Bison Rally Late in Comeback For the Books
NDSU scores twice in fourth quarter to down UNI
Published: Monday, October 7, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 7, 2013 13:10
With two undefeated teams colliding, one team had to lose.
But no one could’ve predicted how it would happen.
After falling behind 23-10, No. 1 NDSU scored 14 points in the final 11 minutes to pull off a 24-23 comeback win over No. 4 Northern Iowa on Saturday at the Fargodome.
However, the way that senior quarterback Brock Jensen led the Bison during the fourth quarter, one couldn’t tell if they were the ones who were looking to keep the lead or the ones trying to jump ahead.
“I think he’s a champion,” NDSU head coach Craig Bohl said. “He has a tremendous amount of confidence when it comes to making plays late in the game.”
This kind of composure was the key component of pulling off their late comeback.
Down by 13 points with just over 10 minutes left in the fourth quarter, Jensen hooked up with Zach Vraa for an 11-yard touchdown strike. The score made it a one-possession game at 23-17 after the Adam Keller extra point.
“We got them right where we wanted to be, but a couple calls didn’t fall our way,” UNI defensive tackle Xavier Williams said. “(NDSU) was a good team.”
After the Bison stalled the ensuing Panthers possession at midfield, NDSU got the ball back at its own 24-yard line.
Six plays into the drive, UNI leading tackler Jake Farley broke his leg trying to stop John Crockett. The injury was severe enough that UNI head coach Mark Farley, who is also Jake’s father, left immediately right after the game to see his son in the hospital.
“The guys who were close to the ball knew right away what happened,” UNI associate head coach Bill Salmon said. “When that happens, it’s a bad deal.”
The Panthers sure would’ve liked to have him.
Five plays later, senior Sam Ojuri scampered for a 19-yard touchdown run to give the Bison their first lead of the game with 2:52 remaining.
After a couple stops – including a game-sealing interception by sophomore CJ Smith – the Bison went into victory formation and capped off an unforgettable win.
“Obviously, we had to stay positive,” Ojuri said. “We only had so many more opportunities, so the offensive line did a great job up front, I made a couple guys miss and the next thing I knew I was in the endzone.”
However, the first three quarter looked nothing like what NDSU managed in the fourth.
To start the game off, senior cornerback Marcus Williams took the opening kickoff and took it for a respectable return before getting stripped of the ball before going 25 yards.
Less than a minute and a half into the game, the Panthers had already recorded a takeaway and put three points on the board.
“That’s a horrible way to start the game off,” Williams said. “We just had to rally ourselves to get ready for a long game.”
The fumble set the tone for all three faucets of the game for NDSU.
The No. 1 ranked scoring Bison defense allowed 13 points early in the game including a David Johnson 85-yard touchdown sprint 30 seconds into the second quarter. The run put the Panthers up 13-0 in the second quarter.
“We couldn’t get complacent,” Johnson said. “We knew they were a good team towards the end and I knew we were going to have to play the whole game.”
The Bison offense struggled in the first half as well. It took NDSU until 12 minutes into the second quarter to even reach UNI territory.
But thanks to a touchdown pass from Jensen to redshirt freshman Carey Woods with over five minutes left in the second quarter, the Bison found themselves only down 13-7 going into the locker room at halftime.
“I think the biggest thing was looking back at that Kansas State game,” NDSU defensive end Kyle Emanuel said. “That’s just our mentality. We don’t let it get to us. We just keep playing no matter what the score is.”
Comebacks are usually started on defense, and that proved to be true for the Bison.
Despite allowing 10 more points early in the third quarter, the bend-but-don’t-break Bison squad gave up only 112 yard of total offense in the second half. NDSU also limited UNI to going 2-of-14 for third-down conversions.
“This was a playoff game,” Bohl said. “That’s a great football team that we beat here.”
The rushing game of NDSU proved to be essential down the stretch. The one-two punch of Ojuri and Crockett ended the contest with over 100 yards of rushing apiece.
But the leadership of Jensen, who ended the game with 174 yards of total offense and two passing touchdowns, may have been the standard of composure the Bison needed to steal the victory.
Composed, of course, being the operative word.
“He’s just got poise and confidence,” Ojuri said. “Brock always has us catch our breath before every play. We always know we’ll execute with No. 16.”