Top-ranked Bison lean on Luepke, power to MVFC home victory against Youngstown State
North Dakota State built an 18-point halftime lead and cruised to victory against the Youngstown State Penguins.
FARGO — North Dakota State used a familiar formula for success Saturday afternoon at Gate City Bank Field.
The top-ranked Bison got multiple touchdowns from do-everything fullback Hunter Luepke, while keeping Youngstown State out of the end zone until late in the fourth quarter. No 1-ranked NDSU had three rushing scores in the first half to fuel a 27-14 victory against the Penguins in Missouri Valley Football Conference play before 18,055 fans at the Fargodome.
“This is the standard," said Youngstown State head coach Doug Phillips, "who we want to be and what kind of program we want to be.”
The Bison (4-1, 2-0 MVFC) remained undefeated in conference play, earning an 11th consecutive victory against Youngstown State. NDSU next plays at noon Saturday, Oct. 8, at Indiana State.
The 6-foot-1, 236-pound Luepke rushed for 72 yards and two touchdowns on 13 attempts. He also caught two passes for 34 yards.
"I don’t think I’ve ever seen a player like him," said Bison safety Michael Tutsie, who had an interception.
The Bison struggled to contain YSU running back Jaleel McLaughlin, who scored his team's lone TD. The 5-foot-9, 183-pound McLaughlin rushed for 150 yards on 17 attempts. He also caught three passes for 43 yards. McLaughlin's electric performance, however, wasn't enough for YSU.
“When you face guys like that, you have to have outstanding tackling," Tutsie said.
Bison kicker Griffin Crosa hit a 39-yard field goal to give the Bison a 24-6 lead with 7 minutes, 46 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. Crosa added a 38-yarder to give NDSU a 27-14 lead with 42 seconds remaining.
“I definitely wasn’t satisfied with scoring only six points in the second half," said Bison quarterback Cam Miller. “It’s situational football that we need to work on.”
McLaughlin scored on a 35-yard TD pass from quarterback Mitch Davidson that cut the Bison lead to 24-14 with 4:30 to play in the fourth quarter.
“I felt like we played pretty well," said Bison head coach Matt Entz. “The fourth quarter is probably not what we’re looking for.”
Luepke gave the Bison an early lead, scoring on a 2-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 edge with 7:37 to play in the first quarter. A play earlier, Luepke hauled in a 27-yard pass from Miller — with fancy footwork along the sideline — that moved the ball to the YSU 2.
The Bison added to the lead on their next drive. On a fourth-and-1, Luepke took a quick pitch and scored on a 12-yard TD run for a 14-0 lead with 27 seconds to play in the first quarter. That capped a 57-yard drive that lasted nine plays.
YSU kicker Colt McFadden booted a 22-yard field goal to cut the Bison lead to 14-3 with 10:35 to play in the second quarter. McLaughlin set up that score with a 44-yard run to the NDSU 5-yard line. McFadden also added a 47-yard field goal that cut the Bison lead to 21-6 with 2:05 to play in the third quarter.
Bison running back Kobe Johnson scored on a 17-yard TD run for a 21-3 lead with 3:45 to play in the first half. That capped a 75-yard drive that lasted 12 plays. The play before Johnson's scoring run, 6-foot-6 receiver Zach Mathis had a 17-yard catch from Miller on third-and-15 to extend the drive.
“I just think we started a lot faster than we did, probably the last two weeks," said Miller, who completed 13 of 18 passes for 145 yards. “To see that push from our offensive line was great to see.”
The Bison rushed for 114 yards on 22 attempts in the opening 30 minutes, including three rushing TDs. NDSU ended with 227 rushing yards on 46 carries. The 5-foot-9, 188-pound Johnson had 61 rushing yards and a TD on six attempts.
“There are a lot of positives here," Entz said. “We were able to run the football for a big chunk, which we need to be able to.”