How good is North Dakota State? The scoreboard offered few clues last weekend.
In a game so one-sided that many in the Fargo Dome left early, North Dakota State set several school records Saturday in a 72-7 win over Mississippi Valley State.
While Eastern Washington was being throttled 56-10 by Texas Tech, the Bison rolled up 683 yards of total offense against Jerry Rice’s old school.
None of that means a thing as the two FCS powers prepare for Saturday’s nonconference game in Cheney.
There’s a lot to play for in one of the biggest nonconference FCS matchups of the year, as both programs have their sights set on a national title. Eastern won it all in 2010, then NDSU took five straight before James Madison ended their reign in last year’s semifinals.
Both sides crave revenge, Eastern for last year’s 50-44 overtime loss in Fargo, the Bison for a playoff defeat in 2010 on the same red turf they’ll revisit this week.
“We’ve circled them on the calendar. We know what they are capable of,” Bison senior linebacker Nick DeLuca said. “They have a lot of weapons. We’re looking forward to getting back to the game plan.”
On Saturday, that included lockdown defense (the Delta Devils went three-and-out on 11 of 13 possessions) and a breakout game from sophomore running back Ty Brooks (11 rushes for 127 yards off the bench.)
NDSU scored touchdowns on its first five possessions with only one drive longer than three plays. Brooks scored on runs of six and 36 yards early in the second quarter to open a 44-0 lead.
“He’s got another gear, and he’s electric in space,” said NDSU coach Kris Klieman, who figures to give Brooks more carries against an Eastern defense that struggled to make plays in space at Texas Tech.
Junior quarterback Easton Stick, who took the controls from Carson Wentz last year, was his usual versatile self in limited action. Stick was 5-for-5 passing for 100 yards and two scores; he also ran twice for 53 yards and another score.
The Bison’s defensive stats were staggering. Mississippi Valley State mustered just 58 yards of offense, including minus-31 on the ground thanks largely to five sacks.
Said Eastern Washington running back Sam McPherson: “North Dakota State is going to be a really good team, maybe even possibly better than (Texas Tech), who knows.
“But they’re going to be ready, we’re going to be ready, too, and come out and be good, be ready,” McPherson said.