Coming down the home stretch of the season, it appears the Bison are playing their best football of the season. Following an impressive 24-7 win over Illinois State last Saturday, the Bison stormed to a 56-17 win over the Western Illinois Leathernecks despite attempting just five passes due to gale-force winds in Macomb. In the running game, the Bison rushed for over 450 yards en route to their largest conference win of the season. As Cam Miller stated after the loss to South Dakota State, the Bison seem to play their best football after a tough loss.
“We played our best football after we lost to those guys last year,” Miller previously stated after the loss to the Jackrabbits.
The same seems to be true so far this season following the loss to South Dakota State on October 15. In the two games since the loss, the Bison are averaging 40 points per game while only allowing 12 points per game on the defensive side. The Bison defense has also come up with five interceptions in the last two weeks, four of which came off Western Illinois quarterback Clay Bruno. Courtney Eubanks, Marques Sigle, Anthony Coleman, and Logan Kopp were the Bison defenders to come up with INTs this week.
To get things started, Kobe Johnson quickly got the Bison on the board with a 47-yard touchdown run on the Bison’s first play from scrimmage. Shortly after, the Bison would sniff out a fake punt by the Leathernecks and take over at their opponent’s 40-yard line. Three plays later, MVFC Offensive Player of the Week TaMerik Williams scored on a 25-yard touchdown run to give North Dakota State a 14-0 lead just 3:46 into the game.
Following an interception by each team, Western Illinois was able to get on the board with a 40-yard field goal from Mason Laramie. The Bison would respond on the next drive, however. After 10 plays, all of which came on run plays, the Bison had expanded their lead to 21-3 halfway through the second quarter with a 19-yard rushing touchdown from Hunter Luepke, his first rushing TD since October 1.
On the ensuing possession, North Dakota State would get a huge defensive stop to set up another scoring drive for the offense. Seven plays following the stop, Williams ran in a 4-yard touchdown to cap off the drive. Rushing for his second touchdown of the day, Williams led the Bison to a 28-3 lead with just 2:43 to go in the first half. The Leathernecks would find the end zone before the intermission as Clay Bruno connected with Jafar Armstrong for a 14-yard score to cut the Leathernecks’ deficit to 28-10.
Despite allowing a last-minute touchdown, the Bison came up big early in the second half. On a third down and long, Bison defensive back Marques Sigle intercepted a pass and took it to the house for a 43-yard touchdown.
After another defensive stop on fourth down, the Bison quickly found the end zone once again. Following a series of runs by Williams and Johnson, quarterback Cam Miller ran in a 4-yard touchdown with 6:58 to go in the third quarter. Miller’s rushing touchdown is his fifth of the season, his career-high in a season at NDSU.
A three-and-out forced by the Bison defense allowed running back T.K. Marshall to get in on the fun. Taking five handoffs for 53 yards on the drive, Marshall would finish the drive with a 1-yard rushing touchdown. With 0:43 to go in the third quarter, the Bison had erupted to a 49-10 lead.
Western Illinois, despite the strong winds, continued to air it out while trailing by nearly 40 points. Bruno and Armstrong would connect yet again, this time for a 58-yard score, the second straight week they’ve connected on a 40+ yard touchdown.
However, Marshall was not done yet. On the very first play of the next drive, Marshall took a handoff and broke loose for a 65-yard touchdown, the second-longest touchdown run of his career. With the run, the Bison reached 50 points for the first time since Week 1 against Drake. The 453 rushing yards are the most rushing yards by a Bison team since last year’s 454-yard performance last season against Youngstown State. Also, the last time the Bison rushed for seven touchdowns in a game was in the 2nd round of the 2018 playoffs against Montana State.
The substantial lead allowed running backs Owen Johnson and Barika Kpeenu to get their first carries since the 43-3 win over North Carolina A&T two months ago. While the Bison offense flamed out a bit in the fourth quarter, the defense remained strong. To close out the game, cornerback Anthony Coleman and linebacker Logan Kopp ceased Leatherneck drives with interceptions to close out the game.
The win lifts the Bison to a perfect 7-0 at Hanson Field in Macomb, Ill., and is a big confidence booster for the Bison as they head about 250 miles south of Macomb to Carbondale, Ill. to take on the Southern Illinois Salukis next Saturday. The Salukis, coming off a bye following back-to-back losses, will kick off against the Bison at 1:00 p.m. next Saturday from Saluki Stadium.
The Bison will be back home Saturday, November 19 when they take on UND at 2:30 p.m. at the Fargodome. Student tickets will be available at GoBison.com/Students beginning at 6 p.m. on Saturday, November 12.
TaMerik Williams; 12 Car 120 Yds, 2 TD; T.K. Marshall; 6 Car 118 Yds, 2 TD; Cole Wisniewski; 6 Tackles; TEAM: 453 Rushing yards, 7 Rush TD; 4 INT