BRITTANY HOFMANN | THE SPECTRUM
With an opportunity to wrap up at least a share of a seventh consecutive Missouri Valley Football Conference championship, the North Dakota State Bison trounced South Dakota, 49-14. NDSU poured on 647 yards of offense and shut down the Coyotes in the second half to clinch a share of the trophy and pay tribute to their seniors.
South Dakota made the perilous decision to receive the opening kickoff, but the move paid off. The Coyotes surged down the field in four minutes to open the scoring and suck the air out of the Harvest Bowl crowd. Quarterback Chris Streveler used his legs to move the chains twice, and on third-and-13 stepped up and rushed 19 yards to give his side the early advantage.
NDSU was able to answer on their opening possession though, as Ty Brooks reached the end zone on an 8-yard run to cap a six-play, 71-yard drive. The touchdown was the first of three on the afternoon for Brooks, who had a breakout game. The sophomore led all ballcarriers with 152 yards on the ground on just nine carries.
“Shoutout to the (offensive linemen). I feel like they put me in a good position to just get out in space and then turn on the burners,” Brooks said.
The Bison defense forced USD to punt on the following drive, but the Coyotes were able to pin the Herd back at the 2-yard line. Dimitri Williams helped dig the Bison out of the hole with a 24-yard rush. Two plays later, Williams reeled in a 77-yard reception, juking his defender on the outside before being dragged down at the 1-yard line.
The Bison looked to pound the ball in on the ground, but were stopped on first and second down. Bruce Anderson eventually broke through on third down to put the Bison ahead, 14-7.
Back to back sacks by Stanley Jones and Derrek Tuszka ended the first quarter, leading to a Coyotes punt, and the Bison took advantage of the opportunity to extend their lead.
True freshman Seth Wilson gave the 18,623 onlookers a glimpse of his future potential on a 28-yard touchdown scamper on NDSU’s first drive of the second quarter.
“I didn’t have a chance to see it on replay, but (it was) a pretty electric move,” head coach Chris Klieman remarked. “He has some of those skills that you really like in a young back.”
Wilson had his redshirt removed midway through the season as a result of injuries to Lance Dunn and Demaris Purifoy. Like Brooks, Wilson had a standout performance rushing the ball, running for 89 yards on 13 carries.
USD came as advertised, running 85 plays on offense and seeking to move the ball quickly. The Coyotes put together their most impressive drive of the game following Wilson’s score. Streveler completed five passes and scored on an 8-yard carry to finish an eight-play, 85 yard drive which lasted only 2 minutes, 42 seconds.
The touchdown would be the last time South Dakota would score in the game. After the two teams traded three-and-outs, the Bison doubled their lead before halftime. Brooks raced in for a 54-yard touchdown, the longest run of his career, which broke the backs of the Coyotes.
“We’ve seen that a number of times in spring and fall,” Klieman stated. “I was so impressed with Ty. I know he’s an electric football player. He’s getting more and more comfortable in our offense.”
Brooks’ scoring rampage did not end in the first half. After both teams punted to start the second half, the Bison offense regained its footing. Quarterback Easton Stick connected with senior tight end Jeff Illies for 46 yards, getting the Bison into the red zone. Then Brooks recorded his third score of the afternoon on a 14-yard carry.
“We knew we were going to be able to run the ball, and that’s what we did today,” Brooks commented. “(We) came out and just executed the plays that we had.” Led by Brooks, NDSU rolled up 340 yards on the ground.
It was the Bison who began to take on the look of a hurry-up offense, reaching the end zone in less than two minutes on their last two scoring drives.
Illies positioned NDSU in the red zone again with another long reception, this time going down the sideline for 50 yards. Stick kept it himself two plays later and tallied his lone rushing touchdown of the afternoon.
The Bison capped the dominating showing with a final touchdown in the fourth quarter. Tight end Connor Wentz found himself wide open in the end zone and put the finishing touches on the statement conference victory.
Stick completed 11 of 12 passes for 307 yards. His 11 straight completions to begin the game was the fifth longest streak of completions in program history.
“He was going to bounce back. I was excited for him,” Klieman said. “You could see a little glimmer in his eye when I got a chance to talk to him this week.”
While the offense stole the spotlight, the defense quietly put up one of its better performances of the season. The Coyotes racked up 419 yards of offense, but it was the score that stood out to Klieman.
“To hold that football team to 14 points — I’m not a yards or a stats guy — to hold that team to 14 points when they’ve been averaging 40 plus is a great effort by our defense and our staff,” he said.
Aware of the stakes of the game, Klieman and players were not going to be denied the chance to ensure a hold of the Missouri Valley championship and send the seniors out in style.
“It was going to be hard to beat the Bison today coming off of a loss,” Klieman said. “(Put on top of that) the opportunity of it being senior day and the opportunity for us to share a seventh straight Missouri Valley conference title, and I just wouldn’t doubt those seniors and those guys in the locker room.”
Now 9-1, the Bison have a chance to win the outright title next Saturday on the road against Illinois State.