In Super Bowl XLVII, the Baltimore Ravens came back to defeat the San Francisco 49ers after the lights went out in the Superdome in New Orleans.
For Cal Poly on Saturday, there would be no such comeback after the lights in the Fargodome went out following Lance Dunn’s opening touchdown which put North Dakota State up 7-0.
“I wish they would have stayed out. From that point on, the lights did go out on us,” Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh said.
The Mustangs did cut the Bison lead to 7-3 after a 50-yard field goal, but NDSU rushed for six more touchdowns to open the season with a 49-3 drubbing of Cal Poly.
The game opened innocently enough. After the national championship banner was hung and Josh Duhamel flipped the coin, both teams traded three-and-outs to open play.
From that point, both lines for the Bison took control. Bruce Anderson thundered for 23 yards as a preview for what was to come. What came was Lance Dunn, in his return from an injury that held him out of the latter parts of last year, following a large push from the offensive front for a 35-yard score.
After Cam Pedersen knocked through the extra point, the lights went out in the stadium. A 23-minute delay followed as power was restored.
“We tried to stay warm,” middle linebacker Dan Marlette said of the delay. “Maybe talk about the game plan a bit, but mainly trying to stay warm.”
The Bison run game showed their power throughout the rest of the game. Anderson broke a run that made him look like he was button mashing on “Madden.” The senior back seemed to be stopped behind the line, but broke two tackles, spun out of a third, tiptoed the sideline before hurdling over a mass of Mustangs defenders for a gain of 18 yards.
“It is about playing fast, instinct,” Anderson said. “You got to play fast.”
Dunn capped off the drive with a 1-yard punch in for his second of the day.
Quarterback Easton Stick joined the running party one drive later. Flushed to his right, the senior reversed field and managed a gain of 24 yards. One play later, Anderson bounced to the left corner to extend the lead to 21-3.
Cal Poly threatened to tighten the game on the next drive. A 47-yard pass put the Mustangs in Bison territory. The Bison snuffed out the triple option on fourth-and-short to force the turnover on downs.
Dunn took advantage, registering his third touchdown on six carries in the half.
The Bison defense put the exclamation point on the end of the half. Cole Kracz and Stanley Jones came up with sacks on the last two plays to bring the teams into the locker room.
Cal Poly opened the second half with unfortunate circumstance. Marlette was the source of the bad fortune, with a pair of tackles for loss to force a three-and-out. Mustangs punter Casey Sublette was ruled to have his knee down when catching the low snap, and NDSU took over from the Cal Poly 9-yard line.
Stick scampered in for his first touchdown of the day and extended the lead to 35-3.
Anderson finished his day in style on the next drive. The senior blasted through the gap and exploded for 86 yards relatively untouched for the touchdown. The run gave Anderson 185 yards on the afternoon, a career high.
On the defensive side, Greg Menard dispelled any notion of him not being 100 percent. The senior marked his return to action from an ACL tear by bursting through the line to register his first sack of the year.
“This was just one of the best days of my life to be honest. Just being able to be out here with the guys, being able to play with them,” Menard said on his return.
For most of the Bison starters the day was done, giving Bison fans a glimpse of the future on both sides of the ball.
Holden Hotchkiss received his first action as Stick’s backup in the final quarter plus of action. The redshirt freshman showed he would fit in nicely in Fargo, finishing a run by lowering his shoulder instead of easily running out of bounds. The remaining fans gave a nice ovation after the run.
The twos and threes on defense showed their mettle following a lost fumble by Ty Brooks. The Mustangs started with the ball on the Bison 9-yard line, but the young Bison held strong. Sophomore Spencer Waege registered the sack on second down before redshirt freshman Logan McCormick led a gang into the Mustangs backfield on fourth down for the sack to get the ball back to the offense.
“It is great to see those guys,” Menard said. “To see them show the coaches what they can do and have fun is amazing.”
The second group of backs, Brooks and Adam Cofield, took the final chunks of yardage for the Bison run game. The pair worked their way down the field, but it was Hotchkiss who ended the drive in the end zone.
On the afternoon, the Bison offense accumulated 458 yards on the ground as part of 512 total yards. Cal Poly’s triple option never got going, as the Mustangs managed just 82 yards on the ground. Cal Poly were able to get chunks through the air and managed 125 yards passing.
NDSU must wait two weeks to get back on the field when they host North Alabama Sept. 15 at the Fargodome.