Bison Open Conference Play With 37-3 Win Over Sixth-Ranked Illinois State

NORMAL, Ill. (NDSU Athletics) -- No. 1-ranked North Dakota State scored on its first four possessions and cruised to a 37-3 victory over sixth-ranked Illinois State in the Missouri Valley Football Conference opener for both teams Saturday, Oct. 5, before a sellout crowd of 13,391 at Hancock Stadium.

Ty Brooks rushed for 106 yards including a 53-yard touchdown on NDSU's second possession, and quarterback Trey Lance went 12 of 15 passing for 189 yards and three touchdowns as the Bison improved to 5-0 with their 26th straight win.

NDSU's defense bottled up Illinois State running back James Robinson for the final three quarters, holding the All-American to just 34 yards after the first period. The Bison outgained the Redbirds by a 482-200 margin in total yards.

Defensive end Derrek Tuszka had two of NDSU's four sacks, and safety James Hendricks had four of the Bison's nine pass breakups. NDSU forced three fumbles including one by Marquise Bridges on the game's opening drive that linebacker Aaron Mercadel recovered to set up NDSU's first touchdown.

Lance found wide-open tight end Noah Gindorff down the right sideline for a 35-yard scoring play that made it 7-0, Brooks scored on the next drive, Griffin Crosa converted a 38-yard field goal and Adam Cofield scored on a 4-yard run as the Bison built a 23-3 lead by halftime.

Wide receiver Christian Watson caught his first career touchdown pass in the third quarter, a 42-yard play aided by downfield blocking from receiver Jimmy Kepouros and tight end Josh Babicz.

Ben Ellefson caught his 14th career touchdown pass in the fourth quarter, tying Jerimiah Wurzbacher's NDSU career record for TD catches by a tight end.

Linebackers Jabril Cox and Jackson Hankey each had six tackles to lead NDSU, and Tuszka finished with five stops.

North Dakota State is scheduled to host Northern Iowa at 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12, in the annual homecoming game at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. The Panthers were 2-2 heading into Saturday night's game with Youngstown State.