Entering a game in which most fans and analysts predicted a major blowout, many factors contributed to a surprising Bison loss.
Starting on a high note, North Dakota State was able to hold the University of South Dakota Coyotes at zero points and only 28 yards in the first quarter, showcasing an impressive defense that looked to be prepared for Saturday’s game.
With a 14-0 lead after 15 minutes, some students started to file out of the Fargodome, clearly not surprised at how the game was looking.
That’s where things started to slowly go downhill for the Bison.
With a quick turnaround (and two touchdowns in the second quarter) the Coyotes shocked BisoNation by tying up the game. With about six minutes left in the first half, the Bison knew they had to score in order to gain the momentum back. While responding with a touchdown, NDSU went into halftime with the lead — and the momentum.
Or so we thought.
Expecting the Bison to come out stronger than ever (especially on defense after just giving up two quick touchdowns) it was shocking to see NDSU be outplayed.
One defensive highlight of the third quarter was an interception by true freshman Robbie Grimsley which, again, had potential to turn the game around for NDSU.
Unfortunately, the interception was accompanied by an unnecessary roughness penalty from defensive end Greg Menard and little offensive action for the Bison.
Bison linebacker Nick DeLuca was one player that stood out for the Bison despite the team’s defensive struggles.
With 15 tackles in the game, DeLuca was part of the reason the game stayed so close.
“First of all, all credit to USD,” DeLuca said after the game. “They had a terrific game plan and came out and executed. … As a defense, we pride ourselves in stopping the run, and we weren’t able to do that today.”
Along with the lack of defense as the game trailed on, there was also a clear lack of excitement on all parts.
Not only was the student section half empty throughout the entire game, the team didn’t seem to have their usual fire.
“We have to know that we can’t just come in and win a game,” senior quarterback Carson Wentz said. “We have to work for it and we were flat today with no energy and no excitement.”
No excuses here, though — USD played a great game.
Similar to last week, the Bison faced a quarterback who was ready to run.
USD’s Ryan Saeger rushed for a total of 92 yards (just two yards short of the team’s main running back). Unable to stop this offense, the Bison struggled more and more as USD gained momentum.
The team we saw today wasn’t the same group we are used to seeing. Whether it be the diminishing defense as the game went on or the lack of enthusiasm — something will have to change.
“We just have to put this one behind us,” DeLuca said. “Obviously it’s a learning experience, and we have to move forward and bounce back.”