CARBONDALE, Ill. (NDSU Athletics) -- North Dakota State completed an undefeated 12-game regular season for the first time in school history with a 21-7 victory over 25th-ranked Southern Illinois on Saturday, Nov. 23, at Saluki Stadium.
It was NDSU's 33rd consecutive win dating back to the start of the 2017 season. The Bison tied their own FCS record winning streak of 33 games set from 2012 to 2014 and became just the fourth team to finish a Missouri Valley Football Conference schedule 8-0.
NDSU wide receiver Jimmy Kepouros had a career-high six catches and 80 yards, Adam Cofield rushed 15 times for 87 yards and a touchdown, and Kobe Johnson had eight carries for 85 yards and a score to lead the Bison attack.
Quarterback Trey Lance was 13 of 23 passing for 146 yards and also rushed 10 times for 57 yards including a 34-yard touchdown that gave NDSU a 21-7 lead with 11:36 left in the game.
Jabril Cox and Derrek Tuszka had a pair of sacks on the ensuing Southern Illinois drive to force a three-and-out, but the Bison were unable to convert a 39-yard field goal attempt on their next drive that would have made it a three-possession game.
The Bison made a goal-line stand on SIU's final drive with 2:13 left before running out the clock. DJ Davis rushed for 34 and 15 yards on consecutive plays to set up first-and-goal from the NDSU 5, but Lane Tucker was in on two stops to hold the Salukis to the 1, and James Hendricks and Jackson Hankey made the final two tackles on third and fourth down.
North Dakota State went ahead early in the first quarter when Johnson's 44-yard touchdown run capped a 10-play, 91-yard opening drive. James Hendricks made his 12th career interception near the goal line later in the first quarter to keep it 7-0.
Southern Illinois tied the game 7-7 early in the second quarter when Javon Williams scored on a 28-yard run. Williams carried 23 times for 117 yards for the Salukis (7-5, 5-3 MVFC), and Davis finished with 13 carries for 70 yards.
The Bison drove 71 yards in 90 seconds threatening to score the go-ahead touchdown before halftime but Joe Patterson broke up a pass in the end zone on third down, and Jimmy Kepouros was ruled out of bounds on a fourth-down catch as time expired on the 10-play drive.
Linebacker Jackson Hankey made a team-high 10 tackles and safety Michael Tutsie had nine stops for NDSU. Tuszka and Tony Pierce each had 2.0 tackles for loss, and Tuszka passed former Bison defensive end Cole Jirik for sixth in school history with 26.5 career sacks.
No. 1-ranked North Dakota State will have a first-round by for the NCAA Division I Football Championship and will host a second round playoff game on Saturday, Dec. 7, at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
The 24-team playoff field will be announced on ESPNU at 11:30 a.m. CT on Sunday, Nov. 24, and tickets go on sale at 5 p.m. online only at GoBison.com/tickets.