FARGO — North Dakota State fans inside the Fargodome on Saturday, Sept. 7, grumbled with restlessness near the end of the first half of the Bison's game against North Dakota because head coach Matt Entz made the decision to run out the final 1 minute, 21 seconds instead of trying to score.
The Bison led 21-7 and, given their thirst to show their team's superiority over the Fighting Hawks, NDSU fans wanted more points.
The Bison took over at their own 29 after holding UND to a quick three-and-out, but elected to hand the ball twice to running back Adam Cofield before heading to the locker room as time expired.
Asked after the game who was in the conversation to run out the clock, Entz said it was solely his decision.
"That was my conversation. At that time we were up, we had just been on the field a couple minutes before and had to punt right away. I thought let's just get in and regroup," Entz said. "No. 1, regroup defensively because we just had a series I didn't like and No. 2, regroup offensively and get out and know the first series of the second half is going to be critical to our performance."
The Bison won 38-7.
UND had a 13-play, 75-yard touchdown drive midway through the second quarter that chewed 6:20 off the clock, making the score 14-7. Entz said the Bison were off-balance on that drive, on which UND quarterback Andrew Zimmerman completed five of six passes and converted two third downs.
The Bison answered with a lengthy TD drive of their own to make it 21-7 and then held UND to a three-and-out. But the Bison went three and out on its next possession and punted to the Hawks, who again went three and out before NDSU gained possession with 1:21 left.
Hendricks, Williams leave game
The Bison lost two starters during the game. NDSU senior free safety James Hendricks and senior running back Dimitri Williams left the game with apparent injuries, but Entz was vague after the game on what happened.
Williams carried four times for 26 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter, but didn't play after that.
Hendricks had four tackles and a nice pass breakup in the first half, but left the game in the second quarter. He was replaced by Dawson Weber, a redshirt sophomore from Elk Grove, Calif.
Entz said after the game he didn't yet have any injury information. Instead, he praised the backups who filled in. Weber ended with five tackles, including one for a loss. Cofield picked up for Williams, getting nine carries for 40 yards.
Hendricks is a captain and a key player in the Bison's defense.
"It's always a big deal to lose a captain. What I'm excited about is we had adversity and we handled it and I don't think you saw any lack of play or busted assignments," Entz said. "I hope we're going to be OK injury-wise, but I'm excited that we're able to play more and more kids."
Jake Reinholz, who began the year as the Bison's kicker, sat out with a leg injury suffered in the season opener against Butler. True freshman Griffin Crosa handled the kicking duties and made his first field goal, a 27-yarder in the third quarter. Crosa also kicked five extra-points.
Lance spreads the bounty
Bison quarterback Trey Lance completed passes to nine different receivers. None had more than two catches. Lance finished 11 of 15 for 162 yards and two touchdowns.
Tight end Ben Ellefson, playing his first game of the year, had two catches for 22 yards and a TD. Fullback Garrett Malstrom had two receptions. Zach Mathis, Noah Gindorff, Cofield, Christian Watson, Ty Brooks, Williams and Phoenix Sproles each had one catch.
Entz commented that NDSU's sports information department would have to search to see how long it's been since a Bison quarterback completed passes to nine different receivers in a game.
"That's probably, some people would say, atypical of North Dakota State football," Entz said. "That shows the growth and maturity of our quarterback. Trey had another excellent game, made some good decisions. The two decisions I'm most pleased with is the couple times he pulled the ball down and took off when it wasn't there. I think that shows his willingness to keep the chains moving and not force anything in there and live to play another snap."
Four true freshmen play
Four true freshmen played against UND, two fewer than played against Butler at Target Field.
Entz emphasized during fall camp that he was likely to play more true freshmen than his predecessor Chris Klieman, even beyond the four games they are allowed to play while not losing a year of eligibility.
Kobe Johnson, a running back from Lawrenceville, Ga., played a key role again for the Bison, carrying four times for 30 yards after earning high praise from Entz in the victory over Butler.
Crosa, defensive back Julian Wlodarczyk and tight end Travis Yohnke also played.
Receivers Braylon Henderson and Jake Lippe, believed to be in the mix to see full-time action this season, did not play.
Running back Saybien Clark, a redshirt freshman who Entz pointed to as a key player because his size and power provide a change of pace in the backfield, didn't see action until late in the fourth quarter. He had two carries for 13 yards.
Bison streaking again
NDSU holds the Football Championship Subdivision record for longest winning streak, winning 33 straight from 2012-14.
The current Bison have won 23 in a row, the fifth longest streak in FCS history. James Madison won 26 straight in 2016-17 while Montana (2001-02) and Penn (1992-95) each won 24 straight.