- Associated Press - Saturday, November 7, 2015

FARGO, N.D. (AP) - New helmets, old Bison.

Sixth-ranked North Dakota State unveiled new Harvest Bowl helmets but used the same stingy defense and steady offense to beat Western Illinois 59-7 on Saturday night in a Missouri Valley Football Conference game.

Four of freshman quarterback Easton Stick’s 12 completions went for touchdowns as the sixth-ranked Bison (7-2, 5-1 Missouri Valley Conference) won for the third straight time in impressive fashion since a stunning 24-21 loss to South Dakota.

“I’m so pleased with the way the guys played today,” North Dakota State coach Chris Klieman said. “Credit our captains with a great week of preparation. For the last three weeks we’ve done a phenomenal job . Our guys have had good focus.”

Zach Vraa’s acrobatic 41-yard catch behind the head off a Western Illinois defender gave NDSU a 7-0, and tied the school’s touchdown reception record of 26. Vraa and Tim Strehlow (1996-99) share the mark.

Easton threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to R.J. Urzendowski, and a 5-yarder to Andrew Bonnet, and a 43-yard TD strike to Darrius Shepherd.

Lance Dunn scored on runs of 2 and 5 yards in the fourth quarter, and King Frazier had a 6-yard touchdown run.

The 59 points are the most scored by NDSU since a 66-7 win over Prairie View A&M; on Sept. 22, 2012.

The Bison rushed for 331 of their 528 total yards while holding the Leathernecks to just 205 total yards.

The Bison defense got on the board with 7:38 left in the first quarter when Pierre Gee-Tucker intercepted a Trenton Norvell pass and returned it 36 yards for a touchdown and a 14-0 lead.

“It was very exciting,” Gee-Tucker said. “I read the play when the quarterback looked to the sideline. It so happened the ball fell in my hands and I just took off.”

On the ensuing possession, NDSU’s C.J. Smith stripped Lance Lenoir of the ball after a completed pass, and the Bison took over at the WIU 32. Six plays later, Cam Pedersen kicked a 32-yard field goal to go up 17-0.

Stick was 12-of-20 passing for 197 yards. He found Urzendowki for a 20-yard TD that made it 24-0 just six seconds into the second quarter. Stick’s third TD pass was a 5-yarder to Bonnet with 4:02 left in the half.

And he wasn’t done. With 44 seconds left in the first half, Stick threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Shepherd for a 38-0 lead.

“They played a near perfect game against a good football team,” Klieman said. “That was the best half, obviously, that we’ve played this season.”

NDSU’s Bruce Anderson ran for a team-high 95 yards on 14 carries. Stick added 86 yards and Frazier 66.

Norvell completed 16 of 30 passes for 172 yards. He threw a 40-yard TD pass to Lance Lenoir for Western Illinois’ only score.

Devon Moore led the Leathernecks with 23 yards rushing on two carries.

The win, combined with South Dakota State’s win over Illinois State, leaves the Bison and Illinois State tied atop the MVFC standings. The two, which played for last year’s FCS championship, do not meet in the regular season.

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