In the first road contest of the season, the North Dakota State Bison needed a 28-0 fourth quarter to survive a shootout against Northern Iowa, winning 56-31.
But for the second straight game, the Bison defense took some time to wake up. The Panthers took the opening kickoff and punched the No. 1 team in the nation.
UNI quarterback Eli Dunne beat the Bison blitz and dumped the ball off to tight end Briley Moore. Sixty-four yards later, the No. 22 ranked team had a 7-0 lead.
The home team then took their next drive 92 yards and capped off the drive with running back Marcus Weymiller running in from eight yards out.
Down two scores, the Bison offense found traction. Lance Dunn set the Bison up nicely with a run of 16 yards to the UNI 22. Two plays later quarterback Easton Stick found Darrius Shepherd for a 20-yard touchdown strike.
With energy back on the sidelines of NDSU, the defense jolted to life. The pass rush finally made Dunne uncomfortable and forced the quarterback to loft a pass. Bison cornerback Marquise Bridges came down with the ball, and the offense had a short field to work with.
Bruce Anderson carried the Bison into the red zone on the first play with a 26-yard carry. Stick found Dunn, playing just miles from his hometown of Waterloo, in the flat for the second touchdown pass of the day.
The response from the host came quickly. A pair of third-down conversions on a march down the field led to a 24-yard pass from Dunn to Jalen James for the touchdown.
NDSU committed to the ground game the following drive. Bison backs were the only ones to touch the ball on a nine-play, 75-yard drive. Dunn capped it off, scoring from eight yards out.
UNI added a field goal as time expired on the exciting first half, and NDSU trailed 24-21.
The Bison struck first in the second half. Shepherd gave the Bison a short field with a punt return to the Panthers’ 35. The senior wideout finished the drive with his second touchdown reception of the day, a 22-yard strike from Stick.
Dunne responded on the final play of the third quarter. The Panthers retook the lead with a 26-yard strike to Deion McShane to make the score 31-28.
Instantly, Anderson would silence the UNI-Dome. Stick found his running back with a dump pass on the first play, and Anderson took it the rest of the way for a 75-yard touchdown reception.
The Bison continued to grind away on the ground. Nine rushes on an 11-play drive drove the Bison down the field. Stick was first to bounce outside on a quarterback sneak from the UNI 1-yard line and got a push from Dunn for the touchdown.
Stick added a longer touchdown run on the following drive. The quarterback keeper was good for 31 yards and a score.
The second unit came out for the final drive of the afternoon with the game in hand. Even they had success in the ground game. Adam Cofield added a 25-yard rushing touchdown for the final score of the afternoon.
The Bison’s ground game was dominant, running for an average of 7.2 yards per attempt and 344 yards. Anderson gained 170 of the rushing yards, and Dunn added 104.
Stick added 40 yards on the ground and 179 in the air. The senior quarterback had six total touchdowns on the afternoon.
The Bison improved to 5-0 (2-0 Missouri Valley) and head to Macomb, Illinois for a meeting with Western Illinois 6 p.m. next Saturday.