In postgame press conferences, the word dominant was uttered more times than normal following the North Dakota State Bison’s 52-10 win over the Montana State Bobcats.
Not only was the word tossed around by Bobcat head coach Jeff Choate, but also from Bison head coach Chris Klieman.
“It was just a dominant performance,” Klieman put simply.
To be fair, dominant seemed to be the right word for the Bison. Lance Dunn rushed for a quartet of touchdowns, tying the NDSU postseason record, as the Bison had 407 yards and seven scores on the ground.
Was it a perfect game from the top-ranked team in the nation?
“I think we had one missed assignment,” Bison offensive lineman Luke Bacon said. “That’s frustrating.”
That is one mistake on the offensive line on a day the Bison ran 56 plays, showing the mindset of the rams up front.
But an early mistake on the defensive side of the ball briefly raised the collective heart rate of Fargo.
Montana State quarterback Troy Andersen evaded a corner blitz and found Kevin Kassius wide open down field. The receiver stepped out of bounds at the 3-yard line pursued by Robbie Grimsley.
“The biggest part of that drive was Robbie (Grimsley) chasing that guy down,” safety James Hendricks said. “We easily could have let them score.”
The Code Green defense stood tall on the next three plays to force a field goal.
“NDSU is really, really outstanding in the low-red area. We can’t get the ball down there and settle for field goals,” Choate said.
From there, it was all Bison, and it was a thundering ground attack. Ty Brooks opened with a solid kick return before later setting the Bison on the doorstep with a 15-yard catch and run.
Dunn punched through to give the Bison the lead.
Dunn capped off the following drive as well. The senior back’s 11-yard run was set up by a key third-down reception by Christian Watson. The redshirt freshman picked up 28 with a catch and spin move on third down on the play preceding the touchdown.
NDSU running backs made it three touchdowns on three drives, and this time it was Bruce Anderson. The Ruskin, Florida native broke free from 32-yards out to give the Bison a 21-3 lead in the first quarter.
While the offense was running all across the field, the defense was doing similar. The speed of the Bison linebacking corps was able to stymie the Bobcat run game. On third-and one, linebackers Dan Marlette and Levi Jordhiem stormed into the backfield to drop Andersen.
With the defense in full command, Dunn kept doing his thing. Again, the Waterloo, Iowa native powered into the end zone from a yard out.
But Dunn was not done yet. The rams continued to impose their will on the game, and Dunn was in for his fourth score of the afternoon. The 46-yard scamper tied the NDSU postseason record, joining D.J. McNorton, who put up four scores against the Bobcats in 2010.
Orchestrating all of this was quarterback Easton Stick. The numbers in the first half were modest, 7-10 for 87 yards, but the senior caused many problems.
“It’s almost like playing a triple-option team when you have a quarterback with that much intelligence,” Choate said.
Stick was often checking coverage, changing plays at the line, allowing his backs to find the gaps.
NDSU went into the halftime with a comfortable 38-3 lead. The second half was more of the same as the first.
This time it was Ty Brooks to find the end zone. Another great set of blocks sprung Brooks for a 30-yard score.
Adam Cofield got into the mix in the fourth, punching the Bison’s seventh score in from the 1-yard line.
By the end of the day, NDSU had a trio of 100-yard runners, the first time doing so since 1996. Dunn finished with 127, coupled with 118 and 103 from Anderson and Brooks, respectively.
On the other side, the linebackers were the story to limiting the Bobcats to just 177 rushing yards. The linebacking trio of Marlette, Jordheim and Jabril Cox totaled 25 tackles, with Cox leading the team with 10.
NDSU now move on to host Colgate 11 a.m. Saturday. The Raiders defeated James Madison with a last second field goal to advance.