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No. 1-ranked Bison shut down Colgate to roll into FCS semifinals

Ty Brooks of North Dakota State is held aloft after his touchdown against Colgate during their NCAA FCS quarterfinal playoff football game Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor 1 / 2
Caleb Butler of North Dakota State sacks quarterback Grant Breneman of Colgate during their NCAA FCS quarterfinal playoff football game Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, in Fargo. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor 2 / 2

FARGO - North Dakota State needed only four plays to cover 96 yards on its opening drive Saturday, Dec. 8, at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

Runs of 6, 32 and 26 yards, with a 32-yard pass play sprinkled in, led to an early touchdown for the top-seeded Bison. That would prove to be the only points NDSU would need as it powered its way to a 35-0 victory against No. 8-seeded Colgate in the NCAA Division I FCS quarterfinals before 16,404 fans.

The defending national champions advanced to the FCS semifinals for an eighth consecutive season. NDSU (13-0) has won 19 consecutive games.

“Never take it for granted,” Bison head coach Chris Klieman said of the program’s semifinal-game streak. “It’s really hard to do.”

The Bison will host Missouri Valley Football Conference rival South Dakota State (10-2) next weekend in the national semifinals at the Fargodome. NDSU has a 110-8 record since the start of the 2011 season.

“It’s truly remarkable,” Klieman said. “We try to raise the bar. … It’s tough when the bar is as high as it can go anyway.”

The Bison scored 35 points on a Colgate defense that was the top scoring defense in the FCS, limiting opponents to 7.0 points per game heading into the quarterfinals. That is the most points Colgate (10-2) allowed this season. The Raiders previous high came in a 28-14 loss at FBS Army to end the regular season.

“Our kids were confident, but I think they had the utmost respect for this team,” Colgate head coach Dan Hunt said of the Bison. “They knew what they were facing. … They’re as good as advertised.”

After forcing a Colgate punt, the Bison started their first drive at their own 4-yard line. Bison quarterback Easton Stick rushed for 6 yards before running back Bruce Anderson ripped off a 32-yard run to the 42-yard line. On the next play, Stick zipped a 32-yard pass to running back Lance Dunn to the Colgate 26. Running back Ty Brooks capped the drive with a 26-yard touchdown run that gave the Bison a 7-0 lead with 9 minutes, 14 seconds to play in the first quarter.

“I thought the plan early was really good,” said Stick, who completed 14 of 19 passes for 205 yards and three touchdowns.

The Bison pushed their lead to two scores late in the second quarter. Tight end Ben Ellefson caught a 2-yard touchdown pass that gave NDSU a 14-0 lead with 2:27 remaining in the second quarter.

NDSU started third quarter with another long scoring drive. Senior wide receiver Darrius Shepherd caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Stick on a quick slant to give the Bison a 21-0 lead with 10:22 to play in the third.

“That opening drive of the second half ended the game I think,” Klieman said. “I thought once it got to 21, we were going to be pretty tough to beat.”

Hunt agreed.

“I thought the first drive of the second half was key,” he said.

Anderson scored on a 42-yard scoring burst that gave the Bison a 28-0 lead with 7:07 to play in the third quarter. True freshman wide receiver Phoenix Sproles added a 6-yard touchdown catch from Stick for a 35-0 lead with 4:26 to play in the fourth quarter. That was Sproles’ first career touchdown with the Bison.

“When we do have a win, we celebrate the win,” said Anderson, who rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown. “We don’t think it just comes with this. … We don’t take things for granted.”

The Bison finished with 443 yards on 63 plays, an average of 7.0 yards per play. NDSU limited Colgate to 157 yards on 48 plays. The Raiders also lead the FCS in total defense, holding opponents to 219 points per game entering Saturday.

“I think they’re different than anyone they’ve played other than the exception of Army,” Hunt said.

Bison defensive end Derrek Tuszka had a big game, finishing with 2.5 sacks. Senior defensive end Caleb Butler added a sack for NDSU, which earned its first playoff shutout since 2011, a 24-0 victory against Lehigh in the quarterfinals.

“It was disappointing for us that we couldn’t get anything going,” said Colgate quarterback Grant Breneman, who completed 9 of 21 passes for 68 yards with one interception. “They’re better than anybody we’ve played.”

Eric Peterson
Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.

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