The Choice: How Lance proved his championship mettle at NDSU

  • Programming noteListen to "The Choice: Trey Lance" on 49ers Talk every Thursday for show segments leading up to the full TV premiere on Tuesday, Sept. 7, on NBC Sports Bay Area. In Part 2, the story behind Lance's flawless freshman season at North Dakota State is told.

The stat sheet from the most important game of Trey Lance’s college career doesn't exactly provide evidence of his future as an NFL quarterback.

Lance completed six of 10 pass attempts for 72 yards against James Madison, as North Dakota State won its third consecutive NCAA Football Championship Subdivision title to cap an unbeaten 2019 season.

Carlton Lance initially had the vision of his son, then a middle-school running back, playing the quarterback position.

One of the biggest lessons he tried to teach his sons played out that day in Frisco, Texas.

“I told them that not everybody who plays is ... they're going to be talented, but they're not willing to do what it takes,” Carlton said. “Everybody says they want to win a championship. Not everybody is going to do what it takes.”

Trey Lance proved he'd do whatever it took to win a national championship that day: Jan. 11, 2020.

It was 30 degrees with a 16-mph wind at kickoff. The conditions weren't conducive for either team to sustain success in the passing game.

So the quarterback who entered the championship game with 28 touchdown passes and no interceptions would end the season with 28 touchdown passes and no interceptions.

“We're in the biggest game of the season,” NDSU offensive coordinator Tyler Roehl said. “We're not really saving him for anything after this one, so he carried the ball 30 times.”

Lance gained 166 rushing yards against a defense that had allowed just 61 per game entering the championship game.

Roehl estimates that 28 of Lance’s rushing attempts were designed runs. One of his scrambles was the signature play of the Bison’s 28-20 victory.

RELATED: Lance’s rare NDSU freshman stat invokes legendary status

Lance saved his best for last -- the day after he was announced as the first freshman winner of the Walter Payton Award for the most outstanding offensive player at the FCS level.

NDSU, facing a third-and-23 situation at the JMU 44-yard line, was holding a precarious eight-point lead early in the fourth quarter.

Lance took the snap out of the shotgun formation and dropped back 9 yards behind the line of scrimmage. He sensed pressure coming off the right edge, stepped up and took off. He barely squeezed between two defenders to break into the second level, and angled toward the left sideline to outrun a defensive back for the first down. Then, he picked up two key downfield blocks and stepped through the last tackle attempt for the game-defining touchdown.

“He's the guy, in any situation, whether it be the fourth quarter of a national championship game, he wants the ball in his hands,” Roehl said. “He's just that much of a competitor, and he has the composure to go out there and execute in whatever situation it is.”

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