The Nickel trophy remains in Fargo for another year
The word that comes to mind when trying to describe the premier Missouri Valley Football Conference matchup between the Bison and the school up North is ugly. The nice way to put it would be to call it a defensive battle. Throughout the game both squads were seemingly begging the other team’s offensive to seize control. Neither team could, and the result was a 16-10 final score that went the way of the Bison.
This was the Herd’s first visit to Grand Forks since 2003. To their credit, UND fans made life tough for the green and gold.
“It was tougher than I thought it was going to be,” said Bison signal caller Quincy Patterson “We prepared for noise, but we couldn’t prepare for what it was.”
Patterson also noted having communication problems, specifically with the offensive line. These problems were evident as the Bison attempted just 11 passing attempts throughout the game, completing less than half.
Even the players on UND sideline could feel that the atmosphere was different than other home games.
UND linebacker Devon Krzanowski said, “It was the best atmosphere I’ve ever played in.”
This was an in-state, in-conference game between two top-10 teams that do not like each other. It was one of those games that just matters more than others, and both sides knew it.
With the Bison air attack grounded, the Herd was forced to lean almost exclusively on their elite run game to move the ball against the Fighting Hawks. The Herd’s 223 yards on the ground were enough to move the ball consistently throughout the game, but UND’s bend-don’t-break defense held the Bison out of the end zone for the game’s first 58 minutes.
The lone Bison touchdown came on a three-yard touchdown by Patterson with just over a minute remaining to seal the game.
With the Bison offense struggling to put up points, the Herd’s defense stepped up once again. Two key fourth down stops in the fourth quarter helped swing the momentum, and the game, in NDSU’s favor in the second half.
Through four games the Bison defense has given up just 23 points.
This was the Herd’s fourth straight win against UND. With NDSU being, well, NDSU, and UND’s program continuing to climb amongst some of the best in the FCS; chapters in this storied rivalry are still to come.
Next up for the Bison are the pesky Panthers of Northern Iowa in NDSU’s Homecoming game. The 16th ranked Panthers are coming off three straight three-score wins after narrowly losing to the Big 12’s Iowa State in week one. It feels like every time the Panthers and Bison square off it’s a big game, and that remains the case here.
MVFC is loaded (shocker) so a loss here would be detrimental to any hopes of winning the conference. We know Northern Iowa is good, the question is how good. Playing Iowa State in a close game was impressive, but the Panthers have had three cakewalks since.
It will be fun to see Panthers quarterback Theo Day square off against this ferocious Bison defense. Day replaced Will McElvain in the second half of UNI’s 34-16 and has not looked back. The Panthers have outscored opponents 105 to 17 since Day was implemented as the starter.
Sure, one of those opponents was St. Thomas, but the fact remains this: Panthers offense offers the biggest test yet for the Herd’s defense.
That being said, I do not see the Bison dropping this game at home. A letdown after an emotional win can sometimes be worrisome, but I am confident that Matt Entz and his coaching staff won’t let their players sleep on the Panthers.