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For NDSU, the last three losses have been of the heartbreaking variety

FARGO--It was a solid throw and an even better pass route when receiver Jake Wieneke caught a two-yard touchdown pass. Moments later, South Dakota State was celebrating Saturday, Oct. 15, in the northwest corner of the Gate City Bank Field end zone.

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Joey Counts of Montana punches through the Bison defense in the last seconds of their football game to win Saturday, Aug. 29, 2015, in Missoula, Mont. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor
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FARGO-It was a solid throw and an even better pass route when receiver Jake Wieneke caught a two-yard touchdown pass. Moments later, South Dakota State was celebrating Saturday, Oct. 15, in the northwest corner of the Gate City Bank Field end zone.

Last season, with the score tied at 21-21, the University of South Dakota's Miles Bergner was perfect with a 33-yard field goal and moments later, the Coyotes threw their own victory party in the northwest corner of the Fargodome.

Five games earlier, on fourth-and-goal from the North Dakota State 1-yard line, Montana's Joey Counts scored on a run to the left side and moments later, thousands of fans at Washington-Grizzly Stadium were celebrating a season-opening victory.

The common denominator in the last three Bison defeats: they all came on the last play of the game.

"It's tough, it's definitely tough to deal with something like that," said NDSU tight end Connor Wentz. "But it shows how into the game we are every time. We never give up and we always believe there is something we can do to win that game."

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The losses perhaps get magnified at NDSU simply because they're not very many of them. Head coach Chris Klieman, since taking over to start the 2014 season, has a 33-3 record. In all, seven of NDSU's last eight losses have come by a combined 24 points.

Only three times have the Bison lost by double digits since 2010, with two of those coming in 2010: a 28-16 loss at home to Western Illinois and a 34-24 defeat at Illinois State. Since then, only Northern Iowa in a 23-3 win at the UNI-Dome in 2014 put a decisive decision on the Bison.

On the flipside, the Bison have turned the last-second trick themselves, particularly the first three games of this season when they walked off with a victory on the last play. The first two were in overtime against Charleston Southern and Eastern Washington and the third was the last-second field goal in the 23-21 win at Iowa.

For the faint-of-heart fans, it hasn't been an easy season.

"I love it, those are the games that you're going to remember," said Bison defensive tackle Nate Tanguay. "I think the schedule this year, more than anything, is the toughest we've ever played. Charleston Southern, Eastern Washington and Iowa-those nonconference games were really tough coming into the league. We've hardly played a team that wasn't ranked. That's awesome, I think it will help us down the road."

The road this Saturday includes another ranked team in No. 13 Western Illinois, a 6 p.m. start at Hanson Stadium in Macomb, Ill. By then, said NDSU assistant coach Randy Hedberg, the hope is to start another late-season run like last season after the Bison lost to USD.

"We play in a highly competitive league," Hedberg said., "We knew coming in it would be a tough schedule."

But if the Bison do drop another, what are the odds of it coming on the last play? With three straight, it already could be considered some sort of crazy college football record.

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"You never give up on the win and that's just the way we roll around here," Wentz said. "I thought we were still going to win that game until the ref literally said that the time was up."

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South Dakota State's Jake Wieneke hauls in the game winning touchdown reception against North Dakota State's jalen Allison Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016, at the Fargodome.David Samson / The Forum

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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