Bison fans can breathe a sigh of relief.
North Dakota State traveled to Western Illinois University with one thing on their mind: bouncing back from last week’s devastating loss to SDSU. The Bison did just that, holding off the Leathernecks 21-13 thanks to timely play from their vaunted defense.
It didn’t take the Bison long to get on the board. Easton Stick’s 44-yard completion to Darrius Shepherd jump-started a four play, one minute and fifty-three second drive. It was capped off by King Frazier’s three yard carry into the end zone. WIU contrasted NDSU’s quick drive with a slogging sixteen play march down the field, which led to a field goal.
The Bison weren’t able to open the second quarter like they did the first. Stick stared down WIU linebacker Adam Brott and was intercepted deep in Bison territory. The defense bailed Stick out however, holding the Leathernecks to just a field goal. NDSU’s following drive stalled, but Jackson Koonce’s punt pinned WIU to their own eight yard line.
This led to the Herd’s best field position of the game. Stick was able to shake off the interception, firing back to back passes down the throat of the Leatherneck defense. He then scrambled to bring the Bison to the one yard line. Frazier punched it in from inches out for his second touchdown of the game, to bring the score to 14-6.
The Bison once again flashed quick-strike capabilities. They drove 74 yards in just 94 seconds to add another touchdown. The drive finished with a seventeen yard completion from Stick to junior tight end Jeff Illies. The Leathernecks drove into field goal range following the touchdown, but had their field goal attempt blocked by defensive end Greg Menard.
Unfortunately for the Bison, they were unable to keep up their scoring pace from the first half, as the offense was quieted by WIU’s defense for the entire second half. The contest was beginning to look as if the Dakota Marker game was repeating itself. After converting on third down midway through the third quarter, the Leathernecks found the endzone, as running back Jamie Gilmore zipped into the endzone unscathed, moving the score to 21-13. On the ensuing Bison drive, Stick was intercepted yet again attempting to throw out of a third and long situation. WIU once again looked poised to score, but Nate Tanguay blocked kicker Nathan Knuffman’s field goal attempt. For the second time, the stout Bison defense bailed out their quarterback.
Western Illinois responded by blocking a field goal of their own, as Cam Peterson had his 28-yard attempt blocked by Khalen Saunders.
Leatherneck quarterback Sean McGuire led the team down the field, even converting on fourth and two to sustain the drive. Having reached the red zone, McGuire found senior wide receiver and NFL draft prospect Lance Lenoir on a slant route, but MJ Stumpf stopped Lenoir at the one yard line to force fourth down. McGuire’s quarterback keeper on fourth down was stopped, but Tanguay was whistled for offsides. McGuire carried once again, but fumbled into the end zone and the Bison recovered.
The Bison offense again was unable to get anything going, leading to another punt and another chance for the Leathernecks. Jalen Allison came up with an interception of McGuire, giving the Bison the ball to kill the clock. NDSU was unable to fully bleed the clock, leaving WIU with 49 seconds to score. WIU was unable to score, as McGuire was intercepted on the first play by safety Tre Dempsey, securing the win for the Bison.
After the game, head coach Chris Klieman remarked, “You guys know it’s always difficult to win on the road in the Valley, and I’m so pleased with how our defense really rose up in the second half with some great stops.”
With the win, the Herd move to 6-1 with a 3-1 record in conference play. Their next game will be this upcoming Saturday in Cedar Falls against UNI. The Panthers are coming off a win of their own, a 61-7 shellacking of Missouri State.