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Player to Watch: North Dakota State QB Easton Stick

Not to be confused with an actual hockey stick.

North Dakota State v Iowa State Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images

Admit it. A week ago, you couldn’t name a single player on the North Dakota State roster. Not one. And, no, Carson Wentz does not count.

Speaking of Carson: Big props to him for his performance in his first NFL regular reason game. After his miserable performance in the Eagles’ first preseason game (12/24, 89 yards, 1 INT) that saw him leave with a rib injury, I was honestly worried about his physical well-being as the starter of an NFL franchise. He proved me wrong by lighting up the Browns (yes, I know it is only the Browns) for 278 yards and 2 TD’s. Not a bad start to your career.

Wentz starting for the Philadelphia Eagles means that the 5-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State Bison are faced with the task of replacing their former starting quarterback. As Wentz was injured for a significant portion of the 2015 season, the new starter is no stranger to leading the offense. In fact, he has proven to be a critical factor in the team’s success. Is he a threat to the Hawkeyes on Saturday?

Name: Easton Stick (#12)

Year: Junior

Position: Quarterback

When it comes to debating the best quarterbacks in college football, Stick is rarely mentioned (and usually isn’t mentioned at all). In fact, go ahead and Google image “Easton Stick” right now. All you’ll find are pictures of hockey sticks. I’m not joking.

Stick doesn’t seem to attract recognition because he is the quarterback at an FCS program that is located in a state that ranks 47th in total population of the 50 U.S. states. However, you could argue that Stick is the quarterback of a team that is a powerhouse compared to competing programs.

Take a glance at Easton’s numbers from his appearances in 11 games last season, as well as his stats from the start of the 2016 season.

2015 stats (11 games)

Passing: 61.2% completion percentage, 1,144 yards, 7.8 yards/attempt, 13 TD’s, 4 INT’s

Rushing: 85 rushes, 498 yards, 5.9 yards/carry, 5 TD’s

2016 stats (2 games)

Passing: 64.2%, 451 yards, 8.5 yards/attempt, 4 TD’s, 1 INT

Rushing: 21 rushes, 105 yards, 5.0 yards/carry, 1 TD

I’ll admit, these numbers don’t exactly jump off the page. They aren’t bad, but they aren’t phenomenal, either. They are just consistent statistics that tell me a few things about the quarterback that Iowa is facing this week:

  1. He takes care of the football. Stick tossed 4 interceptions in 2015 in 11 appearances, and he has only thrown 1 pick so far in 2016.
  2. He is consistent. His completion percentages show that he hits his targets at a high rate that would be desired among any major college program.
  3. He is a duel-threat. Stick’s passing numbers show that he has a good enough arm to beat you through the air. At the same time, his rushing numbers look like they belong to a tailback. He averages 5.0 yards per carry and above and can score TD’s with his feet.

When I analyze Stick’s numbers, I am reminded of someone who plays his same position that is thought of as one of the best quarterbacks in his conference and possibly in the country. Take a look at his passing numbers from the past 2 seasons. 2015 is adjusted to an 11-game schedule, for comparison purposes.

Player X

2016 stats (2 games)

Passing: 2 games, 66.7%, 427 yards, 8.9 yards/attempt, 4 TD

2015 stats (Adjusted for an 11-game schedule)

Passing: 61.6%, 2,207 yards, 7.8 yards/attempt, 13 TD, 4 interceptions

In 2015, there was only a 0.4% difference in the completion percentages between Stick and Player X, and they shared the exact same yards per attempt (7.8). When adjusted for an 11-game schedule, they threw for the same amount of TD (13) and interceptions (4). The only big difference is total passing yards, which is due to Stick attempting to run more than Player X. So far in 2016, the players have both improved their yards per attempt (8.5 and 8.9) and completion percentages (64.2 and 66.7), while throwing the same amount of TD’s (4) and for a similar total of yards (451 vs. 427).

So who is Player X?

You probably guessed it. He’s the leader of your Iowa Hawkeyes....C.J. Beathard!!

We give Beathard a lot of praise for how effective he has been in turning Iowa from a 7-6 team in 2014 to a 12-2 team in 2015, but his statistics don’t exactly jump off the page. He doesn’t throw for the most yards, the most touchdowns, or the most interceptions. He takes care of the football and is more valuable to his team as a game-manager and intangible asset than anything. He is a proven winner and seems to enjoy the big stage.

Stick appears to be the same way. I wouldn’t expect him to get any sort of “deer in the headlights” look on Saturday when he faces 70,585 screaming fans, compared to the roughly 18,000 that he usually plays in front of. Like Beathard, expect him to keep his cool and walk into Kinnick well-prepared.

This may be the biggest stage that he will see in his college career. He will be poised to take advantage of this opportunity, and he has the tools, the consistency and the motivation to do so.