No. 2-ranked Bison rumble to dominating victory against Eastern Washington
CHENEY, Wash. -- North Dakota State offensive lineman Austin Kuhnert had smile on his face early Saturday evening, standing in the end zone for postgame interviews.
The 6-foot-4, 304-pound senior guard was responding to the amount of rushing yards the No. 2-ranked Bison churned on the red turf at Roos Field.
“I did not think 375,” Kuhnert said. “I knew we were going to put up a lot of rushing yards, but not 375.”
The Bison wore down the No. 6-ranked Eagles in the second half and pulled away for a decisive 40-13 victory in nonconference Division I FCS football before 10,231 fans.
The Bison (2-0) rushed for 375 yards on 63 attempts and had a 25-plus minutes edge in time of possession. The Eagles (0-2) had the ball less than six minutes after halftime.
“I thought ultimately our run game could wear them down and we were able to do that,” Bison head coach Chris Klieman said. “What a great job by the running backs and the rams.”
The Bison defense held heralded quarterback and Walter Payton Award candidate Gage Gubrud to 10 of 30 passing for 134 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions.
It was a textbook, physical Bison performance the final three quarters, gaining more than 300 yards on the ground over the final 45 minutes. Lance Dunn and Bruce Anderson were a dynamic combination. Dunn rushed for 148 yards and a career-best three touchdowns on 19 carries. Anderson rumbled for 160 yards and a touchdown on 23 attempts.
“I felt like the second half we came out pretty strong. We made sure that we were going to keep the foot on the pedal,” said Dunn, who averaged 7.8 yards per carry. “We took off on them in the third and fourth quarter.”
The Bison put two backs over 100 rushing yards for a second consecutive game.
“I was so happy with those guys not going down after first contact and delivering a blow,” Klieman said. “I think Bruce delivered some big blows out there.”
NDSU finished with 532 yards, while limiting the Eagles to 204. The Bison ran 85 plays, while Eastern Washington finished with 54.
The Bison started to pull away in the third quarter. Quarterback Easton Stick converted a key third-and-11 play with an on-target delivery to tight end Jeff Illies. That play covered 14 yards and moved the Bison to the 38-yard line with NDSU holding a 19-13 lead. On the next play, Stick zinged a 44-yard completion to tight end Nate Jenson that moved the ball to the EWU 18.
Four plays later, Dunn scooted into the end zone from 2 yards out to give the Bison a 26-13 lead with 7 minutes, 5 seconds to play in the the third.
In the fourth quarter, Stick added a 12-yard scoring run and Dunn capped his day with a 31-yard touchdown that gave NDSU a 40-13 lead with 12:32 to play.
“Looking up and seeing those rushing yards, you know that we’re putting in the work and we’re definitely doing our job,” Kuhnert said. “We just needed to be physical. I pride my work on being one of the most physical guys out there if not the most.”
The Bison played without All-American linebacker Nick DeLuca, who was out with a knee injury he suffered earlier in the week during practice. NDSU limited the Eagles to 58 yards on 19 plays in the second half. Gubrud was limited to one big play, a 50-yard completion to wide receiver Terence Grady in the first quarter. That led the the Eagles’ lone touchdown as Gubrud ran for an 8-yard score to give EWU a 7-3 lead with 8:19 to play in the first quarter.
“North Dakota State is fabulous football team,” said EWU head coach Aaron Best, whose team lost to Texas Tech to open the season. “They are very well-coached on both sides of the ball, and their special teams played outstanding. Our fans deserve better and that’s our mission.”