The battle of the top-two scoring defenses in FCS ended with the second-ranked unit pitching a shutout. On the other side of the ball, a balanced Bison offense put up five touchdowns to beat Colgate 35-0 to advance to an eighth straight FCS semifinal.
The Raiders came out of the Patriot League with the best defensive unit in the subdivision, but the Bison quickly threw that designation into question.
The backfield four for the Bison all did damage to Colgate in four plays. Quarterback Easton Stick had a short 6-yard rush before the offense ripped off 90 yards in three plays.
Bruce Anderson first bounced outside for 32 yards on the ground. Stick found Lance Dunn on a wheel route for the same yardage on the next play. Ty Brooks got into the action and waltzed into the end zone from 26 yards out.
“I thought the plan early was really good,” Stick said. That might be underselling it a bit.
Stick seemed to have found the big play magic again on the next drive. A deep bomb toward Dallas Freeman, the senior seemingly caught the ball at the 1-yard line. Ruled incomplete, video review apparently didn’t have enough to over turn the call. North Dakota State punted on the drive.
Meanwhile, the Code Green defense did its thing. Colgate made a poor decision by not blocking linebacker Jabril Cox. The sophomore was quickly in the face of quarterback Grant Breneman on third down. That forced the Raiders quarterback to throw a short screen pass on third down that was snuffed out by Cole Karcz.
James Hendricks seemingly had the first turnover of the game, picking off Breneman. But the junior safety couldn’t catch the ball cleanly, and the call was overturned after review.
The Colgate defense settled in after the opening drive and kept the Bison off the board for the rest of the first quarter. The Bison found traction again in the second. Phoenix Sproles hauled in a catch for the first third-down conversion for either team.
In the same drive, Freeman gathered some yards after the catch, leaving three Raiders in his wake, before Stick found Ben Ellefson wide open in the end zone from two yards out. The junior tight end has been money for the Bison this season, collecting 8 touchdowns on just 13 receptions.
Being up just 14 at halftime, the Bison came out firing in the third. Stick went 4-4 for 60 yards on the first drive, capping it off with a 10-yard dart to Darrius Shepherd for six points.
“That opening drive of the second half ended the game I think,” Bison head coach Chris Klieman said.
The Colgate defense had allowed just three touchdowns to FCS opponents in the regular season. Anderson made it four on the day for the Bison. Finding a hole on third down, the senior was left untroubled from 42 yards out.
“I think they’re different than anyone they’ve played other than the exception of Army,” Colgate head coach Dan Hunt said. The Raiders faced off against a ranked Army squad a couple weeks ago.
Up 28-0, attention turned to the unofficial battle for the No. 1 defense. Breneman looked for the end zone in the third quarter, but Hendricks was on hand to take the chance away. It was the fourth interception of the season for the Bemidji, Minnesota product.
NDSU put the final touches on the score with Sproles. The freshman caught his first touchdown pass as a Bison from Stick. Stick finished the day 14-19 for 205 yards with 3 touchdowns.
Colgate’s offense just had no answers all game. The Raiders were a pitiful 1-12 on third down and 0-3 on fourth. NDSU allowed just 157 yards and held Colgate to a total of seven first downs.
The Bison move on to an eighth straight FCS semifinal. The game will be against a familiar foe in South Dakota State. The Jacks withstood a comeback attempt from Kennesaw State on Saturday. Kickoff at the Fargodome is set for 7 p.m. Friday, Dec. 14.