With 12 minutes, 44 seconds remaining in the second quarter of North Dakota State's playoff semifinal vs. Montana State, the Bison took over at their own 25-yard-line following a Bobcats' touchdown that tied the score, 7-7. One play and 10 seconds later, North Dakota State was ahead again after Christian Watson galloped into the end zone on a 75-yard touchdown reception.
One hundred and three seconds later, Watson was in the end zone again, this time on a 70-yard touchdown run. Fourteen points in 20 seconds on two plays and 145 yards. Those were North Dakota State's fourth and fifth one-play touchdown drives this season, four of which covered at least 65 yards.
In rolling to a 15-0 record entering Saturday's national championship vs. James Madison, the Bison offense was spectacular, scoring in a variety of ways from a variety of distances in a variety of time.
All You Need is One
Unbelievably, Watson's back-to-back one-play touchdown drives weren't the first time North Dakota State did that in a game this season. In the win over Southern Illinois on Nov. 23, two of their three touchdowns came on one-play drives. And like the Montana State game, they did it on back-to-back drives in the same quarter…by the same player.
Jalen Bussey ran 65 yards for a score early in the fourth quarter and ran 45 yards for a score three and a half minutes later. Their five one-play touchdown drives this season took a total of 57 seconds.
You Have One Minute
North Dakota State scored 10 touchdowns on drives that didn't last longer than one minute. And only one of those 10 drives began on the opponent's side of midfield. Total time of those 10 touchdown drives: Four minutes and thirty-two seconds.
They also kicked two field goals on sub-one-minute drives.
Take Your Time
North Dakota State's longest (time) drive of the season was a 15-play, 75-yard beauty that sucked eight minutes, 20 seconds off the second-quarter clock against Montana State. It ended with Jimmy Kepouros's six-yard touchdown reception with 24 seconds remaining in the half.
It was their first touchdown drive of at least eight minutes all season but they've also had two touchdown drives of seven minutes, four drives of six minutes and four of five minutes. Each of those drives lasted at least 10 plays.
Their longest (plays) scoring drive of the season was a 17-play, 69-yard march against Illinois State in the quarterfinals that ended with a 22-yard field goal.
They're All Worth the Same
All touchdowns are worth six points…but, come on, longer touchdowns are more fun.
Their longest touchdown of the season, an 88-yard Lance-to-Babicz connection against South Dakota, was one of 14 touchdowns of at least 50 yards. They had nine scores of at least 60 yards, six of at least 70 yards and the one of least 80 yards.
For the short-yardage fans: Seven one-yard touchdowns (all runs by four different players), three two-yard touchdowns (two runs, one pass), and five three-yard touchdowns (three passes, two runs).
North Dakota State's earliest touchdown came against Illinois State, an Adam Cofield two-yard run three minutes and two seconds into the game.
It was one of 21 first-quarter touchdowns, their most touchdowns in any quarter this season, and one of eight touchdowns in the first five minutes of a game. They also scored five minutes and one second into the Southern Illinois game, which capped a 10-play, 90-yard drive to open the game.
Give Them the Ball
And they'll score from anywhere.
The Bison offense had field-position help on some touchdown drives, scoring three touchdowns after taking over inside the opponent's 20-yard line and five times inside the 40. However, more than three-quarters of their touchdown drives began on their side of the field, including 33 drives from their 25 or worse, 23 drives from their 20 or worse and five drives from their 10 of worse.
Shortest yardage touchdown drive: Thirteen yards (on four plays over one minute, 55 seconds) against Nicholls. Longest yardage touchdown drive: Ninety-two yards (on 15 plays over seven minutes, 47 seconds) against Illinois State.
Is it a scoring drive if you go backward? Or is it a scoring retreat?
Whatever it is, North Dakota State did against Illinois State. Leading the Redbirds, 13-3, late in the third quarter, the Bison kicked a field goal after a four-play drive went for minus three yards. They had other short field-goal drives (one yard, two yards) but this was their only negative-yardage scoring drive of the season.
You can see the one blue bar higher than its red counterpart below:
Reverse to Full Throttle
On those five one-play touchdown drives we mentioned earlier, the scoring yardage equaled the total drive yardage, right? On Watson's 75-yard touchdown run, the play was 75 yards and the drive was 75 yards. Simple enough.
In one case, the scoring play was longer than the scoring drive. With two minutes, 16 seconds left in the second quarter of the Western Illinois game, North Dakota State took over at their own 14. After an Austin Avery hold and Ty Brooks' four-yard carry, it was 2nd-and-12 from their own 12. That's when Trey Lance connected with Josh Babicz for an 88-yard touchdown, or two yards longer than the 86-yard drive
Want more scoring drive numbers? Tweet at me @adoughty88.