FARGO — North Dakota State didn't need to be near the end zone to threaten the scoreboard during the first half Saturday afternoon at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
The Bison scored six touchdowns in the opening half with each covering at least 20 yards. That big-play penchant fueled a 43-point first half as NDSU rolled to a 64-0 victory against Valparaiso in nonconference NCAA Division I FCS play before 15,118 fans.
"We had a ton of big plays," Bison head coach Matt Entz said.
The Bison built a 29-point lead less than 18 minutes into the first half and averaged 16.8 yards per play in the game's first 30 minutes. NDSU had 387 yards on 23 plays in the opening half with scoring plays of 45, 28, 20, 65, 72 and 52 yards. That was good for an average of 47 yards per TD before halftime.
"I thought we played with really good energy throughout the course of the game," Entz said. "That was one of the things I challenged our players with all week long. It had nothing to do with our opponent. It was everything had to do with us."
The Bison (2-0) play their first road game next weekend, traveling to Towson (Md.) for a 5 p.m. (CST) kickoff Saturday, Sept. 18, at Johnny Unitas Stadium.
NDSU quarterback Quincy Patterson completed 4 of 5 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown, and also rushed for 94 yards and a TD on four attempts in the first two quarters. Patterson, making his second Bison start, didn't play in the second half. The 6-foot-3, 246-pound Patterson, a Virginia Tech transfer, scored his first rushing TD as a Bison.
"Getting the win ultimately, that’s probably the biggest confidence boost, knowing that you being on the field is allowing your team to win," Patterson said.
NDSU rushed for 285 yards on 18 attempts in the first half, averaging 15.8 yards per carry. The Bison outgained Valparaiso 387-106 over the first 30 minutes. NDSU finished with 583 yards on 49 plays, while limiting Valparaiso to 185 yards on 64 plays. Bison sophomore running back Jalen Bussey had a productive day, rushing for 82 yards and a touchdown on five attempts and also added a 23-yard TD catch in the third quarter.
The 5-foot-5, 161-pound Bussey said his style complements Bison sophomore running back Dominic Gonnella, who got the start against Valparaiso, and junior running back Kobe Johnson.
"It makes me feel good, just having Dom and Kobe, and being able to come in, they’re bruisers and then I can come in and be electric at any time," Bussey said. "It’s something that I’m proud of and I think it helps the diversity of our room for sure."
Jayden Price ... TO THE HOUSE!— NDSU Football (@NDSUfootball) September 11, 2021
Bison up 8-0 on Valparaiso after the 2-point conversion. pic.twitter.com/OFEHOZL2BG
Special teams sparked NDSU's 43-point outburst in the first half. After the Bison defense forced a Valparaiso three-plays-and-out on the first possession of the game, punt returner and defensive back Jayden Price started the barrage of Bison big plays.
Price fielded the Valparaiso punt on a bounce and bolted 45 yards into the end zone for an 8-0 lead with 13 minutes, 14 seconds to play in the first quarter. That set the tone for the opening half.
NDSU wide receiver Braylon Henderson scored on a 28-yard reverse for a 15-0 lead with 5:22 to play in the first quarter. Bison fullback Hunter Luepke added a 20-yard TD run for a 22-0 lead with 10 seconds to play in the opening quarter.
The scoring plays got bigger in the second quarter. Wide receiver Christian Watson secured a shovel pass and zipped 65 yards to the end zone for a 29-0 lead with 12:32 to play until halftime. On the next Bison possession, Bussey ripped off a 72-yard touchdown run. Bussey credited fullback Luke Waters with the block that helped spring in on that long TD run.
"The cutback was there so just seeing that, it was open, so just (take) it when you’ve got the opportunity," Bussey said.
Patterson capped the first half with a 52-yard touchdown run that gave the Bison a 43-0 lead with 24 seconds to play in the second quarter.
"Those are the opportunities that he can create with his legs," Entz said. "He did a great job of making a decision and making it fast and taking off with the football. You saw his ability to break tackles and he runs pretty well for 245 pounds."
Bison sophomore quarterback Cam Miller started the second half under center. True freshman QB Cole Payton got his first college playing time, entering the game in the fourth quarter.
The 6-foot-3, 221-pound Payton scored on a 37-yard touchdown run that gave the Bison a 64-0 lead with 5:34 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Bison rushed for 458 yards on 43 attempts, averaging 10.7 yards per carry for the game.
The Bison preserved the shutout after sophomore reserve safety Sam Jung intercepted the ball near the goal line on the final play of the game and returned it to the NDSU 25-yard line as time expired.
"That was awesome to see," said Bison senior starting safety Michael Tutsie. "That’s the standard for no matter who’s in on defense."