The crowd bellowed, “Bruuuuuuce!” as running back Bruce Anderson ran away from Grizzlies on Saturday after his 100-yard kickoff return.
As North Dakota State (10-2) moved one step closer to a fifth national championship with the dominating 37-6 victory over the University of Montana, and Bison freshmen stepped up and made the big plays throughout the game.
The first four touchdowns for NDSU were scored by freshmen, two of them by Anderson.
“In my mind it tells us that the future is pretty bright here,” NDSU head coach Chris Klieman said about the freshmen scoring. “We have some really good young players … Everyone’s a play maker that plays, and that was great to see those young guys doing it.”
With 12:08 left in the first quarter redshirt freshman quarterback Easton Stick ran right up the gut for a 49-yard touchdown run to give NDSU the early 7-0 lead. Stick, who made his first career postseason start finished the game 7-of-13 with 66-yards through the air, and ran the football 11 times for a net 49 yards.
A quarter later redshirt freshman cornerback Jalen Allison intercepted a pass by Brady Gustafson, giving the Bison a 14-0 lead over UM with 6:24 left in the second quarter. Gustafson was intercepted four times by NDSU’s defense, and the Bison scored 13 points off those turnovers.
Less than four minutes later, Anderson took the jet swipe to the right side of the field to give NDSU the 21-0 lead after his 15-yard touchdown run.
About six minutes after NDSU came out of the locker rooms from halftime Anderson took the Grizzle kickoff 100-yards to the house in front of the 18,232 in attendance, and that touchdown just about eliminated UM (8-5) from the postseason.
“We’ve been close of some kickoff returns this year,” Klieman said about Anderson’s touchdown. “We were able to hit the big one, and Bruce is a special athlete.”
It was the second time this season that faced UM and NDSU faced off against each other with the green and gold defense playing much better in the rematch game.
NDSU received a jolt in the secondary after senior cornerback CJ Smith made his debut against the Grizzlies, after missing the first game on Aug. 29 due to a lower body injury.
“It’s probably the most fun game I’ve ever played in, to be honest,” Smith said after the game. “Just seeing the young guys step up and just playing with the passion that we did (is) just a great feeling.”
Smith finished the game with four total tackles, three pass breakups and a pick-six in the fourth quarter to extend the Bison lead to 37-6.
NDSU’s defense held UM to just six total rushing yards, and 235 yards of total offense.
The Grizzlies ran 92 plays against the Bison earlier this season, but the Bison limited UM’s offense to just 67 plays this time. That’s about 20 plays less than its season average.
“That was a great dominating performance, and hats off to our players and coaches,” Klieman said after the football game.
NDSU will now face University of Northern Iowa 11 a.m. Saturday inside the Fargodome.
The Bison beat the Panthers on Homecoming Saturday at Gate City Bank Field 31-28 on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Carson Wentz with 35 seconds left in the game.
NDSU students can purchase their tickets at the Bison Ticket Office or the Memorial Union on campus between 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The tickets will cost $5 with student ID, and only one ticket can be bought per student.