TOWSON, Md. — North Dakota State fullback Hunter Luepke had the right idea after his second quarter touchdown against Towson. Luepke ran directly to one of the officials and handed over the ball. No theatrics. Well, other than the exaggerated politeness that seemed like a theatrical flourish.

If you want to nitpick a team that has blown out three opponents and appears to have an offense with more weapons than the Soviet Union circa 1978, it's that the Bison have a little affinity for mustard. They've laid it on thick two games in a row and it's stung them.

Last week in a rout of overwhelmed Valparaiso, it was Luepke and Jayden Price who were the culprits. Luepke nearly dropped the ball too soon while running into the end zone, though replay spared him the indignity of losing a touchdown. Price was flagged for flinging the football into the stands after returning a punt for a touchdown.

Saturday in muggy Maryland, uber-talented receiver Christian Watson was stuck with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for dancing in the end zone after the Bison's first touchdown. Was it egregious? No. Was it necessary? Also no.

It wasn't much, but it was enough.

WDAY logo
listen live
watch live
Newsletter signup for email alerts

"I definitely took that one to the heart. We each have to be smart," Watson said after the Bison's 35-7 victory at Johnny Unitas Stadium. "I'm sure coach will talk to me about it later. Act like I've been there. That's something I'll be sure to keep in mind from here on out. That's something we have to clean up. We can't have those selfish penalties like that any more."

Here's the thing. The play on which Watson scored was a thing of beauty. It spoke for itself. Quarterback Quincy Patterson II lofted a perfect rainbow 55 yards through the air, hitting Watson in stride at the Towson 20. Watson glided into the end zone and NDSU had a 6-0 lead.

It was an example of what this Bison offense can do — stretch the field with speed after pounding you in the teeth play after play. NDSU is loaded with talent. The extra stuff is unnecessary and could cost the Bison if it happens at the wrong time, against the wrong team.

That's about the only negative thing that can be said about NDSU's powerful offense. With Patterson running more each week, the offensive line opening holes a battleship at nearby Annapolis could slip through and the quarterback's arm making throws the Bison couldn't in the spring, there appears to be a foundation strong enough to make a run at a Missouri Valley Football Conference championship.

And what might come beyond that.

Pick your poison, Football Championship Subdivision. Do you want to sell out against stopping Dom Gonnella and Kobe Johnson? Then Patterson can keep and rumble downfield with his 6-foot-3, 245-pound frame. Keep those two options in check? Then NDSU can run a fullback sweep with Hunter Luepke or a jet sweep with Braylon Henderson or Watson. Defend the field from sideline to sideline? Then the Bison will hit you deep with Watson.

Or, as we saw Saturday, with Luepke or tight end Josh Babicz.

Luepke, at 236 pounds, caught a 44-yard deep ball in the second quarter.

Patterson nearly connected on a home run to Babicz in the first quarter.

NDSU's playbook, not yet close to being flung wide open, was expanded just a bit. The Bison even tried a jump pass, even though it ended in an interception in the end zone by Towson linebacker S.J. Brown II.

"I think you saw more today," Bison coach Matt Entz said. "You saw more quarterback run game. I'm sure you saw our tailback running right down the middle of the field. Just different ways to find getting the ball to our playmakers. ... We were attacking the perimeter, we were right down the middle of the field, we were using the seams, we were getting behind them in quarters coverage.

"I thought the most impressive play of the night was Josh Babicz getting behind one of their safeties. Six-five, 260-pound tight end rolling down the middle of the field. It was incomplete but it shows the athleticism we have at certain positions."

Patterson looked comfortable throwing the ball on NDSU's first three drives. He throws a good ball. The throws to Watson and Luepke were good, but his third-down zinger for 12 yards to Henderson in the second quarter to keep a drive alive was most impressive. It covered ground and had some heat to the sideline.

"Everything is open and when it's not open, running backs are making it open. It's one of those things where we play complementary football," Patterson said. "The running backs depend on the o-line and when the o-line doesn't have it, the running backs got it. It's really cool to see. It's nice to know we don't have to throw the ball 100 times a game to win. We can just run the ball and score 64 points or 35 points."

The Bison are rolling into the conference season. Clean up the minor messes and NDSU will be tough to beat.