NDSU quarterback Easton Stick is closing in on the school record for career touchdown passes neediing four more to overtake Brock Jensen’s mark of 72. This season, his favorite target to nobody’s surprise has been Darrius Shepherd. Although not at an all-conference pace with 17 receptions, Shepherd has been effective when needed with four touchdowns and a few critical first downs.
What remains to be seen for the passing game is who will develop into that No. 2 target for Stick, if anybody. In the run of Bison national titles starting in 2011, there were at least two productive receivers every year:
- 2011: Warren Holloway 77 receptions, Ryan Smith 44.
- 2012: Smith 49, Zach Vraa 44.
- 2013: Vraa 67, Smith 54.
- 2014: Vraa 42, RJ Urzendowski 32.
- 2015: Urzendowski 48, Shepherd 40, Vraa 40.
- 2016: Shepherd 45, Urzendowski 31,
- 2017: Shepherd 41, Urzedownski 38.
After Shepherd this season and among the receivers, Dallas Freeman has seven catches, Desmond Cain four, Chrisitian Watson two and Kenneth Channelle one. It appears the Bison are waiting for somebody to grab that No. 2 role, whether it’s the freshmen Watson or Phoenix Sproles, who has yet to grab is first collegiate ball. Maybe seniors Freeman and Cain will make their last season their best. It’s entirely possible, with the running game the way it’s been churning, the Bison offense can be high powered with Shepherd as the main threat and everybody else contributing. Every year is different, but at this pace, the passing game is taking a different tone than it did yearly since 2011.