It was perhaps the greatest drive in North Dakota State’s Division I FCS national championship history that didn’t result in any points. Nonetheless, holding the ball for more than 10 minutes of the fourth quarter was a major reason the Bison on Saturday, Jan. 5, won their seventh title in eight years.
The final over Eastern Washington was 38-24. The long march that started on their own 6-yard line with 13 minutes, 31 seconds remaining in the game didn’t figure in the scoring, but it did figure in the outcome.
“It was really important to keep it away from them,” said offensive line coach Conor Riley. “We needed to get points there but at the end of the day we were continuing to move those chains.”
The drive stalled when Cam Pedersen missed a 24-yard field goal. When the Eastern offense came onto the field, only 3:21 was left in the game. The 19 plays and 10:10 drive time were both season highs for the Bison.
Riley’s message to his offensive linemen before they took the field?
“I said, ‘Let’s answer,’” he said. “‘Let’s answer right now.’”
The Bison converted on third down four straight times. The biggest play was provided by quarterback Easton Stick and receiver Darrius Shepherd, who combined for 11 yards on third-and-7 to reach the Eagles’ 35-yard line.
“Easton was going to figure out a way to keep the chains moving,” said offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham.
Running back Lance Dunn picked up a third-and-1 with a two-yard run to the 24. Dunn gained four yards on third-and-4 that reached the 14.
Messingham said the plan on that momentous drive was to run between the tackles.
“We were talking all the time of getting four (yards) on first (down),” Riley said. “We needed to get four on first. The guys showed a ton of guts on that drive. I’m happy for them. They worked their tails off for this.”