FARGO — The North Dakota State offense was put in the hands, and right foot, of kicker Griffin Crosa on Saturday afternoon, Dec. 15. And the true freshman responded with a perfect 3-for-3 showing in the 9-3 victory over Illinois State at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome in the Division I FCS quarterfinals.
Crosa's effort came one week after he was suspended for violating team rules, which caused him to miss the 37-13 second-round win over Nicholls State (La.). He hit field goals of 38, 33 and 22 yards, all in the second quarter.
"Good for him," Entz said. "He earned the job back this week."
Entz said it was an open competition for the starting job in practice between Crosa and freshman Will Cardinal, who did the kicking duties last week.
"He did a nice job," Entz said. "For him to come in and bank three big ones for us, it was good and big for his confidence. And good for the team's confidence in Griffin as well."
Sophomore Jake Reinholz, who started the season as the starting kicker before being injured in the season opener, is still dealing with the ailment and was not part of the open competition for the job. Entz said Reinholz is out for the remainder of the season.
ISU tried to 'mix it up' in short yardage plays
Illinois State came to Fargo on the back of running back James Robinson, but the Redbirds decided not to go to their star senior on a couple of crucial short-yardage situations against the Bison. The first was electing to have quarterback Bryce Jefferson try to sneak for a first down on fourth-and-1 late in the first quarter.
Jefferson was stuffed for no gain. NDSU took over at its own 40-yard line and reached the ISU 20-yard line before settling for a field goal and a 3-0 lead.
The second was a third-and-one early in the fourth quarter when the Redbirds elected to run a pass play. Jefferson was sacked by defensive end Tony Pierce and ISU had to punt.
"We had a guy open," said ISU head coach Brock Spack. "You gotta throw it sometime and I felt that was a good call on Kurt's part."
That was in reference to offensive coordinator Kurt Beathard.
"I told him at halftime you call it the way you see it, you feel it and he's a great playcaller," Spack said. "He got us to the national championship game five years ago and he's done a great job this playoff run. I have total confidence in him. He's just trying to make a play on third-and-one, try to mix it up a little bit and everybody's like, why don't you have it to James on fourth-and-1 or third-and-1. Everybody knows you're going to give the ball to James, so we tried to mix it up and it didn't work out."
No Bison TDs at home a rare sight
The lack of a touchdown is rare territory for a Bison football team. The last time that happened was in 2014 when Northern Iowa stuck a 23-3 loss on the Bison, which ended NDSU's 33-game winning streak. All the Bison got that day was a 21-yard field goal by Adam Keller and 175 yards of total offense.
The last time NDSU didn't score a touchdown at home was 2002 against the University of North Dakota, a game won by UND 12-6. The Bison got two field goals from Cory Vartanian.
The last time NDSU won a game without scoring a touchdown was an FBS victory. The Bison won 6-3 on two Ryan Jastram field goals in 2010 at Lawrence, Kan.
Bison odds and ends
NDSU fullback Hunter Luepke sat out the game with an ankle injury. ... Bison receiver Phoenix Sproles went out with the same shoulder injury that sent him to the sidelines in the Nicholls game. Entz called it a "precautionary deal" and he expects Sproles to play next week against Montana State. Entz knew of no further injuries immediately after the game. ... Spack said he decided not to challenge whether a pass from Lance to Watson was a lateral in the first possession of the second half. The officials blew the play dead. Spack said because a review wasn't called from replay booth officials that he wasn't about to make them look at it, either. "They got a good look at it," Spack said. ... Ty Brooks led the Bison in rushing with 49 yards, with 35 of them coming on NDSU's first play of the game. NDSU averaged just 3.0 yards per carry. ... The Bison have won 27 consecutive games in the Fargodome. They have won their past 35 games overall, which is an FCS record heading into the semifinals.