As far as point spreads go, it was suspicious that Las Vegas bookies moved North Dakota State from a six-point favorite to around 16 in the hours before the FCS quarterfinal game with South Dakota State. It made you think: Do they know something where it's 60 degrees nobody else does at minus-9?
There were rumors all over social media of a couple of SDSU linemen testing positive for something after last week's second-round win, but all starters were accounted for at kickoff. Scratch that theory. Were Taryn Christion, Jake Wieneke or Dallas Goedert injured? They played and looked sharp on the Jackrabbits' first two drives.
Or, perhaps the odds makers just know the recent history of Bison football in the FCS playoffs. It was on display again Saturday, Dec. 10, before 18,285 fans at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
SDSU was the better team in the regular season.
The Bison were the way better team in the quarterfinals, taking a 36-10 win that was punctuated with one of the longest, greatest, time-consuming drives in NDSU playoff history. Twenty plays. Eighty-two yards. Over 12 minutes off the clock that ate up most of the second quarter.
"Until you start playing with a team that runs a power offense, you truly don't appreciate the rest you get on defense," said Bison defensive tackle Grant Morgan. "Seeing them march down the field gives us more time to make adjustments. It gives you a lot of extra motivation."
Extra time? NDSU could have made adjustments for all three FCS playoff games on Saturday, it had so much time. Defensive coordinator Matt Entz could have gone to the concession stand or the Bison defensive players could have changed jerseys.
"It affects everyone," said SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier. "It's discouraging for a defense. It's physically wearing on you and I think the offense gains momentum in those situations."
NDSU was an uncanny six of six on third down on the drive (10 of 13 for the game) with quarterback Easton Stick making some plays of the tremendous variety. It started with a King Frazier run for two yards on third-and-1. The big play came three plays later, however, when on third-and-23 Stick stepped up in the pocket and rifled a 23-yard pass to RJ Urzendowski that reached the Bison 39-yard line.
Meanwhile, the potent SDSU offense had to sit back down.
"We talk about staying on the field, anytime we can do that is big." Stick said. "It was kind of wearing on them and it keeps our defense fresh. We converted on third down and that was huge."
Stick's seven-yard run converted a third-and-3. His five-yard pass to Chase Morlock erased a third-and-5, a play that reached the SDSU 25-yard line. The next two conversions came via the Jackrabbit defense, with defensive holding penalties on successive third-and-9 situations giving the Bison a first down.
The latter reached the 2. Stick got the touchdown on second-and-goal and the Bison took a 14-10 lead they would never surrender. There was 1:48 left in the half.
NDSU got the ball back inside its 1-yard line when Greg Menard recovered Christion's fumble. With 1:05 left, the Bison were sitting pretty.
The week started with NCAA Videogate. It ended with Goal Linegate.
The Bison, without any time outs, ran just two plays with a delay-of-game penalty causing all kinds of confusion for the home team. Stick tried to audible into another play, a decision that took way too much time, and he was stopped short of the goal line as time ran out.
"That was 100 percent on me, not a lot of excuses for it," Stick said. "After the penalty, the look we had in the formation-I tried to get us in something else and it was the wrong call. A huge wasted opportunity."
Head coach Chris Klieman took off his headset in apparent frustration as he headed to the locker room. But an interesting thing happened at halftime: All was calm. Klieman said Stick is never one to get rattled.
"The kid made a mistake, that's OK," Klieman said. "He learned a great lesson. I know he played with great focus the second half and led us to victory."
The Bison started the second half with a 10-play drive that ended with Stick throwing an interception at the SDSU 1-yard line. No matter. Morgan sliced through the SDSU offensive line sticking the Jacks for a two-point safety. After the free kick, NDSU responded with a mini seven-play drive that ended with a 35-yard Cam Pedersen field goal and the Bison led 19-10.
At that point, with 5:27 left in the third quarter, NDSU ran 39 of the game's previous 43 plays.
It's not easy for Christion, Goedert and Wieneke to score in just four plays.
"They controlled the clock," Goedert said.
Almost 41 of the 60 minutes to be exact.
Maybe somebody in Vegas woke up Saturday morning and already had that figured out.