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Bison comeback to beat UNI 24-23

by Ryan Gellner

Initially, top ranked North Dakota State looked stunned to be playing the number four ranked team in the country. But, the two time defending champions found a way to win.

It certainly didn't start pretty. Marcus Williams fumbled the opening kickoff - which the University of Northern Iowa turned into a 37 yard field goal, and a 3-0 lead.

Later, with a 6-0 lead, UNI gave the ball to it's play-maker: running back David Johnson, who broke an arm-tackle at the line of scrimmage - then  sprinted 85 yards nearly untouched for the games first touchdown, and a 13-0 Panthers lead.

NDSU was plagued with penalties, false starts, dropped balls, and an offense that lacked both rythem and big plays for much of the game.

Trailing 20-10 midway through the 3rd quarter, the Bison fumbled another kickoff. This time, Christian Dudzik  had the ball stripped at recovered by a UNI defender. It lead to another field goal, and a 23-10 lead heading into the final quarter.

Then, something changed in the 4th quarter. It's like the switch flipped on.

Brock Jensen turned a scramble into a 24 yard gain and seemed to spark a little something in the Bison. 

John Crockett went into "Tazmanian Devil mode" and gave the Bison two straight first downs. Crockett finished with 103 rushing yards.

But, it was a fourth down in a do-or-die situation that seemed to turn the tied.

On 4th and 6th from UNI's 11 yard line, Jensen (13-24, 99 yards) hit Zach Vraa on a slant pattern pulling the Bison to within 23-17 with a little more than 10 minutes to go.

And, just like that - the Bison were running on all cylinders.

After forcing a Panther punt, NDSU's offense took over at it's own 24 yard line with 6 minutes, 57 seconds to play. 

Two Bison first downs, and two UNI penalties - put the Bison in a position to take its first lead of the game.

And, NDSU capitalized. Sam Ojuri found a small hole and turned it into a hard fought 19 yard touchdown, putting the Bison up 24-23. Ojuri finished with 96 rushing yards.

A couple defensive stops - including a CJ Smith interception to seal it, and the Bison escape with a win.

NDSU hosts Missouri State next week for homecoming.  The Bison Tailgate Show starts at 11:30, with kickoff at 1PM on KFGO.