It wasn’t far from Tubby Raymond Field where George Thorogood got his start. On Saturday, Sept. 14, it appeared to be some relative of the rock star who took the field against the University of Delaware. It was Trey Thorogood and the Delaware Destroyers. North Dakota State was bad to the bone.
Quarterback Trey Lance was virtually unstoppable all day and the Bison, after a rough start, took it to the Blue Hens 47-22 before 14,489 fans in NCAA Division I FCS play, with the locals relegated to sitting on their proverbial hands in the second half.
Meanwhile, the around 1,000 Bison fans in the southeast corner of the end zone spent most of the day clapping.
They saw Lance complete 18 of 23 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns. It was the third straight impressive performance for the redshirt freshman who is acting more like a senior with nine touchdown passes and zero interceptions. The offensive coaches called a near perfect game, needing Lance to only run the ball six times.
They saw the Bison offensive line take control in the first quarter and by the time the middle of the fourth quarter rolled around, the Blue Hens were cooked.
“Their ability to wear us down with the run game was disappointing to me,” said Delaware head coach Danny Rocco, “to see them finish like they finished against our defense.”
And they saw Kobe Johnson. Ladies and gentlemen, let us introduce the next big thing in Bison running backs.
Let’s go with him on a first-name basis. Kobe sounds better than Johnson.
The true freshman ran for 101 yards on 11 carries, averaging 9.2 yards a pop. He was especially dangerous on a misdirection pitch play that the Blue Hens had trouble containing.
More than that, early in the game in a show of trust by the coaches, NDSU on a first-and-goal from the 1-yard line went to Kobe instead of a bigger, more veteran back. The 5-foot-9, 177-pounder plowed into the end zone like a fullback for a 7-2 Bison lead they would never give up.
“This game was big for me,” Kobe said. “They said just be ready to go. This was big for me building my confidence as we move forward.”
Kobe can get used to running behind an offensive line like NDSU’s, which turned in its third straight dominant performance. Not only did the Blue Hens not get a quarterback sack, they barely got a finger on Lance.
A year ago at Discovery High School in Lawrenceville, Ga., Kobe was playing for a team that struggled for success.
“Running behind this line is wonderful,” he said. “I have a huge amount of trust in those guys and when I’m in, and I get a run play called, I’m just excited to get it done because I know the guys up front are going to get a push for me.”
It’s going to take two more games officially before Kobe will officially have his redshirt pulled and not be part of the NCAA’s four-game eligibility rule. It’s becoming a joke of sorts with the writers who cover the team versus Bison head coach Matt Entz.
He was asked that question of Kobe being part of the regular running back rotation for the umpteenth time after the game.
“It’s Game 3, he’s got one more maybe,” Entz said with a smile. “Who knows. … Kobe over 100 yards today was a thrill.”
We know this about the Bison passing game: Lance does not discriminate. He completed passes to 10 different receivers. Last week it was nine guys who caught a ball.
So if there was a question who was going to be the go-to receiver after Darrius Shepherd graduated, that may be the answer. Everybody is a go-to guy. Senior Jimmy Kepouros got into the act against Delaware with a couple of big catches on the first scoring drive of the second half.
“It proves his trust in the receivers,” Entz said. “There is one I have to bring up because there are times I get after him: Jimmy Kepouros. He made two huge catches for us and I was super excited for him.”
The tight ends caught two more touchdown passes. Ben Ellefson got open from five yards out with 30 seconds left before halftime to give the Bison a 27-5 lead. Noah Gindorff put a Blue Hens defender on his back and caught a four-yard scoring pass from Lance.
That made it 33-5.
“Thank goodness he was an all-state basketball player,” Entz said. “He boxed that guy out.”
Thank goodness the Bison found Kobe late in the recruiting process. The Bison lost Seth Wilson last spring to an ACL. Dimitri Williams didn't play because of a leg injury suffered against North Dakota. At NDSU, you can never have enough running backs.