Rice winner Lance seeks to become first freshman to claim Payton Award

NCAA Football

(STATS) – One of the keys to North Dakota State’s unbeaten season occurred when the bright lights weren’t quite shining on the two-time defending FCS champion Bison.

Last offseason, Trey Lance built chemistry on and off the practice fields with the many young players on the roster, even before he earned the starting quarterback role. The thing is, Lance was one of the youngsters, but his leadership skills belied those of many redshirt freshmen.

Lance has gone on to a high level of play this season, replacing Easton Stick, the winningest quarterback in FCS history, with incredible efficiency while becoming the first freshman to be named offensive player of the year in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. He’s earned the STATS FCS Jerry Rice Award for national freshman of the year and is in the running to become the first rookie to claim the Walter Payton Award as national offensive player of the year.

“He has a huge upside and I think there’s a lot of potential that’s untapped,” NDSU coach Matt Entz said. “It will be exciting to see where he can end up in his career, but right now he’s playing at a high level, and he’s extremely confident with the guys that are around him.”

Incredibly, the strong-armed Lance has thrown 28 touchdowns without an interception in a 15-0 season. Heading into the Bison’s third straight appearance in the FCS championship game on Jan. 11, he has completed 186 of 277 passes for 2,741 yards, ranking No. 1 in the FCS in pass efficiency rating (182.8) and No. 4 in completion percentage (67.1). The 6-foot-3, 221-pound dual-threat also has rushed for 934 yards and 13 touchdowns, averaging 243.2 yards of total offense per game.

The Payton Award winner will be announced at the STATS national awards banquet on Jan. 10 in Frisco, Texas. Also up for the award are quarterbacks Case Cookus of Northern Arizona and Kevin Thomson of Sacramento State and running back Pete Guerriero of Monmouth.

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