PHOTO BY BRITTANY HOFMANN | THE SPECTRUM
The North Dakota State Bison advanced to a seventh straight FCS semifinal after dispatching Wofford College 42-10 on Saturday. A dominant first half performance effectively put the Terriers away by the half.
The Southern Conference champions threat of a triple option worked on their first drive only. The Terriers pulled it out of the bag on fourth down. Running back Blake Morgan broke off a 38-yard run into Bison territory. NDSU held the Terriers to a field goal on the drive.
The Bison stormed back, and it was the tight ends leading the charge. Quarterback Easton Stick found Jeff Illies on third down to keep the drive alive midfield. The following play, Stick hit Connor Wentz on a wheel route. The tight end picked up a block by Bruce Anderson and was in for his fifth touchdown of the year.
“These guys lay it on the line for me, so I’m going to do the same. (Wentz) was able to cut inside and I was able lay that key block to get into the end zone,” Anderson said of the block.
The following drive saw the speed of RJ Urzendowski. The senior wide receiver found a soft spot in the Terrier’s zone and collected the pass from Stick. With the middle of the field open, Urzendowski took off and was finally brought down after a gain of 44.
Two plays later, the wheel route struck again. This time it was Seth Wilson open in the end zone. The freshman came down with the leaping grab for his second receiving touchdown in the playoffs.
NDSU was moving into cruise control when their big mistake of the half occurred. Ty Brooks fumbled the exchange on the jet sweep and the Terriers recovered. Wofford ground its way towards the goal line, and Andre Stoddard punched in from three yards out to bring the score to 14-10.
That was the closest Wofford would get as the Bison offense stepped on the throttle. The offensive line created holes and Anderson and Brooks were happy to hit them. The latter bounced outside for a 33-yard gain to help set up Anderson’s first touchdown of the day.
The Bison defense quickly snuffed out any response by the Terriers. On the Terrier’s first play, Caleb Butler forced the ball out of Morgan’s hands. Robbie Grimsley scooped up the loose ball and returned it to the Wofford 3.
Two plays later, Stick found his tight end Illies for his third touchdown pass of the day.
“We knew we could get (the tight ends) the ball and give them opportunities. Those guys made plays after they caught it,” Stick said after the game.
It would not get better for Wofford. The ensuing kickoff was kicked short and fielded by Brandon Brown. Bison receiver Dmitri Williams knocked the ball away from Brown, and Jabril Cox emerged from the pile with the ball for the Bison.
“Just before half, we had a debacle,” Wofford head coach Mike Ayers said.
A debacle ends just one way in the Fargodome. Five plays later, Anderson ran into the end zone for the second time to give the Bison a 35-10 lead.
NDSU put the game out of reach in the third with a methodical drive. The 10-play, 82-yard drive took just 4:32 and ended with Stick rushing in for his fourth score of the game.
The Bison defense meanwhile totally shut down the Wofford triple option. Wofford gained just 134 yards on the ground, adding just 43 in the air. Chris Board led the Bison with nine tackles. Nick DeLuca added another seven, including one sack.
The 42-10 victory pushed NDSU into their seventh straight FCS Semifinal, all of which have been played in Fargo.
“It’s pretty special,” Klieman said. “There’s great tradition long before I got here and there will be great tradition long after I leave here.”
NDSU will host the winner of No. 3 Sam Houston State/ Kennesaw State next weekend at the Fargodome. On the line will be a trip to Frisco to take on the winner of the other semifinal, where No. 1 James Madison host No. 5 South Dakota State.