Big third quarter helps Bison crush Furman 38-7
FARGO — A cultural shift that favored top-ranked North Dakota State took place early in the second half Saturday afternoon at Gate City Bank Field.
The Bison exploded for 21 points in the third quarter to break open what had been a close game. That three-touchdown flurry sparked NDSU to a 38-7 victory against Furman University in the second round of the FCS playoffs at the Fargodome before 18,455 fans.
“We’ve always been a really good second-half team,” Bison head coach Craig Bohl said. “That’s part of a culture that is instilled here. That comes about from a lot of dedication and work. … That is our ace in the hole.”
The Bison (12-0) had a three-point lead at halftime, but scored three touchdowns in the first 10 minutes of the second half. That quickly pushed that cushion to 24 points.
“We are a start strong, finish stronger type team,” said Bison quarterback Brock Jensen, who threw a 7-yard touchdown pass to Andrew Bonnet during the third quarter. “It just takes time to figure them out a little bit. There wasn’t a panic in our group.”
The Bison gained 133 yards on 13 plays in the third quarter. Jensen completed 5 of 6 passes for 68 yards in that quarter, including the touchdown pass. Senior cornerback Marcus Williams capped the game-changing third with a 61-yard interception return for a score. That big play gave the Bison a 31-7 lead with 5 minutes, 33 seconds remaining in the third quarter.
“Once we start making plays, that dome gets rocking and we feed off of that,” said Bison senior defensive end Cole Jirik, who had four tackles and had a hand in a sack. “Once that dome gets rocking, you want to keep it that way.”
The Bison momentum started to build right at the end of the second quarter. Junior kicker Adam Keller booted a 37-yard field goal at the halftime buzzer. That capped an 8-play, 68-yard drive that lasted 76 seconds. NDSU had a 10-7 lead heading into the locker room.
“I thought at the end of the half it was a big series for them when they got the three points,” Furman head coach Bruce Fowler said.
Keller’s field goal started a string of 31 unanswered points from the Bison, who got the ball first in the second half.
“We just didn’t execute as well in the second half,” said Furman sophomore quarterback Reese Hannon. “It was pretty simple.”
The Bison took the opening drive of the second half 75 yards on seven plays. Senior wide receiver Ryan Smith sparked the march, gaining 28 yards on a sweep play, moving the ball to the Furman 34-yard line. Three plays later, senior running back Sam Ojuri waltzed into the end zone from 3 yards out. That gave NDSU a 17-7 lead with 12:07 to play in the third.
The Bison defense then forced a Furman 3-and-out. NDSU drove 58 yards on six plays on the ensuing drive for another touchdown. Bonnet capped that march with his 7-yard touchdown catch that gave the Bison a 24-7 lead with 8:03 to play in the third. Williams added his interception return for a touchdown on the next Paladins possession.
“Right when he picked it, I said ‘He’s gone,’ “ Bohl said of Williams. “Starting off fast in the second half was big.”
The Bison outscored Furman 28-0 after halftime. Jensen capped the scoring with a 53-yard touchdown run that gave NDSU a 38-7 lead with 7:37 to play in the fourth quarter.
“They are just a confident team and they wore us down a little bit,” Fowler said of the Bison. “It’s hard to get really big plays against them. They make you earn it.”