Bison Run Past Eastern Washington 42-20 in FCS First Round

Published: Apr. 24, 2021 at 9:18 PM CDT
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FARGO, N.D. (NDSU Athletics) - North Dakota State rushed for 422 yards and scored 35 unanswered points to beat Eastern Washington 42-20 in the first round of the NCAA FCS playoffs on Saturday, April 24, at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

Freshman Dominic Gonnella rushed 20 times for 163 yards and his first two career touchdowns while redshirt freshman Jalen Bussey had 13 carries and 143 yards for North Dakota State (7-2), which advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals for the 11th straight year.

NDSU, with injuries to its top two right guards, averaged 7.4 yards per carry behind an offensive line featuring senior tackle Cordell Volson at right guard and redshirt freshman Jake Rock making his first career start at right tackle.

The Bison ran the football on 57 of their 68 offensive plays including 26 straight at one point midway through the fourth quarter when tight end Noah Gindorff caught his second touchdown pass of the game to make it 42-20 with 8:23 left to play.

True freshman Cam Miller made his first start at quarterback for NDSU completing 6 of 11 passes for 50 yards and rushing five times for 30 yards including a 13-yard TD run in the first quarter.

NDSU held the ball for more than 35 minutes and converted 8 of 10 third-down opportunities. The Bison scored on six of their first eight possessions before running out the clock on their ninth possession to end the game.

Eastern Washington jumped out to a quick 14-0 lead with a pair of eight-play scoring drives on their first two possessions which took less than 4 minutes each. The Eagles led 20-7 with 10 minutes left in the second quarter but wouldn’t score again.

Bussey’s 16-yard run on third-and-5 extended the next NDSU drive and Hunter Luepke scored from the 1 to make it 20-14 with 4:54 left in the second quarter. Eastern Washington missed a 54-yard field goal attempt on the next possession.

Gonnella sparked the Bison on the next two plays with runs of 42 yards and 13 yards to move the Bison into the red zone, and Miller found Gindorff from four yards out to put NDSU ahead 21-20 with 32 seconds left before halftime.

NDSU took the second half kickoff and turned the ball over on downs before getting it right back. Destin Talbert broke up Eric Barriere’s pass and Dom Jones snared the deflection for his third interception of the season to give the Bison the ball on the Eastern Washington 41.

Three straight runs by Gonnella of 13, 21 and then 7 yards for a touchdown extended the Bison lead to 28-20. NDSU rushed for 259 yards in the second half and the Eagles would only get the ball back three more times, punting twice in the third quarter and turning it over on downs on their only possession of the fourth quarter.

The NDSU defense sacked Barriere five times and had 10 tackles for loss. True freshman linebacker Cole Wisniewski made a team-high nine tackles in his first career start, while fellow linebackers Jackson Hankey and Jasir Cox made eight tackles apiece.

North Dakota State advances to the NCAA quarterfinals to face No. 2 seed Sam Houston State, which held on to defeat Monmouth 21-15 in the first round. The Bison and Bearkats will play either Saturday, May 1, or Sunday, May 2, at Bowers Stadium in Huntsville, Texas.

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