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Top-ranked NDSU beats another FBS opponent in Colorado State

Photo by Michael Vosburg / Forum Communications North Dakota State receiver Trevor Gebhart tries to keep his feet in bounds after catching a pass during a nonconference college football game Saturday evening at Hughes Stadium in Fort Collins, Colo.

FORT COLLINS, Colo. -- The celebration after the game was rather muted because, well, North Dakota State didn't really consider this an upset.

A couple of congratulatory hugs, and that was pretty the extent of it.

"The guys planned to come in to win and that's what they did," Bison coach Craig Bohl nonchalantly said.

It was almost that simple, too.

Sam Ojuri scored two touchdowns and Marcus Williams had a big day on defense and special teams as reigning FCS national champion North Dakota State beat Colorado State 22-7 on Saturday night.

This was the second stunner of the day in the Centennial State. Down the road in Boulder, Sacramento State, another FCS-level school, knocked off Colorado 30-28 with a field goal as time expired.

"They lost today?" CSU coach Jim McElwain said when told the Buffaloes had fallen. "They probably feel as miserable as I do."

There were no late theatrics necessary for the Bison (2-0), whose defense simply stifled the Rams (1-1) all night.

"This was not an easy win. Our guys played very focused, disciplined and very good football," Bohl said. "It was going to take a good disciplined, focused football team to come in here and win. We did that."

The win came at a cost, as the Bison lost tight end Garrett Bruhn and safety Colton Heagle to season-ending knee injuries.

Ojuri had a 6-yard TD scamper in the first quarter and scored another on a 10-yard screen pass. Williams accumulated 135 yards on five returns and also had an interception.

The two Bison standouts were among the nine NDSU current players charged earlier this week with faking petition signatures in a scandal that blocked two voter initiatives from getting on the November ballot. Other starters accused included offensive lineman Joshua Colville and defensive back Brendin Pierre, who both played Saturday.

Bohl said the players won't be disciplined until the criminal charges were resolved and that the allegations were not considered serious enough to suspend them from the team.

The Bison were able to block out the off-the-field issues. And for that, Bohl commended his players.

"I thought we had great discipline and focus all week long," he said. "We had excellent practices. The performance tonight was a reflection of that."

Sure was.

NDSU dominated time of possession by nearly 20 minutes and outgained the Rams by 123 yards, a figure that was way more slanted until a last-minute drive by the Rams that was halted when NDSU recovered a fumble.

"They came in here and took the game from us," McElwain said. "We didn't do anything to try and take it back."

Losing is a rare thing for McElwain, who was offensive coordinator at defending national champion Alabama before taking over in Fort Collins. Then again, he knew turning around a program that had turned in three straight 3-9 seasons wasn't going to happen overnight.

"I don't look at these things as setbacks," McElwain said. "I look at them as learning tools. That's what it is, it's a learning tool. The sun will come up tomorrow -- and those are beautiful mountains we live by."

He chuckled.

"But I won't see them; I'll be in the film room," McElwain said. "Look, it's what you do with the things that happen to you that really is the true test of what kind of character you have. I could go in there and yell and scream and all that stuff, but they feel bad. They should. ... That's part of learning lessons."

Brock Jensen was efficient all evening, completing 17 of 28 passes for 178 yards. He also ran for 42 yards as the Bison improved to 6-3 against FBS schools since 2006.

"A lot of people say we shouldn't be playing these," Bohl said. "Our guys have a great resolve."

Early on, this game looked like it was going to be a high-scoring affair. CSU tight end Crockett Gillmore hauled in a pass over the middle and outraced the Bison secondary for a 69-yard TD just 90 seconds into the contest.

NDSU quickly answered just over a minute later when Ojuri glided into the end zone. Soon after, Cole Jirik tackled tailback Tommey Morris in the end zone for a safety, giving the Bison a lead they wouldn't relinquish.

The stingy Bison defense allowed CSU to convert just one third-down play all game and sacked QB Garrett Grayson four times.

"We put a good pass rush on him," Jirik said. "He didn't feel comfortable in the pocket. Once a quarterback doesn't feel comfortable in the pocket, it makes a big difference in the game."

As for the notion this could be considered at least a mild upset, the Bison didn't quite see it that way.

"Going into every game, we believe that we are well prepared and well equipped to win," Jensen said. "We stick together through thick and thin."


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