NDSU head football coach Chris Klieman: QB Carson Wentz playoff return unlikely

FARGO -- If North Dakota State's football team is going to make a deep run in the FCS playoffs, they may have to do it without senior quarterback Carson Wentz. The latest news on Monday did not sound promising.

Injured NDSU quarterback Carson Wentz talks with teammate quarterback Easton Stick during their Oct. 31 game against Southern Illinois in Carbondale, Ill. (FNS Photo by Dave Wallis)

FARGO - If North Dakota State’s football team is going to make a deep run in the FCS playoffs, they may have to do it without senior quarterback Carson Wentz. The latest news on Monday did not sound promising.
Head coach Chris Klieman said he didn’t think “there’s a likelihood of him coming back” for the entire playoffs, which start this Saturday with the No. 3-seeded Bison having a first-round bye.
Wentz suffered a broken wrist over a month ago and Klieman said an MRI is still two weeks out. Nobody really knows what to expect after that, he said.
“I don’t know, I think he’s probably a case study in himself because I don’t know if this injury to a wrist has happened to a quarterback,” he said. “I don’t know how that’s going to affect him throwing the ball. Until he’s truly able to go out and throw a football and play catch and some of those things, I don’t when that is because it’s not going to happen until after the next doctor’s appointment.”
That means freshman Easton Stick will be the quarterback in the second round when NDSU hosts the winner of South Dakota State at Montana at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. If the Bison win, Stick would most certainly start the quarterfinals and semifinals.
Asked if Wentz were to return, would he be the starter again, Klieman said, “there’s no reason to talk about that.”
Stick’s emergence has softened the blow of losing Wentz. Coming into the season, it was generally assumed that three of the top quarterbacks in the FCS were Wentz, Villanova’s John Robertson and James Madison’s Vad Lee. All missed at least half of the regular season because of injuries, but the Bison were the only one of the three to come through the loss of a standout signal caller unscathed.
They went 5-0 with Stick as the starting quarterback, including 3-0 on the road. JMU lost the game to Richmond that Lee went down with a foot injury, but went 2-1 in the final three games and will take the No. 5 seed into the FCS playoffs.
Robertson suffered a knee injury in the season opener and the Wildcats went 2-2 over their next four games. At one time ranked high in the FCS top 25 poll with Robertson, they ultimately missed the playoffs finishing 6-5.
Wentz went the entire way in the game he was injured-his wrist wasn’t diagnosed until the following day - but it was also a game NDSU lost to South Dakota. Stick, a redshirt freshman, played well in the second half the following week and rushed for over 100 yards in his first two games.

In all, he’s completed 57 of 95 passes for a 60 percent completion rate, 826 yards and 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions. He’s averaging 6.8 yards per carry with four touchdowns on the ground. Of NDSU’s 27 offensive touchdowns in the last five games, Stick has accounted for 15 of them.
“That’s where I know as a coaching staff we were really proud of what they were able to accomplish,” Klieman said. “Everybody rallied around the young quarterbacks. After learning Carson was not going to be here, we brought the team in here and told them we need to rally around Easton and Cole (Davis), but we also need to play better at all positions.”
Certainly, the offense maintained its potency with improved play from the offensive line. Klieman called it a different offense with Stick under center compared to Wentz, saying different games offer different matchups.
“I don’t know how well Easton would have done against South Dakota State or Northern Iowa,” Klieman said. “Carson was a great matchup for those teams and Easton ended up being a good matchup against some of those teams that probably didn’t defend the quarterback run as well or weren’t expecting it as much with Easton.”

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