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Bison ice Penguins with late touchdown

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - It was a day in the Missouri Valley Football Conference when defenses could have used an Extreme Football Makeover. It was no different at Stambaugh Stadium on late Saturday afternoon.

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio - It was a day in the Missouri Valley Football Conference when defenses could have used an Extreme Football Makeover. It was no different at Stambaugh Stadium on late Saturday afternoon.

Jose Mohler's 45-yard touchdown pass to Justin Howard with 34 seconds left to play was about as dramatic as it gets. The 34-29 Bison victory before 15,068 fans was a remarkable turnabout after the Penguins took a one-point lead on a field goal with 51 seconds remaining.

"We just kept our head in the game and fought to the end," Howard said. "Everybody hung in there. Everybody had their switch turned to on."

The on switch left the Bison, ranked 17th in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision coaches poll, 4-2 overall. It was their first win in the Missouri Valley after two losses.

"We have to get rolling in the Missouri Valley," Howard said.

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The offenses were rolling in the Valley all day, highlighted by Indiana State's 59-24 upset over Illinois State. Southern Illinois lost a big lead, only to overtake Northern Iowa 45-38 in overtime. That was nothing compared to Missouri State's 72-59 nonconference loss to Murray State (Ky.).

It was wacky, too, in Youngstown.

The first four games of this series were all decided by eight points or fewer, and this one was no different.

"It was a battle, a game of chess," said Bison linebacker Preston Evans.

The Penguins pulled within 28-26 on a 2-yard run by running back Adaris Bellamy with 10:28 left, but the subsequent 2-point conversion failed and NDSU was holding on.

The Bison responded on offense, almost. A 51-yard screen pass to D.J. McNorton reached the 16, and the Bison converted on fourth-and-short to the 5-yard line.

It was a struggle from there, culminating with a missed 25-yard field goal by Ryan Jastram that sailed left. With 5:25 left, the Penguins got the ball.

A 15-yard pass on third-and-4, one that a couple of Bison players had their hands on, came back into Dominique Barnes' arms to the 25 with 1:18 left.

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The drive stalled at the 20 with 56 seconds left, leaving it to Youngstown kicker Stephen Blose from 38 yards, who drilled it.

"That's just how it is in this conference," said Youngstown defensive tackle Torrance Nicholson. "Every game is a hard fight."

NDSU still wasn't done, however.

Howard returned the ensuing kickoff to his 45 and with 48 seconds left, NDSU still had life.

"That gave us some confidence," Mohler said of Howard's return.

A defensive holding penalty gained 10 yards for the Bison, and then Mohler and Howard did their magic on the next play.

"We felt like it was going to be a one-possession game," said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl. "I was pleased with our players being resourceful. That's what makes it exciting."

It was exciting all night.

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The fireworks started to sparkle in the second quarter when NDSU solved the Penguins defense. Trailing 10-0 and with its starting quarterback Brock Jensen done for the day with an apparent collarbone injury, Mohler led the Bison on three straight touchdown drives.

Big plays were everywhere with the biggest a 47-yard pass over the middle to McNorton, who took the third-and-17 play 47 yards to the Penguins' 2.

Derrick Lang scored one play later and the Bison pulled within 17-14.

NDSU took its first lead in two weeks and it took just three plays into its next possession. This time, it was sophomore running back Mike Sigers with the big burst.

His 56-yard run went virtually untouched and it was 21-17. The Bison averaged 9.7 yards per carry in the first two quarters, and the reason looked obvious: The NDSU offensive line got a surge it didn't have last week against Western Illinois.

NDSU made it 28-20 on its first possession of the second half. Behind its controlled blocking - with Matt Voigtlander getting the big run of 21 yards to the 8 - a 4-yard touchdown pass from Mohler to tight end Matt Veldman had the Bison in control.

NDSU's defense held serve in the quarter from there thanks to two fumbles, with the crucial one by Bellamy that rolled out of the end zone for a touchback. Bellamy appeared poised for a touchdown when he was stripped and the Bison got the ball at the 20.

The Penguins maintained their ground game, especially late.

"It feels good that we won but they ran the ball on us at the end," said Bison defensive end Coulter Boyer.

Boyer was sitting outside the Bison locker room - a happy place vs. Youngstown for a change.

It was NDSU's first win against the Penguins since the early '70s.

Kolpack is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.

NDSU 0 21 7 6 -- 34

YSU 10 10 0 9 -- 29

YSU-Stephen Blose 43 field goal

YSU-Kurt Hess 2 run (Blose kick)

NDSU-D.J. McNorton 4 pass from Jose Mohler (Ryan Jastram kick)

YSU-Dominique Barnes 50 pass from Hess (Blose kick)

NDSU-Derrick Lang 1 run (Jastram kick)

NDSU-Mike Sigers 56 run (Jastram kick)

YSU-Blose 24 field goal

NDSU-Matt Veldman 4 pass from Mohler (Jastram kick)

YSU-Adaris Bellamy 2 run (conversion failed)

YSU-Blose 45 field goal

NDSU-Justin Howard 45 pass from Mohler (conversion failed)

TEAM STATISTICS NDSU YSU

First downs 17 25

Rushes-yards 35-215 45-247

Passing yards 211 252

Comp.-Att.-Int. 14-20-1 22-31-0

Total yards 426 499

Fumbles-lost 2-1 3-3

Penalties-yards 5-43 7-75

Punts-Avg. 3-45 2-38

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING: NDSU, D.J. McNorton 17-90, Mark Sigers 3-69. YSU, Adaris Bellamy 21-156, Jamaine Cook 9-39.

PASSING: NDSU, Jose Mohler 11-14-0 192. YSU, Kurt Hess 22-31-0 252.

RECEIVING: NDSU, McNorton 6-131, Justin Howard 2-44. YSU, Dominque Barnes 10-151, Bellamy 4-15, Ely Ducatel 2-22.

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