now the head coach at Creighton Prep, said Stick's aggressive play and refusal to take the easy way out was often a topic with his high school coaches. They ran drills that would purposely put pressure on him to take a sack or throw the ball away. It didn't work.
''He would thread the needle, he would take off running, he would do anything he could to make you play,'' Yost said. ''One thing you are going to learn about Easton is that he does not lack confidence.''