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North Dakota State outlasts Eastern Washington in shootout

Wide left and a quick TD lifts the Bison again

North Dakota State junior running back Lance Dunn scores the winning touchdown in overtime for the top-ranked Bison. The five-time defending FCS champions prevailed 50-44 in overtime. (Photo by Tyler Ingham/NDSU Athletics)

Who evades defeat on missed field goals and then scores on the first play of overtime back-to-back games for victories?

North Dakota State, the five-time defending FCS champion.

Sophomore running back Lance Dunn sped home for a 25-yard touchdown as the top-ranked Bison (2-0) captured a 50-44 win in overtime over Eastern Washington. It concluded a four-hour FCS football marathon at the Fargodome with 1,000-plus yards of total offense between the two squads.

After an impressive 45-42 win over Washington State, the eighth-ranked Eagles (1-1) looked to upset the defending champs. Jordan Dascalo's, the Eagles' junior punter, kicked the almost game-winning punt of 49 yards.

It sailed wide left just as Charleston Southern's did in a shot to beat the Bison on Aug. 27. NDSU pounced on the Buccaneers in overtime instead with a TD run by senior running back King Frazier.

Charleston Southern went four-and-out on their only drive of the extra period. Against EWU, the Bison put an end to the Eagles' hopes much faster.

Tre Dempsey, the Bison's junior safety, picked off Eagles sophomore quarterback Gage Gubrud immediately in overtime on the first play. Gubrud and company endured three picks by the Bison defense, including a 40-yard pick six by senior linebacker Nick De Luca.

Outside of the turnovers, EWU had its way throwing the ball against the Bison defense. Gubrud threw for 450 yards and four TDs as the Eagles scored the most points against any Bison team since 2009.

That goes back to the era before NDSU's first Division I playoff run in 2010, which ended against EWU in Cheney, Wash. Eastern prevailed in overtime that year and went on to win the FCS title, the last time a team other than the Bison to win the championship.

In their first meeting since that playoff game, the Eagles trailed the Bison until late in the fourth quarter when freshman Tamarick Pierce ran in a 1-yard score for the TD and a 44-41 lead. Sophomore kicker answered for the Bison to tie things up 44-44 with a 28-yard field goal.

NDSU nearly lost the game twice after that in regulation. Gubrud found junior receiver Nic Sblendorio for 35 yards in his only reception of the day, which set up the missed field goal attempt. Frazier then fumbled the ball on the next play, but the Eagles didn't get anything more than a 10-yard recovery to the Bison 32 by junior defensive back Victor Gamboa.

NDSU took care of the football otherwise with strong passing performance by sophomore quarterback Easton Stick. He threw for 257 yards and two TDs.

Stick also made plays with his legs in 60 yards of rushing and one TD. Most of the Bison's 280 yards rushing came from Dunn, who had 128 yards and two scores.

Frazier, the team's top rusher last season, found the end zone once but only finished with 39 yards on ten carries. EWU slowed down the Bison running attack enough to stop two drives in the fourth quarter to grab its only lead. Unfortunately for the Eagles, visitors' leads don't seem to last long enough in the Fargodome.

EWU will look to rebound with a home contest against Northern Iowa next Saturday. UNI (1-1) fell at home today against Montana.

NDSU, which won its second-ever home overtime contest at the Fargodome in as many games, will face a much steeper challenge next. The Bison visit No. 16 Iowa next.