Lucky Seven: Bison roll Wofford, advance to seventh consecutive FCS semifinal
FARGO -- The Fargodome has become a de facto home site for the national semifinals in recent Division I FCS football history.
For the seventh consecutive season, the facility will host the semis after the Bison rolled to a 42-10 victory against Wofford College (S.C) on Saturday afternoon before 17,008 fans.
“It’s pretty special,” said Bison head coach Chris Klieman. “Since I came here in 2011, we’ve been in the semifinals every year. … There’s great tradition long before I got here and there will be great tradition long after I leave here.”
Klieman has been the head coach for four of those semifinal trips and an assistant coach for the other three. The No. 2-seeded Bison (12-1) host the winner of the Kennesaw State-Sam Houston State in next weekend’s FCS semifinals.
“It’s unbelievable,” Bison quarterback Easton Stick said of the semifinal string. “The culture that has been established here a long, long time ago is pretty special.”
Stick played his role in carrying on the tradition Saturday against the Terriers. The 6-foot-2, 221-pound junior completed 11 of 16 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown on eight attempts.
“He was really sharp,” Klieman said. “We had to hit some explosive plays and we sure did.”
The Bison scored 21 points in the final five minutes of the first half to put away the Terriers. Two of those scores came off of Wofford turnovers.
Bison running back Bruce Anderson started the scoring spree with a 1-yard touchdown run that gave the Bison a 21-10 lead with 4 minutes, 49 seconds to play in the second quarter.
“We knew we had to turn it on,” Anderson said. “We have a point to prove every week. We just have to go out there and execute.”
About a minute later, Stick threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to senior tight end Jeff Illies. Anderson capped the game-changing stretch with a 5-yard touchdown burst that gave the Bison a 35-10 lead with 54 seconds to play in the first half.
“They did what they do better than we do what we do,” said Wofford head coach Mike Ayers. “We knew it would be tough. We knew the history of their team.”
Anderson rushed for 62 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries for a Bison running game that finished with 261 yards, averaging 5.3 yards per carry. NDSU had four different players rush for more than 40 yards and finished with 464 yards from scrimmage.
“Our guys played really well today,” Klieman said. “They were really focused. “They were really tired about hearing how great Wofford’s defense was. … We thought we had some things in the throwing game and Easton was just on point.”
Stick completed 6 of 7 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns in the first quarter, including a 48-yard scoring pass to senior tight end Connor Wentz. Stick added an 18-yard touchdown throw to true freshman running back Seth Wilson to give NDSU a 14-3 lead with 2:32 to play in the first quarter.
Wofford took advantage of a Bison turnover and cut the NDSU lead to 14-10 after Andre Stoddard scored on a 3-yard touchdown run with 10:31 to play in the second quarter. NDSU countered with 28 unanswered points.
“They never made it easy on us all day no matter what the situation was,” Ayers said.
The Bison defense limited Wofford to a season-low 177 yards and also recovered two fumbles. Bison safety Robbie Grimsley returned a fumble to the Wofford 3-yard line to set up the Illies’ touchdown catch.
On the ensuing kickoff freshman linebacker Jabril Cox recovered another Terriers fumble. Moments later, Anderson powered into the end zone for his second score.
“We feel like when we execute, we can play at a really high level,” Stick said.