ST. LOUIS — Top-ranked North Dakota State, the first team in Missouri Valley Football Conference history to go 12-0 during the regular season, swept the league's specialty awards announced on Wednesday.
North Dakota State QB Trey Lance was named the league's Offensive Player of the Year, the league's Newcomer of the Year and the league's Freshman of the Year. Teammate Derrek Tuszka was voted the league's Defensive Player of the Year, and coach Matt Entz was tabbed the MVFC Coach of the Year. The Bison have won 33-straight games, matching an FCS record which they established.
Lance, a Walter Payton Award and Jerry Rice Award nominee, is the first freshman to earn the MVFC's top offensive honor, and he's the fourth freshman to win both the league's Freshman and Newcomer of the Year honors. Previous first-year players to sweep those two awards include QB Sawyer Kollmorgen (Northern Iowa) in 2012, RB Martin Ruiz (Youngstown State) in 2013, and LB Jabril Cox (NDSU) in 2017.
Notably, an MVFC school has earned Offensive, Defensive and Coach of the Year honors five times in our 35-year history, including this year. UNI (1985), UNI (1993), Western Illinois (2000) and UNI (2007) were the others to do it. The league has selected those three awards each of our 35 seasons, but the newcomer (1994) and freshman (1999) honors were added later.
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Lance, a 6-foot-3, 221-pound dual-threat quarterback from Marshall, Minnesota, led the FCS in passing efficiency (187.5), yards per attempt (9.99) and was second in completion percentage (68.9%). Lance threw for 23 touchdowns and no interceptions in 220 passes this year, for 2,187 yards. His 2,187 passing yards are the sixth-most in league history for a freshman. He was also NDSU's second-leading rusher, with 741 yards and 10 touchdowns.
Tuszka, a senior defensive end from Warner, South Dakota, has been invited to the Shrine Bowl. The Valley's active leader with 26.5 sacks, he is third in the MVFC in sacks, with 10.5 in 12 games. His 38.5 career tackles for loss rank ninth in Bison history. Tuszka also has three pass breakups, one forced fumble and six quarterback hurries for the league's top passing defense, total defense and scoring defense (12.2 points allowed per game).
Entz spent 21 years as an assistant coach at six different schools before becoming NDSU's head coach last year when Chris Klieman went to Kansas State. He was the Bison's defensive coordinator for the last five seasons but inherited a team that lost 24 seniors and 15 starters off a national championship squad. NDSU was No. 1 in the country from the start and finished the year with the No. 1 seed in the FCS playoffs. The Bison beat six top-25 teams during the regular season, including No. 25 SIU in the regular-season finale, and led the MVFC in scoring (40 points per game), total offense (493.4 yards a game), scoring defense and total defense.
The league will announce its full all-conference teams Monday at 10 a.m. The Valley will announce its All-Newcomer Team Tuesday and its Scholar-Athlete Team on Wednesday, Dec. 4.