For the second time this season, and the second time ever in the Fargodome, Bison football needed overtime to secure victory. North Dakota State would win the Saturday shootout 50-44 over Eastern Washington University, thanks to Lance Dunn’s 25-yard touchdown run in overtime.
It was a slow starting game, with the opening quarter looking like a defensive battle. The Bison would score the only touchdown of the frame through King Frazier. The Bison would convert a pair of third downs before the running back found his way to the right pylon. Similar to last week’s winner, the score put the Bison up 7-0.
The game slowed to standstills in the second quarter. The Eagles’ receiver Cooper Kupp got his first touchdown, before a quick three play drive for the Bison restored the lead. Each play for the Bison was reviewed, and ended with quarterback Easton Stick fighting for the 1-yard rush.
In all, the game’s refs called nine official reviews.
Teams traded scores before the break, with Stick finding tight end Jeff Illies open for a 33-yard touchdown pass. Eagles came right back with another Kupp catch in the end zone to put the game at 21-14 for the Bison going into the locker room.
There were three drives in the third and all ended with points. Eagles would get a field goal and a touchdown when quarterback Gage Gubrud snuck in from 13 yards. The Bison would get a long pass from Stick to Darrius Shepherd, who reached for the line to finish off the 37-yard reception.
The Eagles would cut the Bison lead to 35-31 before forcing the first punt of the half. EWU had a chance to take the lead, but linebacker Nick DeLuca, returning from injury, picked off Gubrud and returned it for a score. DeLuca would finish with an interception along with leading tacklers with 14.
The lead would not last for long. Gubrud stayed hot and found Stu Stiles for a 31-yard touchdown pass, before Tamarick Pierce would stuff a 1-yard run in to give the Eagles their first lead with 4:26 to go.
Stick would engineer one last drive for the Bison in regulation. Stick found Nate Jensen on third and nine to move the chains, then pick up another first down with a 13-yard rush. The drive stalled out, but allowed Cam Pederson to knock one through the uprights to tie the game up at 44-44.
Eastern Washington did not go quietly, as Gubrud would find Nic Sblendorio 35-yards down field, setting up a game winning field goal attempt by Roldan Alcobendas. The 49-yarder was well left, and OT was confirmed.
Eastern Washington would finally get stopped in overtime, and in a big way. The opening play resulted in MJ Stumpf getting to Gubrud for a sack. On the next play, Tre Dempsey picked off Gubrud one-handed to set up the Bison offense. Gubrud ended the day with 450 yards, four touchdowns and three interceptions.
Like two weeks ago against Charleston Southern, it took just one rush for the Bison to end the game. This time, it would be Dunn to the left side, making a man miss, before strutting in for the score.
Dunn finished with a pair of touchdowns and 128 yards. Stick tallied 257 yards in the air, throwing for another pair of touchdowns, and rushing for one more.
Head coach Chris Klieman praised his team’s effort, even though the tough physical battle.
“We have a lot of guys play through a lot pain that kept going out there to play. They did it for their brother, and that is the culture of NDSU football,” Klieman said. “All college football wins are hard, and all college football wins count.”
On the final play, Dunn said, “Coach said that we need to win one-on-ones, and when I got out there, that’s what I did.”
The Bison return to action on Saturday, against ranked-FBS Iowa, at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. The FCS-No. 1 Bison improve to 2-0, while the No. 8 Eagles drop back to 1-1.