Saturday afternoon's game in Terre Huate summed up North Dakota State's season pretty well. As they have all season, North Dakota State jumped out to an early lead. They would eventually give up that lead, something that has also occurred on more than one occasion in 2015. The Bison faced adversity against the Sycamores as they have multiple times this season and responded.
The magnifying glass was on freshman quarterback Easton Stick and the Creighton Prep product acquitted himself nicely. While you'd certainly like to see a completion percentage higher than 45% and more than 6.3 yards per attempt Stick was an assassin on the ground. He accounted for 124 of North Dakota State's 243 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, both of which were very impressive.
The Bison defense was impressive as well. If you throw out quarterback Matt Adams' 81 yard run in the 3rd quarter (and you can't) the Sycamores would have only managed 120 yards of offense and averaged less than 2.3 yards per play. Even taking into account yet another explosive play for the opposing QB Code Green still only allowed 201 yards of total offense, 237 yards below the season average for Indiana State.
North Dakota State dominated time of possession as well. The Bison were 29 seconds shy of claiming a 2/1 advantage in that area. The Bison offense kept the ball by running it effectively and sustaining multiple drives. The defense kept Indiana State off the field by forcing eight three-and-outs. Key to the defensive effort by the Bison was the shut down performance by cornerback CJ Smith on standout Sycamore receiver Gary Owens. Owens came into the contest averaging 78 receiving yards per game and was held without a catch.
Turnovers were an issue for the Bison. It's not often you see a team win a game by two touchdowns after losing the turnover battle two to nothing. Ball security has been an issue all season long for NDSU tailbacks and it didn't get any better this afternoon. While the defense has been very good at times they have only forced eight turnovers through six games. The Bison aren't protecting the ball well and the defense isn't taking it away. That's an undesirable combination.
Saturday's victory was far from flawless. North Dakota State had a chance at the end of the first half to blow Indiana State out and yet somehow the game was tied at 14 with 10:51 to go in the third quarter. After losing to South Dakota at home and losing their leader the Bison had to feel knocked down.
After losing a 14-point lead for the second consecutive week the Bison again had to feel knocked down. North Dakota State responded in a big way and put Indiana State away emphatically. The beginning of Saturday's game was all too familiar, as was its second act. It was way the Bison played in the final act and the way that they responded at a key time in the season that caught my attention. You can bet the rest of the FCS is paying attention, too.