FARGO - The Gold Star Marching Band wasn't the only fine-tuned unit performing Saturday afternoon on Gate City Bank Field.
The Bison offense was under perfect orchestration, particularly in the first half. No. 1-ranked NDSU exploded for 35 points before halftime en route to a 48-7 victory against No. 3-ranked Youngstown State in Missouri Valley Football Conference action at the Fargodome.
The game was played in front of a home record crowd of 19,065 fans.
"We came out of the gate hot just like we wanted to," said Bison junior quarterback Brock Jensen, who completed 15 of 23 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns.
The Bison punted just once in the first half and gained 250 yards (96 rushing, 154 passing) through the first 30 minutes. NDSU was 6 of 7 on third-down conversions in the opening half.
"We played a great football game today," said Bison junior wide receiver Ryan Smith, who tied a career-high with seven catches that included one touchdown. "We showed how good a football team we can be."
NDSU used a trick play late in the first quarter that helped shift the momentum. Jensen handed off to running back John Crockett, who looked like he was going to run the ball up the middle. Crockett stopped short of the line of scrimmage and flipped the ball back to Jensen. Jensen then heaved the ball to a wide-open Zach Vraa for a 46-yard touchdown. That gave the Bison a 14-7 lead with 4 minutes, 23 seconds to play in the first quarter.
"We've been practicing that and felt like we'd have a shot to get it and it worked," Bison head coach Craig Bohl said.
Jensen credited offensive coordinator Brent Vigen for springing the trick play at an opportune time.
"We've had that in the past couple weeks here and we wanted to run it," Jensen said, "It was just a great play call at the right time. A play like that has to be called at the right time."
The Bison blended the run and the pass in the first half. Crockett rushed for 66 yards and two touchdowns on 12 attempts in the first two quarters.
Jensen capped the half with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Smith, who made a leaping catch in near the sideline in the end zone.
That gave the Bison a 35-7 lead with 51 seconds to play in the half.
"I thought Brent Vigen had a great pulse and we have some great weapons out there," Bohl said.
Jensen completed 9 of 15 passes in the opening half for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
"I thought our offense was really balanced," Bohl said.
The Bison defense also got into the scoring act before halftime. All-America cornerback Marcus Williams had a 98-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave NDSU a 21-7 lead with 8:35 remaining in the second quarter. The Bison defense caused two more turnovers in the first half that the NDSU offense converted into 14 more points.
"It was a really fine performance," said Bohl, whose team had no turnovers. "It was a complete game. This one surprised me."
Youngstown State head coach Eric Wolford felt the turnover margin and third-down efficiency were the difference. The Bison were 11-for-15 on third-down conversions, while Youngstown State was 3-for-10.
"I felt like we gave them 21 points early in the game there," Wolford said. "We could just never get anything going. ... That's the formula; being great on third down and taking care of the football."
Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.