FARGO — North Dakota State running back Lance Dunn’s yards-per-carry average is starting to look like a typo in the Bison football statistics. After three games, the junior is averaging nearly 14 yards per attempt.
Dunn needed only three carries to gain 111 yards and run for three scores on Saturday against Robert Morris University (Pa.) at the Fargodome. The No. 2-ranked Bison scored early and often in taking a 56-0 victory against the Colonials in Division I FCS nonconference play before 18,308 fans.
Dunn finished the game with four touchdowns on four touches, including a 10-yard TD catch late in the first quarter.
“Pretty productive,” Bison head coach Chris Klieman said.
“I’ve never done anything like that,” Dunn added. “I’m really proud of our offense.”
The Bison improved to 3-0 with Missouri Valley Football Conference play starting next weekend at the Fargodome against Missouri State. NDSU outscored its opponents 168-20 in its three nonconference games. The Bison scored 35 points in the first quarter against the Colonials.
“I’m really pleased with how the guys came out and played,” Klieman said. “We talked all week about starting fast. … We knew this team had the ability to hang in there unless we gave them the knockout punch early on.”
Dunn threw a haymaker on his first carry of the game, bouncing off right tackle and racing to the end zone for a 61-yard score that gave the Bison a 7-0 lead with 12 minutes, 25 seconds to play in the first quarter.
“I just bounced it and there was nothing but green after that,” Dunn said.
Dunn has rushed for 401 yards and eight touchdowns on 29 attempts in three games.
The 5-foot-9, 211-pounder had three touchdowns in the first quarter alone against the Colonials, a 15-minute scoring spree that ended with Dunn’s 10-yard touchdown catch that gave the Bison a 35-0 lead with 50 seconds to play in the first quarter.
The Bison defense also played a hand in the fast start, causing three turnovers in the first quarter that led to 21 points. Bison senior safety Tre Dempsey had a 23-yard interception return for a touchdown that gave NDSU a 21-0 lead with 7:33 to play in the opening quarter. It was Dempsey’s first interception return for a touchdown in his career.
“We talked about playing our heart out and competing as hard as we can,” Dempsey said. “The standard was to dominate.”
The Bison built a 49-0 halftime lead and played the second half mostly with reserves. Junior quarterback Easton Stick completed 11 of 15 passes for 132 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half. Stick left in favor of senior backup Cole Davis, who got his first career rushing touchdown with a 17-yard run in the third quarter. Davis injured his shoulder on that play and didn’t return to the game.
The Colonials didn’t get their initial first down until the final play of the first half. The Bison linebackers helped lead the way and they did it without their top player, senior Nick DeLuca, who was sitting out his second straight game with a knee injury.
Bison junior Dan Marlette started in his place, and contributed to two touchdowns with a quarterback pressure that led to Dempsey’s interception return for a score. Marlette also forced a fumble that led to another Bison touchdown.
“He’s a good football player and the game’s slowed down for him,” Klieman said of Marlette.
Dunn played fast in his limited touches. He capped his afternoon with a 45-yard touchdown burst that gave the Bison a 49-0 lead with 58 seconds to play until halftime. On the play, Dunn found a seam up the middle and zipped between two Robert Morris defenders in the secondary on the way to the end zone.
Dunn’s four total touchdowns were the most a Bison player has scored since running back D.J. McNorton had four TDs against Montana State in the second round of the 2010 FCS playoffs. Dunn has nine total touchdowns through three games. The Bison record for total TDs in a season is 23, shared by quarterback Jeff Bentrim (1986) and Lamar Gordon (2000). Bentrim also has the school record for rushing touchdowns in a season with 23 in 1986.
“He’s got great vision and he has a second gear,” Klieman said of Dunn. “He’s a playmaker for us.”