North Dakota State’s offense didn’t do much in the second quarter Saturday against San Diego in a game the Bison, as expected, won big. The final was 38-3, but NDSU coach Chris Klieman mentioned the nap his offense took after a fast start in the first quarter.
“We had a lull there in the second quarter when we didn’t really have a great rhythm on offense,” Klieman said.
There was a restlessness in the Fargodome crowd, too, as NDSU only managed a field goal early in the quarter that was set up by a drive at the end of the first quarter. Cam Pederson’s 47-yard boot with 14:13 left before the half game the Bison a 17-0 lead — which is where the score remained until halftime.
Quarterback Easton Stick started the game fast, going 5 of 6 for 89 yards and a touchdown pass to Seth Wilson in the first quarter, but he was only 1 of 6 in the second and made a couple of bad throws.
This became the thing about which to worry as NDSU tries to regain a berth to Frisco, Texas, for the Football Subdivision Championship title game: Sure the Bison defense is lights-out, but is the offense good enough get NDSU back to Toyota Stadium?
Even Klieman was asking.
“We’ll find out offensively,” he said. “We’re doing some really good things. We’re more explosive offensively, we just weren’t as consistent probably as we needed to be and we want to be.”
But might I offer a little something else?
Maybe San Diego had a player who was good enough to throw off NDSU’s drives in the second quarter.
His name was Jonathan Petersen, an undersized senior defensive end who almost single-handedly threw a wrench into the Bison’s offensive plans.
The 6-foot-1, 240-pound Petersen had three sacks in the second quarter, including one on which he chopped the ball out of Stick’s hand and allowed his teammate Kim Mahoney to recover for a turnover.
Petersen’s three sacks gave him 44 for his career, the all-time FCS record.
The kid was outstanding.
“This is a great program with a great offensive line. But you know what’s great is that everybody’s human, so I was able to capitalize on some of their mistakes,” Petersen said.
Petersen sacked Stick on the first play of the second quarter, beating Bison left tackle Collin Conner with an inside move. The seven-yard loss forced the Bison to settle for Pedersen’s field goal.
When Petersen forced Stick to fumble, he beat Conner to the outside and circled behind the NDSU quarterback to knock the ball loose.
Petersen’s third sack of the quarter came when he slipped between Conner and tight end Nate Jenson and used his speed to catch Stick by the right leg as the nimble quarterback tried to escape. It was an impressive show of speed.
The Bison ran the ball fine in the quarter, but three drives ended because of Petersen sacks.
“We just didn’t execute very well and maybe got away from a couple of things that we liked for too long. It was nice to start the first quarter really fast and come out in the third quarter and we got the ball right away and went down and scored,” Stick said. “It’s big to start the halves that way. We just have to execute a little bit better in spots.”
But credit is due where credit is due. Petersen was a game-changer. His four-year career was record-breaking. Toreros coach Dale Lindsey believes the Poway, Calif., native will at least get an invitation to an NFL training camp.
Although, Lindsey openly admitted after the game, he and his fellow San Diego coaches didn’t see Petersen as being a player who could contribute. They didn’t recruit him and didn’t allow Petersen and teammate Max Michaels, a safety, to join the team their freshmen years.
“I’ll give you a little history. Show you how smart we are at USD, coaching-wise. I’m an assistant coach and I recruit his high school. He and Max Michaels, who is our nickel back, want to come to our school. All of our staff says no. So we don’t even let these guys come out the fall of their freshmen year. So now we have the FCS all-time sack leader. And we have an academic All-American (Michaels) who has also been a four-year starter,” Lindsey said. “Whatever you saw Jon do today, he does it every day. Practice, games, whatever. It’s one speed. Hell, up here Coach Chris would probably like to have him on his team. He’d probably have him playing linebacker, but he’d like to have him because he’s going to give you 100 percent every play. Whatever you saw today, we get every day in practice. That’s all you can ask for. When you get better every year, that’s a sign of growth and maturity. He has that, too. He’s a great leader. We’re going to miss him.”