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Big plays on defense lift NDSU over Weber State

OGDEN, Utah -- When North Dakota State looked in trouble Saturday night at Stewart Stadium, the defense delivered. Linebacker Carlton Littlejohn scored a touchdown and also snuffed out a fake field-goal attempt early in the fourth quarter. Those ...

North Dakota State football
FNS Photo by Michael Vosburg Travis Beck, left, and Christian Dudzik of North Dakota State close in on Shaydon Kehano of Weber State during a game on Saturday in Ogden, Utah. The Bison won 24-7.

OGDEN, Utah - When North Dakota State looked in trouble Saturday night at Stewart Stadium, the defense delivered.

Linebacker Carlton Littlejohn scored a touchdown and also snuffed out a fake field-goal attempt early in the fourth quarter. Those big plays helped lift the No. 1-ranked Bison to a 24-7 victory against Weber State in NCAA Division I FCS football before 14,577 fans.

“They are a heck of a defense,” said Weber State sophomore quarterback Billy Green, a transfer from Brigham Young. “They are extremely hard hitters. … They are just an incredible defense.”

The Bison (2-0) have won 26 consecutive games, adding to their FCS record winning streak. They have also won 20 in a row on the road, including four victories on neutral fields.

Littlejohn gave the Bison the lead for good midway through the second quarter on a hot, sunny evening. Senior defensive end Kyle Emanuel set up the score, stripping Green, who was dropping back to pass near his own goal line. Littlejohn scooped up the loose ball and returned it 3 yards into the end zone. That gave the Bison a 14-7 edge with 7 minutes, 31 seconds to play in the first half.

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The Bison held a 21-7 lead early in the fourth quarter when Littlejohn made his second crucial play. Weber State set up for a 21-yard field-goal attempt. The Wildcats ran a fake, pitching the ball to kicker Josh Kealamakia, who appeared to have a path to the end zone around right end. Littlejohn angled through a would-be blocker and tackled Kealamakia at the 2-yard line to preserve the 14-point lead.

“What a great play by Carlton,” Bison head coach Chris Klieman said. “We were surprised they were going to kick it, so we were screaming ‘fake.’ It was a critical part of the game. If it’s 21-14, the crowd gets back in it.”

Weber State first-year head coach Jay Hill agreed.

“That was huge,” Hill said. “That should have been the play of the game for us. We worked over and over on that play. We needed that one block and we didn’t get it.”

A 6-foot-1, 220-pound senior, Littlejohn finished with 12 tackles, including five solo stops. Littlejohn also added a pass breakup for a defense that made big plays at the right moments.

While the Bison never trailed, they were unable to pull away from a Weber State team, which had a 2-10 record last season, until late in the game. NDSU allowed 304 yards, but made a number of impact plays. The Bison had five sacks, a blocked field goal, seven pass breakups and the forced fumble that led to a touchdown.

“We were a bend but don’t break defense,” Klieman said. “We played better red-zone defense this week.”

Making his second start for the Bison, quarterback Carson Wentz threw the first two interceptions of his college career. The 6-foot-6, 231-pound junior threw an interception early in the second quarter with NDSU in scoring position and the game tied at 7-7.

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On a third-and-9 play at the Weber State 15, Wentz rolled to his right before making a throw across his body into traffic. Wildcats cornerback Deon’tae Florence intercepted the pass and Weber State took over at its own 6.

“Our defense gave us opportunities to stay in the game over and over again,” Hill said. “We are just making mistakes that we can’t make if we want to beat a great team.”

The Bison offense did enough, rushing for 177 yards on 46 attempts. Senior running back John Crockett carried the load on the ground, rushing for 123 yards and a touchdown on 26 attempts. Crockett scored a on a 1-yard plunge that gave the Bison a 7-0 lead with 5:36 to play in the first quarter.

“They’re hard-nosed fast and physical team,” Crockett said of Weber State. “I think they played harder than we did.”

Crockett also caught two passes for 17 yards and now has 11 100-yard rushing games in his NDSU career.

“John Crockett is probably one of the best back in the country, maybe at any level,” Hill said.

NDSU          7       7       7       3       -    24

WSU            7       0       0       0       -      7

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First quarter

NDSU–John Crockett 1 run (Adam Keller kick), 5:36.

WSU–Eric Wilkes 27 run (Josh Kealamakia kick), 1:14.

Second quarter

NDSU–Carlton Littlejohn 3 fumble (Keller), 7:31.

Third quarter

NDSU–King Frazier 1 run (Keller kick), 3:19.

Fourth quarter

NDSU–Keller 38 FG, 1:59.

TEAM STATISTICS       NDSU          WSU

First downs                      23                 20

Rushes-yards                  46-177          29-64

Passing yards                  192               240

Comp.-Att.-Int.                 13-22-2        26-43-0

Total yards                       369               304  

Fumbles-lost                    0-0                1-1

Penalties-yards                9-71              5-69

Punts-Avg.                       4-43.8           5-44.4

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: NDSU, John Crockett 26-123, Carson Wentz 8-23, King Frazier 6-17, Darius Anderson 1-7, Chase Morlock 4-7, TEAM 1-0. WSU, Eric Wilkes 11-50, Bo Bolen 5-25, Zach Smith 6-13, Josh Kealamakia 1-2, Billy Green 6-(minus 26).

PASSING: NDSU, Wentz 13-22-0 192. WSU, Green 26-43-0 240.

RECEIVING: NDSU, Kevin Vaadeland 3-29, Zach Vraa 1-27, RJ Urzendowski 1-26, Carey Woods 1-23, Darius Anderson 1-21, Jeff Illies 1-21, Crockett 2-17, Andrew Bonnet 2-17, Trevor Gebhart 1-11. WSU, Shaydon Kehano 9-88, Cameron Livingston 5-85, Kamana Kaimikaua 6-42, Bolen 4-17, Drew Batchelor 1-6, Braden Corpus 1-2.

Related Topics: COLLEGE FOOTBALL
Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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