FARGO — The final nonconference football game between North Dakota State and the University of North Dakota turned into a non-issue by the fourth quarter.
The No. 1-ranked Bison controlled play from the outset to earn a 38-7 victory over the Fighting Hawks in NCAA Division I FCS play before 18,923 fans at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
It was a methodical yet convincing win for the Bison (2-0) in front of the largest home crowd at the Fargodome since 2015. UND (1-1) is set to join the Missouri Valley Football Conference next season. The Fighting Hawks have two decisive losses against their old rival in the two division meetings.
The renewal of the rivalry didn't resonate with the Bison players.
“I didn't feel it," Ellefson said. "I don't think our team felt it the whole week at all. It was another game to us. That's the message coach Entz talked about going into this week. ... I don't think there was any extra hype that we felt, or any extra pressure. It was a big game for the state of North Dakota, for Bison fans and for former players, but I don't think there was any added pressure for us."
The two-time defending FCS champion Bison have won 23 consecutive games, dating back to the 2017 season. They raised the 2018 national championship banner before Saturday's game. Bison first-year head coach Matt Entz also led the team out of the inflated helmet for the first time.
"The beginning is pretty dang cool," said Entz, who took over for Chris Klieman. "I talked to my predecessor and he said, 'It'll never get old, running out of the tunnel.' And after today, I can believe him. It might have been the fastest I've been in 25 years."
NDSU took a quick 14-0 lead in the first quarter against the Fighting Hawks and was never threatened. Bison quarterback Trey Lance, making his second start, backed up his impressive opener with another big game. The 6-foot-3, 221-pound redshirt freshman completed 11 of 15 passes for 162 yards and two touchdowns. Lance also rushed for 95 yards and two touchdowns on 16 attempts.
"He's talented," said UND head coach Bubba Schweigert. "We knew we was talented coming in."
It was the second straight win for NDSU against the Fighting Hawks on the heels of the 34-9 win in 2015, the first Division I game between the teams. Saturday's game was similar in nature in that the UND offense struggled to move the ball. The Fighting Hawks finished with 230 yards, including 68 rushing yards, on 55 plays.
“We’ve got to learn from this," Schweigert said. “The (touchdown) drive we had was what we were looking for. We didn’t have the ball enough.”
NDSU had a 10-plus minute time of possession edge against the Fighting Hawks as the Bison racked up 266 rushing yards.
"You've got to be able to stop the run if you're going to play really good defense and we just couldn't do that," Schweigert said.
Lance picked up Saturday where he left off last weekend against Butler University (Ind.) at Target Field, engineering two first-quarter scoring drives that gave the Bison a 14-0 lead. The first touchdown march came after the opening kickoff.
A 41-yard pass on third-and-8 to wide receiver Zach Mathis reached the UND 3-yard line. Running back Dimitri Williams scored on the next play and it was 7-0 with 11 minutes, 14 seconds to play in the first quarter.
On their third drive of the game, the Bison went 80 yards in 10 plays en route to the end zone. A 20-yard pass on third-and-4 to tight end Ben Ellefson was the key play, with Lance scoring from the 8-yard line for a 14-0 lead with 34 seconds to play in the first quarter.
UND, however, made a long drive in the second quarter count. Starting from their own 25-yard line, the Fighting Hawks marched 13 plays, getting a big 20-yard pass from quarterback Andrew Zimmerman to wide receiver Garett Maag on third-and-14. That play reached the Bison 13.
A few plays later, UND running back James Johannesson, a Fargo South graduate, got the touchdown from 3 yards out and it was 14-7 with 9:20 to play in the second quarter.
NDSU took a 21-7 lead into halftime, getting a 35-yard run by Lance on its way to an eight-play, 73-yard touchdown drive. Lance’s 2-yard pass to Ellefson came on third-and-goal with 4:44 to play in the second quarter.
"It was a lot of relief just being back," said Ellefson, who missed the season opener with a foot injury.
The Bison finished with 225 yards in the first half, with Lance accounting for 143 of them.
The Bison continued to extend their lead after halftime. NDSU put a field goal and a Noah Gindorff 34-yard touchdown reception on the Fighting Hawks in the third quarter. The Gindorff touchdown catch gave the Bison a 31-7 lead with 4:56 to play in the third quarter.
"We were planning on not letting the foot off the gas the entire game," Lance said.
Lance capped his day with another nifty run, adding a 14-yard touchdown scamper that gave the Bison a 38-7 lead with 9:23 to play in the fourth quarter.
"Trey has come along at a rate that we never expected," said Bison offensive tackle Dillon Radunz.