In the 94th annual Homecoming game at North Dakota State, the No. 1-ranked Bison football team beat red-hot No. 12 Southern Illinois 38-10 on Saturday at the Fargodome.
The contest between top 15-ranked Football Championship Subdivision opponents drew 19,034 fans, which was the fourth-largest crowd in Fargodome history.
“Obviously, we’re really happy with the performance in the second half. We beat a really good football team,” Bison head coach Chris Klieman said. “Southern (Illinois) is going to make a lot of noise throughout the season and my hat is off to their guys.”
Bison quarterback Carson Wentz didn’t have his best performance during the first half as he came up empty on a few shots downfield. However, he turned it around in the second half, as he finished 7-for-13 with 174 passing yards, two touchdowns and an interception.
“I’m glad we took the shots in the first half vertical, because at least it loosened those (defenders) up,” Klieman said. “We can’t just be a dink and dunk team.”
Wentz connected with Trevor Gebhart on a 75-yard bomb down the sideline that gave the Bison a 31-10 lead with 11:50 left. That catch was Gebhart’s first touchdown of the season.
“It was big momentum wise,” Gebhart said. “It was a third down and it was big just to get the drive going.”
The Bison (6-0, 2-0 Missouri Valley Football Conference) scored their final score of the game on a 48-yard run by Chase Morlock.
Southern Illinois’ (5-2, 2-1) defense gave up 426 yards to the Bison offense, and the Salukis offense finished with 267 yards.
SIU had its chances as it pulled within a touchdown in the third quarter off a Thomas Kinney 44-yard field goal with 10:25 to play, but the Bison offense bounced back on a 9-yard touchdown catch by junior tight end Luke Albers. It was Albers’ first ever touchdown catch.
“You are never dead with (Wentz),” Albers said. “You just kind of always keep playing until the whistle [blows].”
Bison running back John Crockett ran for 99 yards on the ground off 22 carries while hauling in a career-high three catches for 52 yards.
Morlock had five carries for 71 yards and King Frazier added 57 yards on seven carries.
For the Bison defensively, Colten Heagle had a team-high nine tackles.
He said NDSU prepared better then it did last week against Western Illinois.
“Western (Illinois) is a tough place to play, because of the tough atmosphere,” Heagle said. “To be back at home was a huge advantage for us.”
Senior linebacker Travis Beck made eight tackles and junior cornerback Jordan Champion chipped in two pass breakups for the Bison defense.
The Salukis were led by quarterback Mark Iannotti, who was 18-for-33 passing for 146 yards and a 26-yard touchdown pass to his tight end MyCole Pruitt.
Pruitt, who finished with seven catches for 55 yards, said the team didn’t execute throughout the game. He said the team will look at film and get better heading into next week’s game.
While SIU head coach Dale Lennon said his team battled, he admitted his players didn’t take advantage of opportunities.
“We definitely have room for improvement,” Lennon said. “I think we saw a very good football team at the top of the FCS [today].”
NDSU will host the Indiana State Sycamores (4-2, 1-1 MVFC) next weekend in the Fargodome. ISU was the last team to beat the Bison since they started their 30-game winning streak.