MADNESS IN MANHATTAN!
BISON UPSET KANSAS STATE TO KICK OFF ANTICIPATED SEASON
Published: Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 9, 2013 16:09
The Drive. It has already been dubbed by NDSU football fans to deserve two capital letters. The two-time defending FCS national champions methodically drove 80 yards in 18 plays, chewing up 8 minutes, 30 seconds for the go-ahead score to upset the defending Big 12 champions Kansas State Wildcats 24-21 last Friday night.
“We had to score a touchdown,” senior quarterback Brock Jensen said about the final drive. “It was a scenario that we have practiced frequently every week in practice. It was just one of those moments where we just had to gut it out.”
Gut it out is just what Jensen and the NDSU offense did. The Bison found themselves down 21-7 early in the third quarter but rattled off 17 straight unanswered points to upset the Wildcats in front of a season-opening record crowd of 53,351 at Bill Snyder Family Stadium. NDSU converted four third downs on its final drive that culminated in Jensen reaching the endzone on a 1-yard quarterback counter.
“Many, many teams have come in and Kansas State has jumped up and those teams have folded; our guys did not do that,” NDSU head coach Craig Bohl said.
It was a dramatic game that was captured on the nationally-televised Fox Sports 1 channel. In the tale of two tapes matchup, the Bison were returning 18 starters while K-State lost Heisman finalist Collin Klein and almost every defensive member. Still, the Bison were heavy underdogs.
But NDSU, cool and composed all game, were right there with the Wildcats the entire first half. Ignited by a Christian Dudzik 49-yard punt return, the Bison drew first blood when Jensen hit a slanting Ryan Smith for a 5-yard touchdown pass to take a 7-0 lead just before the first quarter ended.
K-State responded on its next possession when junior-college transfer Jake Waters bombed a 45-yard pass to Tramaine Thompson to tie the game. NDSU looked to have another scoring opportunity when Marcus Williams recorded his 19th career interception at K-State’s 29-yard line. But a sure touchdown catch went out of Kevin Vaadeland’s hands and a 34-yard field goal by Keller clanged off the uprights.
Still, the Bison looked to be in control during the first half.
“[NDSU is] an extremely fine football team,” Wildcats head coach Bill Snyder said. “They play very hard, and they are a tough football team.”
K-State, who didn’t receive much national expectations coming into the year, came out flying in the second half. The Wildcats scored two times in the first five minutes of play to take a 21-7 lead.
“Coming into this game, we knew this was going to be one of the toughest matchups in our program’s history,” Jensen said. “They are an extremely good football team.”
Down two possessions, the veteran-laden Bison began to claw back. It started when Vaadeland redeemed his drop by snagging a 9-yard play-action strike from Jensen for the score with 3:43 remaining in the third.
The Bison defense, which held K-State to only 41 rushing yards, then stiffened up to force a punt. With an unpromising possession starting on its own 2-yard line, the Bison got a huge momentum-changing boost from running back Sam Ojuri. On the first play, Ojuri took the handoff off tackle, made
one cut and scooted 66 yards along the left sideline to put the ball at K-State’s 32-yard line.
“That is all credit to the offensive line,” Ojuri said. “Everybody dug out and they created a seam for me and all I had to do was run.”
That set up a 41-yard field goal from Keller and brought the Bison to within 21-17 with 12 seconds left in the third. It was all NDSU in the fourth.
After a big Kyle Emanuel sack, the Bison got the ball with 8 minutes, 58 seconds remaining. That’s when it happened. On a third-and-11 play, Jensen hit running back Derrick Lang on a screen pass to move the chains. After that crucial first down, the Bison made play after play.
“I was thinking that we need to get them stopped,” Snyder said. “I was worried when they moved the ball, and they were not having a whole lot of difficulty moving the ball.”
Sprinkled in with powerful John Crockett runs and Jensen completions, the Bison converted a third-and-2, third-and-5 and a third-and 3 to move the ball to the Wildcats’ 8-yard line.
“It was really frustrating, the ball was in our hands and it was up to the defense,” Wildcats safety Ty Zimmerman said. “I felt like we had them on third down, 3, 4 or 5 times and they kept picking up first downs.”
With the clock still ticking dangerously close to under a minute, Jensen almost found himself into the endzone after an 8-yard option-keeper but he was tripped at the one. The ensuing play would make highlights all across the nation.
“…we were tired and they were tired, but we found a way to just gut it out,” Jensen said.
On the 1-yard line, Jensen turned then countered to his left and found a hole that was opened up by guard Tyler Gimmestad. Jensen was hit, but backed his way into the endzone for the historic game-winning touchdown that put NDSU up 24-21 after the PAT with 28 seconds remaining in the game.
“We squeezed every second out of the clock,” Bohl said.
Facing no timeouts and 80 yards of grass ahead of them, the Wildcats needed a big play from someone. They never got the chance. On the first play, Waters lofted a pass after being hit and senior NDSU linebacker Grant Olson wrestled the ball away from the receiver, sealing the win.
“That was the guttiest performance that I have seen in my entire life on any level,” Jensen said.
The stunned crowd watched the Bison players rush the field and then sprint to the corner of the stadium where thousands of NDSU fans greeted them.
“I do not know if our players really understood the type of program we were facing,” Bohl said. “They are so dog gone tough and naïve and they just play hard.”