NDSU beats Youngstown St., clinches share of MVFC Championship

FARGO, N.D. (NDSU Athletics) -- North Dakota State earned an automatic qualifier for the FCS playoffs and clinched at least a share of the Missouri Valley Football Conference championship with a 17-7 win over Youngstown State on Saturday, Nov. 3, at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

The Bison (9-0, 6-0 MVFC) became the first team in Valley Football history to win eight straight crowns. It is the 35th conference championship in NDSU football history.

NDSU quarterback Easton Stick threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Lance Dunn in the second quarter and put the Bison ahead for good with a 1-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter before a 36-yard Cam Pedersen field goal.

The two TDs gave Stick 108 career total touchdowns responsible for, passing Brock Jensen's school record of 107 from 2010 to 2013. Stick was 13 of 23 passing for 197 yards and completed passes to six different receivers.

Darrius Shepherd made a career-high eight receptions for 99 yards. He surpassed RJ Urzendowski for fourth in career yards (2,462) and Warren Holloway and Travis White for third on NDSU's all-time receptions list (165).

NDSU punted, fumbled and missed a field goal on its first three drives before a quick four-play, 85-yard TD drive. Stick connected with Desmond Cain on a career-long 50-yard reception down the right sideline on third-and-5 and then hit Dunn on the next play for a 7-0 lead.

Youngstown State (3-6, 2-4 MVFC) threatened to tie it before halftime. The Penguins reached the NDSU 3 with a nine-yard passing play on third-and-10, but the Penguins spiked the ball on fourth down with only seven seconds to go in the half.

YSU made it a 7-7 game late in the third quarter when quarterback Nathan Mays found Jermiah Braswell on a 46-yard pass to the NDSU 34 before hitting tight end Miles Joiner on a 21-yard TD pass three plays later.

The Penguins drove again late in the fourth quarter, but Robbie Grimsley intercepted Montgomery VanGorder's pass in the end zone to keep it a 17-7 game with 30 seconds left.

Mays, the starting QB for Youngstown State, rushed 22 times for 58 yards and went 10 of 17 passing for 120 yards while taking three of NDSU's four sacks. The Bison had nine tackles for loss including two apiece for defensive end Stanley Jones and Derrek Tuszka, plus five quarterback hurries.

Linebackers Jabril Cox and Dan Marlette led the Bison with eight tackles each, and Jones and Grimsley both made six stops. Greg Menard had one solo sack and one assisted sack.

North Dakota State is scheduled to play at Missouri State at 2 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 10. The Bears are 4-5 overall and 2-4 in the conference after a 59-7 loss at South Dakota State.