Bison ground game, stingy defense defeat South Dakota State in quarterfinals

FARGO -- North Dakota State closed out its NCAA Division I FCS quarterfinal game in a fashion that head coach Chris Klieman hadn't seen before.Now the Bison are one win away from a sixth consecutive trip to the national title game.NDSU gained nea...
North Dakota State's King Frazier carries against South Dakota State's Anthony Washington Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, during the FCS playoff quarterfinals at the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO -- North Dakota State closed out its NCAA Division I FCS quarterfinal game in a fashion that head coach Chris Klieman hadn’t seen before.

Now the Bison are one win away from a sixth consecutive trip to the national title game.

NDSU gained nearly 300 yards and scored 22 points after halftime Saturday, Dec. 10, at the Fargodome. That stellar half helped vault top-seeded NDSU to a 36-10 victory against rival South Dakota State at Gate City Bank Field before 18,285 fans.

“That’s as dominant a second-half performance as I’ve seen here,” Klieman said.

The Bison gained 299 yards on 39 plays in the final two quarters, while limiting SDSU to 38 yards on 19 plays after halftime.

“I think we came out with a chip on our shoulder with something to prove,” said Bison senior running back King Frazier, who rushed for 101 yards on 15 attempts. “The rams (offensive line) did a tremendous job. Tremendous, huge, whatever word you want to use.”

The Bison (12-1) advance to the FCS semifinals for a sixth consecutive season and will host No. 4-seeded James Madison (12-1) next weekend in the Fargodome. The five-time defending FCS champions, NDSU has won 22 consecutive playoff games.

“I knew our guys were focused,” Klieman said. “We played the way we had to play.”

The Bison dominated time of possession, finishing with nearly 41 minutes. NDSU rushed for 302 yards on 52 attempts, averaging 5.8 yards per rush. The high-powered SDSU offense was on the field for less than 20 minutes and ran 39 plays for 192 yards. The Jackrabbits had 523 yards in their 19-17 victory against the Bison on Oct. 15 at the Fargodome.

“They did a great job controlling the clock,” said SDSU tight end Dallas Goedert, who finished with six catches for 55 yards. “We’ve got to execute a little bit better.”

The Jackrabbits scored 10 points and gained 146 yards on their first two drives of the game before the Bison countered with 36 unanswered points. NDSU was 77 percent (10 of 13) on third-down conversions.

NDSU shifted momentum and took the lead for good on a drive that ate up most of the second quarter. Sophomore quarterback Easton Stick capped an 82-yard, 20-play drive with a 3-yard touchdown run that gave the Bison a 14-10 lead with 1 minute, 48 seconds to play in the second quarter. That march took 12:09 off the clock.

“Their best defense was their offense,” Stiegelmeier said.

The Bison missed on a prime scoring chance late in the first half after recovering Jackrabbits quarterback Taryn Christion’s fumble at the SDSU 1-yard line with 1:15 to play in the half. NDSU, with no timeouts to use, was unable to get any points off the turnover after a delay of game penalty and poor time management allowed time to run out in the half.

“Sometimes adversity brings a team together and it did at halftime,” Klieman said.

The Bison marched inside the SDSU 20 on the first drive off the second half before Jackrabbits defensive back Nick Farina intercepted Stick at the 1-yard line. Two plays later, Bison defensive tackle Grant Morgan sliced into the backfield and tackled running back Brady Mengarelli for a safety giving the Bison a 16-10 lead with 9:13 to play in the third quarter.

“That was really big,” Klieman said.

The Bison drove the ensuing free kick into SDSU territory, a drive that ended with kicker Cam Pedersen’s 35-yard field goal that gave NDSU a 19-10 lead with 5:27 remaining in the third.

“We feel that we did not play our best football,” Stiegelmeier said. “We didn’t respond at times and they did.”

The Bison added two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to put the game away. Stick scored on a 14-yard touchdown run and added a 67-yard touchdown pass to receiver Darrius Shepherd that gave NDSU a 36-10 lead with 7:14 remaining.

The Bison outgained SDSU 196-21 over the final 15 minutes.

“We improve as the season goes along,” Klieman said. “Year in and year out, this football team continues to get better.”