NDSU searching for answers at 1-4The days of North Dakota State contending for a conference football title are over, for now. So are the fourth-quarter rallies. For all the troubles the Bison have endured in this 1-4 season — position switches, injuries to linebackers and poor pass defense — some clutch play in the final quarter would have gone a long way to at least cover up the problems.
FARGO (AP) — The days of North Dakota State contending for a conference football title are over, for now. So are the fourth-quarter rallies.
For all the troubles the Bison have endured in this 1-4 season — position switches, injuries to linebackers and poor pass defense — some clutch play in the final quarter would have gone a long way to at least cover up the problems.
Remember those stirring come-from-behind victories in 2006 and 2007?
The pendulum has swung the other way.
“We’ve probably had a little more of those games right now then what we’ve had,” NDSU coach Craig Bohl said, referring to opposing teams now winning the close games.
Exhibit No.1 came last Saturday against Illinois State. The Bison took their first lead of the game with 4:53 left but lost it with just over a minute remaining when the Redbirds went 68 yards in eight plays. Yet, Bison quarterback Nick Mertens busted a 29-yard run that reached the ISU 9-yard line with just under a minute left.
A personal foul penalty nullified the gain.
Result: a 27-24 loss.
Exhibit No. 2 was two weeks ago at Southern Illinois. The Bison pulled within 17-14, stopped the Salukis on five plays and had the ball with 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead. But the Bison offense did little in three plays, punted and NDSU subsequently saw its momentum stopped.
Result: a 24-14 loss.
In a crazier game last month at Sam Houston State that is Exhibit No. 3, the Bison tied the game at 45-45 with 2:43 left, yet couldn’t stop the Bearkats from going 72 yards in 10 plays to set up a game-winning field goal with 26 seconds remaining. Still, it wasn’t over. A long pass from Mertens to D.J. McNorton that appeared to be flirting with field goal range was called back because of an illegal forward pass penalty.
Result: a 48-45 loss.
“In the past, we’ve had more experience in some spots and that comes into play,” Bohl said.
On Saturday, No. 3-ranked Northern Iowa comes to the Fargodome. The Panthers are 2-0 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with their only loss in a 4-1 season a heartbreaking 17-16 decision at the University of Iowa.
One more loss and the Bison will be 1-5 for the first time since 1975, when they started 1-6. NDSU needs a rally and that’s something that hasn’t happened this season.
“We’ve started slow on both sides of the football,” Bohl said, referring to offense and defense. “We need to improve on that. We made some second half adjustments and the players came out real focused. But we have to start faster and work extremely hard this week.”