Bison hold off Lennon’s SalukisFARGO — It wasn’t easy but North Dakota State’s football team found a way to claim a 23-17 win over Southern Illinois on Saturday at Gate City Bank Field in the Fargodome.
By: Kevin Schnepf, Forum Communications, The Jamestown Sun
FARGO — It wasn’t easy but North Dakota State’s football team found a way to claim a 23-17 win over Southern Illinois on Saturday at Gate City Bank Field in the Fargodome.
“It was very typical of the way Southern Illinois plays,” said Bison head coach Craig Bohl. “They play with a great deal of character and they are resourceful. But there was no panic in our guys.”
Trailing 17-10 entering the fourth quarter, the Bison offense –which held the ball for more than 40 minutes in this game –produced two scoring drives to seal the win and keep its Missouri Valley Football Conference championship hopes alive.
Derrick Lang’s 1-yard touchdown run capped a 79-yard drive to tie the score 17-17 with 12:38 remaining of the game. The touchdown was set up by an 87-yard flea-flicker pass to Andrew Okland.
With 5:23 remaining, John Crockett’s 5-yard touchdown run capped a 52-yard drive that gave the Bison their first lead of the game. A blocked extra-point kick made it 23-17.
“It was just a hardfought win,” said Bohl, whose No. 3-ranked Bison improved to 7-1 overall and 4-1 in the conference.
The Bison defense, one of the best in the nation, was solid again. It limited Southern Illinois 11 yards rushing and 177 total yards.
“They’re good and that’s something that has been well documented,” Southern Illinois head coach Dale Lennon said of the Bison defense. “But I was feeling good about our chances.”
Even after the Bison took the lead.
Southern Illinois’ sluggish offense picked up two first downs, marching close to midfield.
But on third down, Bison defensive end Kyle Emmanual forced Saluki quarterback Kory Faulkner to throw a bad pass. It was picked off by cornerback Marcus Williams.
“Today, we just couldn’t find the right combination to pull it off,” said Lennon, whose Salukis fall to 5-4 overall and 4-2 in the conference.
In the two previous weeks, the Saluki defense scored on a 100-yard fumble recovery in a win over Northern Iowa and scored on a 100-yard interception return in a win over Youngstown State.
With the game tied 7-7 and the Bison driving, the Saluki defense struck again.
A blitzing Tyler Williamson sacked Bison quarterback Brock Jensen. Jensen fumbled and Brandon Williams picked up and rumbled 55 yards for a touchdown.
Suddenly, Southern Illinois had a 14-7 lead.
Jensen’s 68-yard pass to a wide-open Ryan Smith set up Adam Keller’s 24-yard field that cut the lead to 14-10 10 seconds before halftime.
Schnepf is the sports editor at the Fargo Forum