North Dakota State University opened up their conference season with a tough road test against the University of Northern Iowa on Saturday, September 29. The Bison came in as the top ranked team in the nation, while UNI was looking to rebound after a heart breaking loss to Youngstown State the previous week.
The Bison defense showed up on the first drive against the Panthers, holding them to only three offensive plays. In return, the Bison offensive put together a 10-play drive that ended when sophomore Adam Keller knocked in a 30-yard field goal to give NDSU a 3-0 lead.
UNI made it deep enough into Bison territory on their second offensive drive to allow junior Tyler Sievertsen to attempt a 44-yard field goal. The pre-season All Missouri Valley Conference kicker missed it wide left, however, and the Bison lead remained.
NDSU took over from their 34-yard line and drove the ball into Panther territory. The drive stalled inside the 20-yard line and NDSU would attempt a 33-yard field goal. Keller's kick attempt was blocked by sophomore Xavier Williams, stopping NDSU from increasing their 3-point lead.
Following the blocked punt, UNI rode the momentum to a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. The drive itself was helped along by a couple of penalties by the Bison secondary in the red zone. Sophomore running back David Johnson would cap off the scoring drive with a 1-yard run into the end zone. The ensuing PAT would give the Panthers a 7-3 lead.
The Bison offense sputtered near midfield on their next offensive drive and was forced to punt. Freshman Ben LeCompte punted away to Varmah Sonie, who fumbled the ball at his own 9-yard. The fumble was recovered by NDSU sophomore Christian Dudzik.
The Bison's sophomore John Crockett would run the ball in from 3-yards out three plays later to reclaim the lead over UNI, 10-7.
The Bison defense would come up with the team's second turnover when sophomore Travis Beck came on the blitz and stripped freshman Sawyer Kollmorgen. The fumble was recovered by sophomore defensive end Mike Hardie at the Panther's 34-yard line.
The Herd would turn that turnover into points as Keller would knock in a 28-yard field goal to give NDSU a 13-7 lead heading into the locker room for halftime.
The Bison opened up the second half with a great scoring drive, which featured big runs from Crockett, including a 43-yard scamper on the first play of the drive. Crockett would add a 7-yard and 6-yard rush, with the former going for a score, on the touchdown drive that would increase the NDSU lead 20-7.
The Panthers did not take long to respond as they put together a 10-play 83-yard scoring drive to make the score 20-14. Kollmorgen hit junior Wes Smith on a 27-yard pass in the left corner of the end zone. Smith was able to beat his former teammate, senior Andre Smith, for the score.
Brock Jensen made several big third down plays to extend a 14-play drive. The drive stalled at the UNI 27, but Keller was able to end it with a 43-yard field goal, giving the Bison a 23-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
All-American junior Marcus Williams came up with his 13th career interception before the end of the third quarter to give NDSU the ball back UNI 44-yard line. The Bison would turn the third turnover of the game into seven.
Jensen threw his first score of the game when he found junior tight end Kevin Vaadeland for a 19-yard score. The touchdown put UNI down 30-14 with 12:38 to go in the game.
The Panthers' hopes of making the FCS playoffs may have been dashed on a 4th and 10 play when Kollmorgen was sacked by Beck for a 9-yard loss. NDSU took over at their own 45-yard line looking to ice the game over the Panthers.
The Bison used 11 plays to eat up 7:09 off the clock and ended the drive with Keller's fourth field goal to give the Bison a resounding 33-14 lead with 1:40 to go. UNI would score a meaningless touchdown late to make the final score 33-21.
John Crockett was the star of the game, going for 122 yards rushing and two scores. The Bison defense also caused three turnovers while allowing only 72-yards rushing.
The Bison move to 4-0 overall, 1-0 in the conference and will play Youngstown State (4-0, 1-0) next week at the Fargodome for homecoming. Youngstown State was the only team to beat NDSU last year.