Defense helps Bison beat back BearsSPRINGFIELD, Mo. — As North Dakota State free safety Christian Dudzik slid at the Bison 37-yard line, after coming down with an interception to seal a 21-17 win over Missouri State on Saturday, there was a collective sigh of relief among Bison fans.
By: Chris Murphy, The Dickinson Press
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — As North Dakota State free safety Christian Dudzik slid at the Bison 37-yard line, after coming down with an interception to seal a 21-17 win over Missouri State on Saturday, there was a collective sigh of relief among Bison fans.
The Bears fans were nearly partying like it was 2010, when NDSU fell 3-0 in its last trip to Plaster Field. But just as it has all season, the defense stood its ground.
For the Bison defense, it was just another day at the office.
“We win and lose as a team,” said NDSU defensive end Kyle Emanuel, who had a career-high nine tackles to go along with a sack, two tackles for lost yardage and a fumble recovery. “We don’t consider it bailing out the offense. We consider it doing our job on the team to help them out.”
Despite holding the MSU offense to minus-18 net yards, one first down and being on defense for just 8 minutes, 25 seconds in the first half, NDSU found itself only leading 14-7 at the break. The Bears played some defense of their own early, as MSU safety Caleb Schaffitzel became the fourth player in Missouri Valley Conference history to take an interception 100 yards to the end zone to give the Bears a 7-0 lead late in the first. NDSU responded with a 14-play, 65-yard drive that took over six minutes, capping the drive with quarterback Brock Jensen finding the end zone from five yards out to tie things up.
“A lot of times they are out there grinding out the clock and we’re just sitting on the bench, resting,” Emanuel said. “We’re a team. We’re going to win and lose as a team.”
After a three-and-out for MSU, Schaffitzel intercepted Jensen for the second time. After throwing four interceptions all of last season, Jensen has six interceptions in his last four games. The Bears offense started on the Bison 47-yard line, but the defense held again and the offense marched 85 yards — it’s longest touchdown drive of the season — on 14 plays in 6:15 to take a 14-7 lead on a 6-yard pass from Jensen to Ryan Smith with 58 seconds in the half.
By its first drive, in which MSU quarterback Kierra Harris capped a 10-play, 62-yard drive with a 16-yard touchdown run, the Bears made adjustments at the half.
“I think they just started clicking a little bit,” said NDSU linebacker Carlton Littlejohn, who had a career-high 11 tackles to go along with a sack and a forced fumble. “They got a little chemistry and they started clicking. Of course we had to make some adjustments and stop them. I see it as we’re just doing our part. There’s been times where our offense picked us up. It’s a give and take thing.”
NDSU (8-1 overall, 5-1 Missouri Valley) punted on the ensuing possession, but Emanuel struck again, recovering a fumble on the punt at the MSU 11-yard line. Two plays later, Sam Ojuri scored from five yards out to give the Bison a 21-14 lead.
“Sometimes the plays come your way,” Emanuel said. “I knew we couldn’t keep up the pace of the first half. I would have loved to, but we knew they would make adjustments and we had to do our job to get off the field. They ran the ball more, they got the ball in their quarterback’s hands and he’s just a phenomenal athlete. You can’t shut them down the entire game. Whatever is thrown at us, we’re going to take it on with force. That’s our Bison pride. If we’re up or down, we’re going to keep playing hard.”
MSU (3-7, 3-4) answered with a 44-yard field on the ensuing drive, but, from there, the Bears would enter NDSU territory once on a Jensen interception that the defense made up for with a fumble recovery by Grant Olson on a punch out from Travis Beck.
Just another day at the office.
NDSU 0 14 7 0 — 21
MSU 7 0 7 3 — 17
MSU–Cal Schaffitzel 100 interception return (Austin Witmer kick), 3:23.
NDSU–Brock Jensen 5 run (Adam Keller kick), 12:17.
NDSU–Ryan Smith 6 pass from Jensen (Keller kick), :58
MSU–Kierra Harris 16 run (Witmer kick), 9:34
NDSU–Sam Ojuri 5 run (Keller kick), 3:35.
MSU–Witmer 44 FG, 13:49
TEAM STATISTICS NDSU MSU
First downs 18 11
Rushes-yards 49-159 35-127
Passing yards 152 22
Comp.-Att.-Int. 14-28-3 6-19-1
Total yards 311 149
Fumbles-lost 0-0 3-2
Penalties-yards 5-45 5-61
Punts-Avg. 6-39.8 7-39.4
RUSHING: NDSU, Ojuri 24-118, John Crockett 9-39, Derrick Lang 4-6, Brock Jensen 8-2, Team 4-(-minus 6). MSU, Mi Cooper-Falls 18-78, Harris 13-39, Vernon Scott 4-10.
PASSING: NDSU, Jensen 14-28-3, 152. MSU, Harris 6-19-1, 22.
RECEIVING: NDSU, Smith 5-33, Trevor Gebhart 3-37, Kevin Vaadeland 3-28, Ojuri 2-40, Lang 1-14. MSU, Cooper-Falls 2-9, Dorian Buford 2-6, Matt Thayer 1-9, Cadarriu Dotson 1-(-minus 2).