Stick and Schor: Victories and leadership don't necessarily translate to big-time awards
FRISCO, Texas - Easton Stick has sandy blonde hair and Bryan Schor has a darker shade. When it comes to the two starting quarterbacks in Saturday's Division I FCS national championship, that's one of the few differences you'll find between the two quarterbacks.
They both stand 6-foot-2-inches tall with steady, strong right arms. Their names have the same number of syllables. Both are the unquestioned offensive leaders that have Stick's North Dakota State team facing Schor's James Madison team at 11 a.m. at Toyota Stadium.
Both have virtually the same winning percentage, with Stick getting off to an 8-0 start in 2015 and taking a 33-3 record as a starting quarterback into the title game. Schor got off to a slower start starting the final four games of the 2015 season and going 2-2.
He's been hot since. Schor missed one game last season because of a shoulder injury, and was 13-1 as a starter. In all, his record is 29-3.
Combined, Schor and Stick are 62-6 for a winning percentage of 91 percent.
Talk to both head coaches and they'll say virtually the same thing about their offensive leaders. First and foremost: They are winners.
"The most important statistic they look for is the ability to win," said Bison head coach Chris Klieman. "When you think of the big-time wins and critical wins both have had, I think both teams know how valuable they are. We for sure know how valuable Easton is. He's a great leader for our football team."
And, despite all of the success, post-season awards for both quarterbacks has been virtually non-existent. Klieman said one reason is both teams have won so many games by convincing margins that neither Stick nor Schor has had to throw much in the second half.
It's hard to pile up the yards when you're handing the ball off to a running back up the middle, as a gesture for not running up the score.
"So you take away statistically there," Klieman said. "But I don't think either kid cares."
Statistically, you'll find Stick in the middle of the pack of Missouri Valley Football Conference quarterbacks. The junior from Omaha ranks sixth in passing yards per game at 179.0. He's third in passing efficiency completing 92 of 153 attempts in eight league games.
Schor, a senior from Milford, Pa., was a second team all-Colonial Athletic Association quarterback this season and finished eighth in the voting for the Walter Payton Award that goes to the best offensive player in the FCS.
Like Stick, he was sixth in his conference in passing yardage but was tops in passing efficiency completing 67 percent of this throws.
"I think it's all the intangibles that are what make him special," said JMU head coach Mike Houston. "Yet, he has the ability to make plays when the stakes are the highest. He has the ability to make accurate throws when there's tight coverage or when there's a lot of pressure around him."
NDSU found that out last year in the semifinals. Schor was 11 of 18 passing, but three of the completions went for touchdowns in the 27-17 win.
Tied at 17 heading into the fourth quarter, his 45-yard pass to John Miller on third-and-9 set up the go-ahead field goal. Later, Schor hit Miller on third-and-10 for a first down on a drive that produced the clinching touchdown.
You could find many of those same types of plays with NDSU quarterbacks over the title run, from Brock Jensen to Carson Wentz to Stick. None of those three, however, were FCS major award winners.
Jensen was a third team All-American his senior year despite being the all-time wins leader in FCS quarterback history.
That has been a theme of sorts for the Bison in general over the last several years. They've won five national titles, yet the number of players up for major awards hasn't been that many. The last major winner was defensive end Kyle Emanuel, who won the Buck Buchanan Award in 2014 that goes to the best defensive player in the FCS.
"That's the culture of our program, too ... there's no one person more important than the other," Klieman said. "I don't care if it's a player or coach or whoever it may be. It's all about the name on the front of the jersey and not the name on the back of the jersey."
Klieman alluded to that mantra after the Bison defeated Sam Houston State in this year's semifinals. Stick, in relief of the injured Wentz in 2014, went 8-0 and got the Bison to Frisco before Wentz started the title game.
NDSU was 4-2 and had just lost to South Dakota when Stick was named the starting quarterback as a redshirt freshman. He got the Bison back on track.
"There's nobody that deserve to play in a national championship game more than Easton Stick," Klieman said this week. "None of us knew what he was going to be when he was called into duty. He comes in and rattles off eight games in a row. In the meantime his best friend Carson was starting to slowly come back. Easton said all along he was just going to hold the spot for Carson and so he got us to that championship game as well as our run game and phenomenal defense.
"But for him to lead us up to that national championship game and not get a chance to play in it, and to have the seasons had last two years, amount of wins and big time conference championships, he deserves the opportunity to play on this kind of stage."