Walker's wild final drive lifts NDSU

FARGO -- It wasn't a sand lot, although it just as well could have been. North Dakota State designed a last-second play on the Fargodome turf and the result left the place hysterical.

FARGO -- It wasn't a sand lot, although it just as well could have been. North Dakota State designed a last-second play on the Fargodome turf and the result left the place hysterical.

Steve Walker's 27-yard touchdown pass to Kole Heckendorf with 7 seconds left gave the fourth-ranked Bison a thrilling 41-38 Division I Football Championship Subdivision win over No. 14 Sam Houston State on Saturday night. It will go down as a memorable night for the sell-out crowd of 18,961.

"It was crazy, I don't know where to begin," Heckendorf said.

The final-seconds saga began when Rhett Bomar's seven-yard touchdown pass to Darnell Jones with 26 seconds remaining. It was Bomar's 61st attempted pass and 36th completion of the night.

The Bison, however, caught a little break when Sam Houston's ensuing kickoff - a pop-fly pooch attempt - didn't get very far and Bryan Reimers returned it four yards to the NDSU 46.


It may have given the Bison an even deeper sense of not being out of it.

"He said in the huddle, 'Believe guys, believe," NDSU tight end Jerimiah Wurzbacher said, quoting Walker.

The Bearkats, meanwhile, wanted the kick to go deeper.

"That was huge," said Sam Houston coach Todd Whiten.

On first down, Walker and Heckendorf deviated from a normal play and sent all the receivers left with the exception of Heckendorf, who did an out pattern right. Walker hit him for 27 yards to the 27.

"That's not the one that broke our back, the touchdown pass did," Whiten said. "I thought we had a guy in position. North Dakota State just made a big play."

Walker threw an incomplete pass on the second play with 13 seconds left. So the two went back to the first play. You won't find it in the NDSU playbook.

"We did it twice and it worked both times," Heckendorf said.


He hauled in a perfectly-thrown ball from Walker in the front corner of the end zone.

"I didn't know if I was in or not," Heckendorf said. "You don't know until everyone comes running at you."

It ended an offensive blowout that was as good as it gets in the Fargodome.

Bomar was the king gunslinger. But Walker got the last shot.

And that's dangerous.

"We knew about the hype all week but after this game, I know who I would take on my team," Heckendorf said. "The other kid is a great quarterback, too."

Walker was 18 of 26 for 295 yards on five touchdowns. Heckendorf had two of the scoring receptions and finished with seven catches for 103 yards.

The Bison almost put it away late in the fourth quarter. But they misfired on fourth-and-2 and the Bearkats go the ball with 2:56 left at their own 36.


That was more than enough time for Bomar to take his team down the field. They went 64 yards in nine plays to take the lead at 38-34.

"He's one of the best quarterbacks we'll go up against," said NDSU linebacker Ramon Humber. "I couldn't believe the spots he was putting it in."

The Bison had their troubles from the start with Bomar. He was 7 of 10 passing in the first quarter and the Bearkats got six first downs on their first two possessions.

That was just a sneak preview. The former University of Oklahoma quarterback finished with 358 yards passing, completing 36 of 61 attempts for four touchdowns. He also rushed for 103 yards.

But in the end, the Bison got the happy ending.

"That's a testament to our players believing in one another," said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl.

The Forum and The Dickinson Press are both owned by Forum Communications Co.

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