“The entire senior class was on a mission to make sure if someone was going to knock us off, they had to play their best game. They kept everybody grounded and everybody hungry, which is probably the hardest thing because people have a tendency to get complacent after winning as much as we’ve won. … We worked as hard or harder this offseason and spring and fall than we ever have. We had to because we had a new staff, we had a lot of new players and a lot of unknown to get answered.”
With 1:38 left in the fourth quarter and the Bison trailing Illinois State 23-27, quarterback Carson Wentz led a seven-play, 78-yard drive to put the Bison ahead with 37 seconds left. Wentz capped the drive with a quarterback keeper from five yards out to score the game-winning touchdown. The first-year starter was named the MVP of the FCS Championship game.
Entering the 2014 season, Carson Wentz had only attempted 46 passes, none of which occurred during a meaningful game time. The junior replaced the FCS’ winningest quarterback of all-time this season and shattered school records along the way. Wentz broke NDSU records in pass attempts (358), completions (228) and yards (3,111).
The Future Is Now
While filling a valuable role on special teams and the defense’s fourth linebacker, sophomore Nick DeLuca cracked the starting lineup for the first time and made it count. Travis Beck missed the South Dakota game with an injury and in stepped DeLuca, who finished with a team-high 12 tackles and an interception. He would enter the starting lineup full-time after Beck’s Achilles injury and start all four playoff games. He finished the playoffs with 34 tackles.
Chew on This
The Bison overcame the loss of 23 seniors and 11 starters from the 2013 football team to win its fourth consecutive FCS Championships. But that wasn’t the only adversity they would face. In four playoff games, the Bison trailed three times in the fourth quarter before coming back to win. The Bison went nine plays, 76 yards to gain the lead with 54 seconds left in the first playoff game against South Dakota State. In the quarterfinals, John Crockett scored on a 45-yard touchdown run to put the Bison up by seven with 9:28 second left.