(STATS) - With Eastern Washington's passing-rich offense seeking to run the ball more this season, the Eagles got an up-close look at one of the top rushing attacks in the FCS on Saturday.
Unfortunately for the No. 7 Eagles, No. 2 North Dakota State was too good in teaching the lesson, gaining 375 yards on the ground in a 40-13 win before 10,231 at the red turf of Roos Field in Cheney, Washington.
Lance Dunn (148 yards, three touchdowns) and Bruce Anderson (160 yards, one touchdown) led the way for North Dakota State (2-0), which took a 2-1 series lead between the two national powers. Eastern Washington was the 2010 FCS champion before the Bison followed with the next five titles from 2011-15. Both programs were knocked out of the national semifinals last season.
"That's a team win, without question," Bison coach Chris Klieman said afterward.
Under first-year coach Aaron Best, formerly an offensive line coach, Eastern Washington had a 36-36 split of rushes and passes in a 56-10 season-opening loss at Texas Tech. It didn't change much through the first three quarters Saturday - a 23-23 split.
It wasn't until quarterback Easton Stick's 12-run touchdown run gave North Dakota State a 33-13 lead in the first minute of the fourth quarter that the Eagles decided to rely extensively on quarterback Gage Gubrud.
It was too little, too late, and the redshirt junior, who threw for an FCS single-season record 5,160 yards last season, didn't have one of his better games. He completed only 10 of 30 passes for 134 yards, throwing two interceptions to North Dakota State strong safety Robbie Grimsley.
"Offensively we made some plays and stretched the field at times," Best said. "There were a few plays, but at times we were inconsistent. We had balls that were put on receivers and we just have to execute better. We'll find the players we can get our first win with. We have to look at ourselves in the mirror and find a way - any way - to win next week (at Fordham)."
Stick was an efficient 13 of 20 for 157 yards as he pushed his career record to 22-2 as a starter, but the power run game fueled the Bison. It was on full display in the first half when they built a 19-10 lead with 203 rushing yards on 29 carries. Dunn scored from 23 yards out and Anderson from 44 yards.
Dominating play from the offensive line helped the Bison control the game clock for 42 minutes, 40 seconds..
"I thought ultimately our run game could wear them down, and we were able to do that," Klieman said. "They had the one explosive play that led to a touchdown drive, but other than that they didn't have explosive plays."
The matchup was part of the Big Sky/MVFC Challenge Series between two of the premier conferences in the FCS.