The North Dakota State Bison arguably won the biggest regular season victory in program history Saturday, knocking off the No. 11/13 Iowa Hawkeyes at Kinnick Stadium. Cam Pedersen won the game with a 37-yard field goal as time expired to seal the 23-21 win.
The Bison trailed by one when they took over with 1:53 remaining at their own 34-yard line. Easton Stick opened the drive with a 29-yard run. A completion to RJ Urzendowski and a pair of runs left the ball on the Iowa 20. With five seconds on the clock, Pederson tucked the kick inside the right upright.
The win is the Bison’s sixth straight against FBS opponents. Since 2000, only three other FCS teams have beaten ranked FBS teams. NDSU’s win is against the second highest ranked team to fall. Only when No. 5 Michigan fell to Appalachian State has a higher ranked team been beat.
It was also Iowa’s first loss against an FCS team.
The Bison had a chance to win the game the drive before. After a 80-yard, 15 play drive, Stick found Chase Morlock to make the score 20-21. Bison head coach Chris Klieman decided to go for a two-point conversion. Stick was force to scramble and the pass fell incomplete.
With only 3:41 remaining, the Hawkeyes took over. The Bison defense would force a three and out. Safety Robbie Grimsley would come on the blitz on to sack quarterback C.J. Beathard on third down.
The Bison would need the nine unanswered points to erase a 21-14 deficit. Hawkeyes looked in control in the middle of the third quarter. Beathard found his favorite receiver Matt VandeBerg for a nine yard touchdown. It would be VandeBerg’s second touchdown on the day.
NDSU kept the game close all day. They tied the score up at 14 in the third. Lance Dunn set up the Bison with a 35-yard run to the Hawkeye three yard line. Dunn looked like he would score, but he would be tracked down by a defender, who punched the ball free, but out of bounds. King Frazier would pound it home from one yard out three plays later.
VandeBerg’s first touchdown capped off a quick strike drive for the Hawkeyes. The 15-yard TD catch followed a 14 yard run and a 51-yard reception by tight end George Kittle. This would mean the Bison entered the locker room down 14-7.
For the first time this season, the Hawkeyes found themselves trailing. Linebacker MJ Stumpf would pick off Beathard and return it 21 yards for the score. Beathard took a blind side hit from linebacker Pierre Gee-Tucker, who got to the quarterback as he threw the ball.
Iowa would respond from their first interception of the year. On fourth and three, Beathard found Riley McCarron for a 30-yard score.
Throughout the day, the Bison defense stood tall. Iowa was held to 231 total yards. Of those yards, a mere 34 yards were on the ground for the Hawkeyes.
On the other side of the ball, the Bison played a classic game of power football. Frazier had 99 yards on 16 rushes to lead the Bison. The four running backs combined for 211 of the Bison’s 239 rush yards. Stick would finish with 11-19, 124 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
After the game, Coach Klieman would not rank this upset higher than winning the National Championship game. “I will take the National Championships every time.”
As for Pedersen, he may not remember the biggest kick of his young career. “I kind of blacked out there for a second,” after the kick went up. “I kind of hoped I wouldn’t be tackled.”
But if there was any doubting that the Bison belonged alongside with the top teams in college football, “We told them all week that we belong,” Klieman said.
The Bison improved to 3-0 in handing the Hawkeyes their first loss this season (2-1). The Bison will now take a week off, before returning Oct. 2 to the Fargodome to take on the Illinois State Redbirds for Homecoming.