Easton Stick is no Carson Wentz.
He’ll never have Wentz’s arm strength or be a No. 2 NFL draft pick, but he might just lead North Dakota State to a national title.
Oh, wait – he already did.
With Wentz injured for most of last season, Stick led the Bison to an 8-0 record. Wentz returned in time for the title game, but he didn’t forget who helped get him there.
“I owe (Stick) so much,” Wentz said after a 37-10 win over Jacksonville State in the title game “He did a tremendous job,” said Wentz, now the starter for the Philadelphia Eagles. “He prepared all year long as if he was a starter, and he just took it and ran with it.”
Stick did that in more ways than one last year as redshirt freshman. The 6-foot-2, 200-pounder from Omaha rushed for 498 yards on 5.9 yards a carry. He also completed 61.2 percent of his passes, for 1,144 yards, 13 touchdowns and just four picks.
After an opening-day win over Charleston Southern, Stick is 9-0 as a starter going into Saturday’s big nonconference game against Eastern Washington.
“He’s really good,” EWU coach Beau Baldwin said. “He’s athletic … he doesn’t look that big, but he is – and he’s fast.”
He’s also well-liked: Only a sophomore, Stick was elected a team captain by his teammates.
Much will depend on Stick’s ability to throw against an Eastern defense that figures to focus on the Bison power running game.
And lest Eastern fans try to read too much into Stick’s lackluster game against Charleston Southern (17-for-27 for 194 yards and a pick), Baldwin said his performance “was definitely not evident of what we saw on film from last year.”
Eagles at Florida in 2020
Eastern will play at Florida on Sept. 5, 2020, the schools announced Wednesday.
The first-ever game for the Eagles against the Southeastern Conference will be against a Gators team currently coached by former Eagle Jim McElwain.
The Montana native spent 15 years in Cheney from 1980-94 first as a player and then as a coach. He received his bachelor’s degree in 1984 from EWU and also worked on his master’s degree while an Eagle.
“This is pretty cool to be able to add Eastern Washington to the schedule,” McElwain said. “I spent 15 years at Eastern and it is such a huge part of my life.”
NDSU wins old-fashioned way
Is it any wonder NDSU has won five straight national titles?
The Bison do the big things right. Last year they ranked third in FCS in total defense, fifth in scoring defense. They also held four playoff opponents to season lows in total yardage, culminating in a 204-yard lockdown on a Jacksonville State squad that had nine 500-yard games last year.
Eight starters return from that team.
“It’s not by accident,” Baldwin said of NDSU’s success. “You don’t do what they’ve done just because the ball bounced right.”
The Bison also are good at playing keep-away. Last year they led FCS in time of possession with a staggering 36-minute, 38-second average. That figures to be another key matchup against an Eastern run defense that was seldom tested in last week’s win at Washington State.
The Bison have only been out-clocked once in their last 32 games.
Piling up wins
North Dakota State is 72-5 since the beginning of the 2011 national championship season. The Bison went 14-1, 14-1, 15-0, 15-1 and 13-2 for the most wins in Division I football in that five-year span.
Fifteen FCS programs have multiple 10-win seasons since 2011, and only four have reached the 10-win mark at least three times—NDSU (five), Sam Houston State (four), Eastern Washington (three) and Jacksonville State (three).
Also, NDSU is 8-3 all time against FBS teams and has won five in a row since 2010, against Kansas (6-3), Minnesota (37-24), Colorado State (22-7), Kansas State (24-21) and Iowa State (34-14).
NDSU did not play an FBS opponent in 2015, but the Bison play at Iowa on Sept. 17.
The winningest Division I programs since 2011 include NDSU (72 wins), Alabama (63), Florida State (59), Oregon (58), and Clemson, Ohio State and Sam Houston State (57 each).
Eastern has won 47 games during that span.
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