No. 1-ranked Bison give lights-out performance in season-opening victory

FARGO - The lights went out during the first quarter Saturday at the Fargodome, delaying North Dakota State's season opener against Cal Poly around 20 minutes.
Lance Dunn of North Dakota State makes a touchdown run against Cal Poly during their football game Saturday, Sept. 1, 2018, at the Fargodome. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

FARGO - The lights went out during the first quarter Saturday at the Fargodome, delaying North Dakota State’s season opener against Cal Poly around 20 minutes.

Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh joked he wished the dome would have remained dark the rest of the afternoon.

“I wish they would have stayed out,” Walsh said. “From that point on, the lights did go out on us.”

The No. 1-ranked Bison rushed for 458 yards to fuel a 49-3 victory against the Mustangs in NCAA Division I FCS football at Gate City Bank Field before 18,483 fans.

“North Dakota State was very, very good. They’re as good as advertised,” Walsh said. “Their football team plays at a championship level.”

NDSU started the afternoon by raising a banner for its 14th national championship prior to kickoff. The Bison defeated James Madison 17-13 last January to win the FCS title, their sixth FCS crown in the past seven years.

The Bison scored 21 points in the second quarter against Cal Poly to start to pull away from visitors from the Big Sky Conference. Senior running back Lance Dunn scored three touchdowns in the first two quarters to help NDSU build a 25-point halftime lead.

Dunn’s 12-yard scoring burst gave the Bison a 28-3 edge with 1 minute, 38 seconds to play in the second quarter.

“We were really clicking on all cylinders,” Bison head coach Chris Klieman said. “We played well in all phases.”

While the Bison offense chewed up yards on the ground, the NDSU defense limited a run-heavy Cal Poly triple-option attack to 82 rushing yards on 52 attempts.

Dunn rushed for 65 yards on six attempts, finishing with three touchdowns. Bison senior running back Bruce Anderson gained 185 yards on 11 carries, including two touchdowns. NDSU averaged 10.2 yards per carry.

“We thought we could own the line of scrimmage,” Klieman said.

Anderson put an exclamation point on his day with an 86-yard touchdown burst that gave the Bison a 42-3 lead with 11:14 to play in the third quarter. NDSU finished with seven rushing touchdowns.

“The rams. Them boys were itching to move some people around,” Anderson said. “They were displacing guys and getting them out of the way.”

Bison quarterback Easton Stick only needed to attempt nine passes with the ground game rolling. The 6-foot-2, 220-pound Stick completed 4 of 9 passes for 48 yards. He also rushed for 49 yards and a touchdown on four attempts.

Klieman said there was no need to pass once the Bison had built a sizable lead. He liked the game that offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham called.

“We just want to have Easton take any of those hits,” Klieman said. “I was glad Mess kind of toned it back.”

Klieman liked that his team played a clean game, committing two penalties for 21 yards. One infraction was a pass interference call late in the first. The other penalty was an illegal formation call early in the third quarter.

“I think that is a sign of a really mature team,” Klieman said.

Cal Poly starting quarterback Khaleel Jenkins left the game with a knee injury as is likely done for the season, Walsh said.

The Bison played two true freshmen against Cal Poly, including wide receiver Phoenix Sproles and safety James Kaczor.

NDSU finished with 512 yards, while limiting the Mustangs to 207.

“I felt like there was a lot left on the field,” Anderson said. “It wasn’t a perfect game. We always strive for a perfect game.”