North Dakota State Beats Butler 57-10 at Target Field
August 31, 2019

The result was expected: two-time defending champion North Dakota State dominating an opponent. The venue was different as the Bison rolled 57-10 over Butler before 34,544 at Target Field in Minneapolis. It was the second football game played at the home of the Minnesota Twins and the first Division I contest.

The Bison have won 15 national titles, including 6 of the last 7 after moving up to the Division I Football Conference Subdivision (FCS). They won their last 21 games and could this season surpass the FCS record of consecutive wins, 33, set by North Dakota State from 2012 to 2014. The Bison have won the last six games they’ve played against Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) teams, although they haven’t had another crack at an FBS teams since beating 11th-ranked Iowa in 2016.

Favorites by 48 points against Butler, the Bison had new personnel in their season opener. Matt Entz, after five seasons as defensive coordinator, was promoted to head coach after Chris Klieman took the coaching job at Kansas State. A redshirt freshman—Trey Lance from Marshall, Minnesota—won the starting quarterback job over Zeb Nolan and was making his first start.

North Dakota State received and started at its own 10 after a holding penalty on the return. Facing a third and six at the 14 after a pair of short runs, Lance connected with Dimitri Williams for a first down. Two plays later, he hit Christian Watson for 29 yards to get into Bulldog territory. A false-start penalty put them at the 43. Adam Cofield and Ty Brooks got some of that back with five-yard carries. On third and five, Lance burst through the line, broke an ankle tackle, and raced for a 33-yard touchdown.

Jake Reinholz lined up for the point-after, but no one was down to hold. James Hendricks, standing in front of Reinholz, took the snap and pitched to Reinholz, who had a clear field on the right side to run in for a two-point conversion.

The Bison got the ball back and responded quickly. Brooks ran around the left side for 21 yard to the Butler 47. Lance then unleased a bomb for Phoenix Sproles, who had a step on Cameron Browning, made an over-the-shoulder catch as he tumbled into the end zone. Griffin Crosa kicked the extra point as Reinholz had strained a thigh muscle on his kickoff to Butler. Crosa continued with the conversions, and Garrett Wegner handled the kickoffs after that.

North Dakota State scored three more touchdowns in the second quarter for a 36-0 halftime lead, Lance throwing for three more touchdowns, two to Josh Babicz and another that he sailed over Browning’s leap at the goal line to tight-end Noah Gindorff. Lance completed 9 of 10 passes for 172 yards and also had 62 yards on the ground in the half.

Butler got a field goal on its opening drive of the second half and added a touchdown on the first play of the ensuing possession by the Bison. From the North Dakota State 33, Brooks went to his left and was hit by Nick Mahalak at the 31, losing the football. Dan DelGrosso scooped it up at the 29 and ran it back for the score.

The Bison scored twice more in the quarter on two more long runs: 36 yards by Brooks and an explosive 61-yard run by Lance, giving him 116 yards rushing. It was his final snap of the day, as Entz sent in Noland and then Noah Sanders at quarterback. Saybien Clark ran seven yards for the only scoring in the fourth quarter.

Lance’s only incompletion was in the first quarter, and he hit on 10 of 11 passes for 185 yards. Brooks rushed for 97 yards, Kobe Johnson 63, and Williams 61.

“You’d never know he was a redshirt freshman,” said Entz of Lance after the game. “He made good reads and avoided the full-field reads, as we told him. He’d look to one side and then take off if no one was open.”

Butler coach Jeff Voris said he had to try to look at Lance’s high-school highlights to get an idea of what to expect. “So many unknowns,” Voris said of trying to prepare for a freshman quarterback.

Entz complimented his strength and academic staff for preparing his players. “I challenged them to be great,” he said. “A lot of young guys became Bison today.”

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