FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Quarterback Easton Stick ran for 169 yards and three touchdowns and threw for another score to help North Dakota State defeat rival South Dakota State 44-21 in the FCS semifinals Friday night.
Bruce Anderson added two rushing touchdowns for the undefeated and top-seeded Bison (14-0), who will be seeking their seventh FCS title in the last eight years. North Dakota State led 14-7 at intermission and then won a shootout in the second half.
Stick, a first-team AP All-American selection, finished with 316 total yards. He was 12-of-15 passing for 169 yards and no interceptions.
“Easton Stick is the best player in college football. Period,” Bison coach Chris Klieman said. “We’re lucky to have him.”
South Dakota State coach John Stiegelmeier said Stick was the difference in the game.
“It was a great performance,” Stiegelmeier said. “We know him pretty well obviously.”
The Bison amassed 608 total yards, including 439 rushing. Anderson and fellow running backs Seth Wilson and Adam Cofield combined for another 242 yards on the ground. Wilson set the tone for the Bison on the first play from scrimmage in the second half when he ran 78 yards to the South Dakota State 3, leading to a touchdown and a 21-7 lead.
“That really changed the momentum,” Stiegelmeier said. “It was a basic play.”
South Dakota State scored a touchdown on its next possession but the Bison got the breathing room they need with Anderson’s two scoring runs of 14 and 41 yards.
Taryn Christion threw for a pair of touchdowns for South Dakota State (10-3) and Pierre Strong Jr. ran for 135 yards and one score.
The victory capped a whirlwind week for the Bison football program, which lost Klieman to Kansas State and then promoted defensive coordinator Matt Entz to the top job. Klieman will coach the Bison in the Jan. 5 title game in Frisco, Texas.
“Never underestimate the power of people who live for each other and support each other,” Klieman said. “All the things that happened this week galvanized that locker room.”
Klieman has received overwhelming support from the team the community for his move to Kansas State. One of the loudest ovations came with about five minutes left when the big screens at the stadium flashed a picture of a fan holding a sign that said, “Thank you coach.”
“I can’t thank (Bison athletic director) Matt Larsen enough for letting me finish this journey with these guys,” Klieman added.
The Jackrabbits are 0-4 against the Bison in the playoffs. They lost for the second straight year in the semifinals.