COLLEGE FOOTBALL: No. 2-ranked Bison overpower Northern Iowa in second half to remain undefeated
FARGO—North Dakota State maintained its stronghold on the Missouri Valley Football Conference Saturday afternoon, Oct. 28, with just that—strength.
A relentless defense was too much for Northern Iowa to handle and the Bison went on to a 30-14 victory before 18,687 fans at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. The No. 2-ranked Bison moved to 5-0 in the Valley and 8-0 overall heading into their Dakota Marker showdown at South Dakota State next Saturday, Nov. 4.
The Panthers were bottled up all day, finishing with just 157 total yards. The Bison offense, meanwhile, got greedy in the second half to pull away from a 7-7 halftime tie.
"In this environment, they get that energy going and it helps them a bunch," said UNI head coach Mark Farley.
After a lifeless first half with the ball, the Bison put together a 75-yard drive to start the third quarter. It made amends for a few botched attempts in the red zone in the first half, with a 22-yard touchdown run by Ty Brooks being the big play.
It was Brooks' first action on offense since getting injured in Eastern Washington in September, with his latest injury a hamstring issue. The TD gave the Bison a 14-7 lead.
"It felt good to finally get back," said Brooks, who had 59 yards on seven carries. "I've been out most of the season. I'm a competitive dude and it felt good to get out there, get some touches and make some plays."
The Bison were on the end zone doorstep on UNI's ensuing possession after senior linebacker Nick DeLuca forced a fumble on Panthers quarterback Eli Dunne that Levi Jordheim recovered at the UNI 21-yard line.
Cam Pedersen's 31-yard field goal made it 17-7.
NDSU put it away on its first two possessions in the fourth quarter on a 31-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Easton Stick to RJ Urzendowski and a 1-yard run by Bruce Anderson. The latter came after Jordheim's third fumble recovery of the game, which tied a school record.
"It was a physical game," said Bison head coach Chris Klieman. "They're really good on the defensive line, they always have been. Maybe we found some cracks in there to get some yards, finishing some runs. You try to wear on them over time."
The Panthers, who put themselves in the FCS playoff hunt with two straight wins, fell to 4-4 overall and 3-1 in the league.
"As we know, we're getting everybody's best shot," Klieman said. "If you want to win this league, you have to beat the Bison and we're getting everybody's best shot every week. I think people expect us to beat everyone 40-0, it doesn't happen in this league. They have scholarshipped kids, too."
Defense was the name of the game in the first half, with both defenses contributing to a 7-7 halftime tie. The Panthers took the initial advantage after defensive back Elijah Campbell grabbed his second interception of the half, this one giving the Panthers the ball at the NDSU 24-yard line.
Running back Marcus Weymiller picked up a third-and-3 with an eight-yard run to the 9. Two plays later, Dunne found Daurice Fountain in the back of the end zone for the touchdown early in the second quarter.
The Bison got to halftime tied thanks to safety Robbie Grimsley, who read Dunne perfectly on a pass over the middle and took it untouched 27 yards the other way. It was a tough half for Stick, who was 4-of-15 passing with the two interceptions. The Bison did nothing on the ground, either, with 28 yards on 16 carries and the field goal unit struggled with two blocked field goals by UNI's Adam Reth.
"Both of those turnovers were on me, obviously," Stick said. "It was a matter of getting into a rhythm and getting back to what we were doing. The guys did a good job of executing in the second half."
But Stick answered with the Urzendowski touchdown pass and some key runs.
"So pleased with the way he bounced back," Klieman said. "He threw a dime to RJ in the end zone for the touchdown. Nobody ever has to worry about Easton, he never gets rattled. I love having him on this team, the kid is a winner."