The directive in the offseason was to improve the passing efficiency game and so far NDSU has been almost off the charts. Quarterback Easton Stick is tops in the FCS in completion percentage at 73.8 percent on 62 of 84, with an even more impressive TD-to-INT ratio of 10-0. They all haven’t been short dunks off to the backs or simple bubble screens, either. The top six NDSU receivers average between 12.7 and 13.8 yards per reception. Stick, in fact, is second in all of Division I in the category only behind the 74.5 percentage of Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield. He is second in the FCS in pass efficiency rating behind North Carolina A&T’s Lamar Raynard and fourth among all D1 quarterbacks behind Mayfield and Central Florida’s McKenzie Milton.
Credit has to start with the staff and new offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham, who isn’t afraid to hit the passing buttons in the first half. The big question, of course, is the competition the Bison have faced and the schedule is about to get more real this weekend at Youngstown State. But you still have to pitch it and catch it against another defense and the passing game just looks more crisp regardless of who the Bison have played.
Part of it can be attributed to age, also. Stick is in his fourth year in the program and quarterbacks in their final two years of eligibility just have a better grasp of the game. Brock Jensen was better his last two years, especially on third down. Carson Wentz didn’t start until his fourth year in school and it took him only a couple of games to really get into the flow.
Saturday will be the test. Youngstown and NDSU have the best two defenses in the league and the last time the Penguins were home they shut down the potent South Dakota State trio of Christion-Goedert-Wieneke to the point where they didn’t have any impact on the game. NDSU goes into Saturday with a whole lot of confidence in the passing game; we’ll see if it pays off.