With a trip to Frisco on the line, Bruce Anderson took the initiative and booked the Bison’s ticket to Texas, with help from Easton Stick and Seth Wilson, along with the Bison defense.
The junior ran for 183 yards and 3 scores, adding two more touchdowns receiving to tie the NDSU single game record of five touchdowns. as North Dakota State throttled Sam Houston State 55-13 in the FCS Semifinals.
Wilson outgained Anderson over the course of the game with 194 yards.
The Bearkats came in with the most prolific offense in the FCS, but it was the home team to run up the score.
Easton Stick opened the scoring with his legs on the Bison first drive. The redshirt junior found the front corner of the end zone on a six-yard run to put the Bison ahead 7-3 after the Bearkats opened the scoring on a field goal.
The Bison offense did not let off the gas following the opening score, and they got plenty of help from the defense. NDSU cornerback Marquise Bridges came up with his first career interception, jumping under the route to pick Walter Payton Award finalist Jeremiah Briscoe.
Anderson need just one play to make Sam Houston State pay. The running back found a hole a galloped 62 yards for his first score of the night. The run placed the junior as the 27th running back in Bison history to eclipse 1,000 yards in a single season.
The next Bison drive, Stick and Anderson connected to extend the lead. Set up by a Ty Brooks 55-yard run, Stick would find Anderson all alone in the end zone to make it 21-3.
The Bison special teams units took their turn to set up the offense. Darrius Shepherd had a 31-yard penalty to put the Bison into Bearkat territory.
Three plays later, Anderson stormed in from 32 yards out. At 28-3, the Bison were rolling, at it only got better.
Dimitri Williams forced a fumble on the ensuing kick off and Tre Dempsey scooped up the loose ball. Anderson made the Bearkats pay again, this time scampering in from 33 yards.
True freshman Seth Wilson saw there was a feast to be had and wanted in. Wilson cracked off a 32-yard run to put the Bison at the Sam Houston 12. Stick connected with Jeff Illies to finish the drive off
Looking to get back into the game, Sam Houston State drove deep into Bison territory. With time winding down, Tre Dempsey picked off Briscoe in the end zone and got as far as the SHSU 40 before being brought down as time expired.
After one half, NDSU tallied 323 rushing yards, Anderson accounting for 160 of those.
“We ran hard and made it happen. The Rams up front got them misplaced and the gaps were huge. You could drive a truck through them,” said Anderson after the game.
Stick added to his touchdown total finding Ben Ellefson for his fourth touchdown pass of the night in the third. For Ellefson, it was his fourth reception of the season and his third touchdown.
Stick and Anderson combined forces to reach five total touchdowns apiece. Anderson swung out of the back field as Stick dumped the ball off. Anderson took care of the rest of the 31 yards to extend the lead to 55-13.
Stick finished with 160 yards passing and four touchdowns, adding 32 yards and another touchdown on the ground.
When asked to describe his day, which included him getting his degree hours before the game, the quarterback needed one word. “Fun.”
The NDSU defense stifled the nation’s top offense. Sam Houston State registered only 352 yards and committed four turnovers. The Bearkats gained just 63 rushing yards on 18 attempts.
Not all was rosy for the Bison, as the injury bug reared its ugly head. Both starting cornerbacks, Jaylaan Wimbush and Jalen Allison, left the game with knee injuries, as well as Brooks with a shoulder injury.
The injury to Allison came in the second quarter after Tre Dempsey picked off Briscoe. Dempsey broke down the sideline, following Allison, who was the blocker. As Dempsey was pushed out of bounds, Allison had his knees taken out by a Bearkat running back, and instantly fell to the ground. Surgery is likely for the junior.
“It was an unethical play. It should have been called a penalty. The kid lost an opportunity to play and will probably have to have surgery,” said Kleiman after the game.
The status of Wimbush and Brooks remains uncertain for Frisco, NDSU will need all hands-on deck. The Bison will face James Madison after the Dukes trounced South Dakota State 51-16 Saturday. The No.1- No. 2 ranked battle will be in Frisco, Texas on January 6.