Game Day notebook: NDSU's Lance closing in on team record
FARGO — It’s one of those records that is almost treated like the pitcher with a no-hitter going into the last couple of innings. The less that’s said, the better.
But, quietly, North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance is sneaking up on a Bison record for most consecutive passes thrown without an interception. The redshirt freshman is at 151 in a row heading into Saturday night’s Missouri Valley Football Conference game at Youngstown State.
The record is 152 set by Easton Stick from the 2016 FCS quarterfinals through the seventh game of the 2017 season.
Lance has already passed Carson Wentz (143) and Brock Jensen (142 and 140) on the NDSU chart.
“Easton,” Bison tight end Ben Ellefson pointed to the reason for Lance’s accuracy.
Lance spent one year learning the tools of the trade from Stick, who graduated last year and is currently on the Los Angeles Chargers roster. Lance is 102 of 150 for 1,319 yards, 16 touchdowns and no interceptions. He threw one pass last year.
“He’s doing a really good job, especially as a redshirt freshman,” Ellefson said. “It’s pretty unique to have him and work with him.”
Count Youngstown head coach Bo Pelini as one who is impressed how the Bison are bringing Lance along.
“They’re letting him grow into the position I think and being smart about it,” he said. “They’re leaning on their running game. He’ll just keep getting better and better and his skill set fits their offense.”
First, and only, night game for Bison
The kickoff is set for 5 p.m. (CST) and 6 p.m. in Youngstown’s Eastern time zone and will be the third night game this season for the Penguins. It is the first, and only, night game for NDSU.
“It won’t change things a whole lot,” Ellefson said. “Just the timing of everything is a little different than it usually is with afternoon games. Being able to overcome that will be important.”
As usual, NDSU will stay in the neighboring town of Boardman, Ohio, located just south of Youngstown. Bison head coach Matt Entz said he’s “indifferent” to playing at night, with the biggest difference with the players having to stay in the hotel most of Saturday.
He said they’ll do an additional walkthrough in the afternoon as well as the usual one in the morning.
“We’ll do the same structure and routine we’ve done up to this point,” Entz said.
Youngstown split its two night games this season, defeating Robert Morris 45-10 but dropping a 38-28 decision to South Dakota State two weeks ago.
Stambaugh Stadium is a place where the Bison have struggled to be successful and for the Penguins, it represents one of the final chances for a quality win to bolster their FCS playoff resume.
Pelini likened NDSU to the high school program he played at as a player at Cardinal Mooney in Youngstown. The school won three Ohio state titles in the 1980s when Pelini was there.
“We did what we did and said stop it,” Pelini said. “We would always tweak things here and there but fundamentally and coaching-wise we were really good. The culture was there and the belief was there so it’s a heck of a formula. (NDSU) is not going to beat themselves; you have to beat this team and you know that going in.”
Ellefson tops tight ends in TD catches
Ellefson took over the NDSU career lead in touchdown receptions by a tight end with a six-yard scoring pass from Lance last Saturday at SDSU. It gave him 15 in his four years, passing Jerimiah Wurzbacher, who was at NDSU from 2004-08.
Both are Fargo-Moorhead area players; Ellefson from Hawley, Minn., and Wurzbacher from Fargo South.
“That is neat,” Ellefson said. “I didn’t realize he was the record holder, but that is interesting to me.”
Ellefson said Wurzbacher congratulated him via a text message earlier this week.