Jackrabbits handle Bison

BROOKINGS, S.D. -- The North Dakota State trophy case that holds the Dakota Marker is getting lonely. It will have to go another year with nothing but dust.

D.J. McNorton
Photo by Michael Vosburg/The Forum/Forum Comm. Co. North Dakota State running back D.J. McNorton scrambles to the end zone for a touchdown against South Dakota State Saturday in Brookings, S.D.

BROOKINGS, S.D. -- The North Dakota State trophy case that holds the Dakota Marker is getting lonely. It will have to go another year with nothing but dust.

South Dakota State got an interception return for a touchdown and went on to take a 28-13 victory Saturday night. It was the third straight loss in the series for the Bison, who dropped to 1-6 for the first time since 1975.

"It's tough, tough for the team," said Bison linebacker Preston Evans. "A lot of mistakes were made in all areas of the team. We have to be able to change those around."

They'll have to wait a year to change the series. It was the first three-game series winning streak for the Jackrabbits since the early 1960s.

"We play for that Marker and it's been down here three straight years," said Bison quarterback Nick Mertens. "Seems like they have our number every year."


It was a typical Bison loss - a spattering of good plays only to be canceled out by some problems. NDSU fell to 0-4 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference while the Jackrabbits are one of two remaining unbeaten league teams.

But holding up the Marker is what this night was about.

"It gets sweeter and sweeter," said linebacker Derek Domino.

Domino returned a Mertens pass 16 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to put the Jacks up for good at 14-7. It came one play after the Bison stopped the Jackrabbits on a fourth-and-1 play at the 15.

"I want both those throws back," said Mertens, also referencing a second quarter interception.

It's somewhat of a subplot for the Bison this season. Trying to hold on to momentum has been difficult. For instance, they blocked a Jackrabbit punt on the first series of the second half and got the ball at the SDSU 42.

But three plays gained just three yards and the Bison punted. Goodbye Mr. Momentum.

"When we blocked that punt and didn't come up with any points off of it, that had a big impact," said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl. "At that time, I felt like the game was ready to flip."


Flipping the game was made tougher by the lack of a consistent passing game. Mertens finished 15 of 31 for 130 yards. The longest pass play was a 25-yard toss to receiver Warren Holloway.

"We certainly had our opportunities but when we needed to throw the ball, we were really deficient," Bohl said. "It's something we have to take a hard, hard look."

The Jacks made it harder on the Bison when SDSU running back Kyle Minett scored from 20 yards with 14:12 left in the game. It made it 28-13.

NDSU got to near midfield on two of its next three possessions, but could get no farther.

"Defensively, they did a nice job," Bohl said.

NDSU's nice job on offense can be boiled down to the first and last possessions of the first half. With the offensive line opening several big holes, NDSU went 62 yards after the opening kickoff ending with a perfectly-executed screen pass to D.J. McNorton. That 22-yard touchdown play made it 7-0.

The lead didn't last. SDSU tied it in six plays. Then, after Domino's touchdown, running back Tyler Duffy went up the middle from 22 yards early in the second quarter to make it 21-7.

Mertens, however, engineered NDSU's first real successful two-minute drill of the season by taking the Bison 89 yards in the closing minutes of the first half. A 21-yard pass to Gary Williams was the touchdown, but John Obarski was wide right on the extra point and it was 21-13 at halftime.


That was the last time NDSU visited the end zone.

"We were ready to go, that first snap, we scored," Mertens said. 'I don't know what happened from there."

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

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