With a potential top two seed on the line, Easton Stick and the Bison rattled off 17 consecutive points in the fourth quarter to beat Youngstown State 27-24. After a first half filled with penalties, missed tackles and sluggish offensive play, NDSU put together a 24 point second half. Despite being held to 2.8 yards per carry on the ground, Stick led the Bison on a nine play, 54-yard touchdown drive to win the game.
Youngstown State running back Jody Webb was electric. The junior averaged over 25 yards per carry, stressing the perimeter of the Bison defense all game long. The Bison held Youngstown State quarterbacks Hunter Wells and Ricky Davis to 9/24 passing and no touchdowns. The Penguins utilized Davis in run situations and rolled up 245 yards on the ground.
The North Dakota State defense stepped up in a big way when it counted. The Bison forced three consecutive three-and-outs after falling behind 24-10, clearing the way for the offense to provide fourth quarter heroics and push the Bison to 8-2 (6-1). Nick DeLuca led the Bison with seven tackles and Brad Ambrosious provided two first half tackles for loss.
Offensive coordinator Tim Polasek stayed with the same game plan NDSU has used since losing Carson Wentz. Despite trailing for most of the game, the Bison ran the ball 42 times against just 18 passing attempts. North Dakota State won the total yardage battle 360-349 and the time of possession 32:16 to 27:44. Unless and until Carson Wentz returns, expect North Dakota State to pound the ball.
Bison freshman phenom Bruce Anderson paced the Bison rushing attack despite only four carries. Anderson gave the Bison 67 yards on the ground and made a huge impact in the return game. The Florida native gave the Bison 95 yards on three kickoff returns and had another long return called back by penalty. Anderson has battled bruised ribs in recent weeks. His return to health could pay big dividends for the Herd come playoff time.
Youngstown State coach Bo Pelini was flagged twice for unsportsmanlike conduct on the Penguins final drive and was in the ear of the officials after the game. Pelini became incensed after the officials appeared to miss a false start by the NDSU offensive line and proceeded to call pass interference on the same play. The penalty set the Bison up inside the Youngtown 10 yard line. Stick's winning touchdown came two plays later.
The win secures an undefeated conference road record for the fourth time in the past five seasons. A win against Missouri State on Saturday would clinch at least a share of the Missouri Valley conference title and more than likely home field advantage throughout the FCS playoffs. A Bison loss would have likely meant road playoff games for the first time since 2010. As they have so many times in the past, the Bison found a way to get it done.