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Eric Peterson, Published September 08 2012

Top-ranked Bison beat another FBS opponent

FORT COLLINS, Colo. – North Dakota State defensive end Cole Jirik tackled a Colorado State running back for a safety during the first quarter Saturday at Hughes Stadium.

That play set the tone for the rest of the evening in the eyes of CSU head coach Jim McElwain.

“It probably was a microcosm of the game,” McElwain said. “You hand the ball off and you can’t get an inch. You go backwards. They beat us to the punch.”

The Bison shut down the Rams for the final 58 minutes after giving up a long touchdown pass early. That stifling defensive effort sparked NDSU to a 22-7 road victory in nonconference NCAA Division I football at Sonny Lubick Field.

Ranked No. 1 in Football Championship Subdivision, the Bison (2-0) won their third consecutive game against a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent.

“I feel really proud about it,” said Bison junior linebacker Grant Olson, who had a team-high nine tackles. “Any time you hold an FBS team to seven points, any team to seven points for that matter, it’s quite an accomplishment. As a team we just played really well, really hard, really fast.”

Colorado State scored on a 69-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Garrett Grayson to tight end Crockett Gillmore on their third play from scrimmage. That gave the Rams a 7-0 lead 90 seconds into the game. Colorado State gained 174 yards the remainder of the game.

“We were a little upset,” Jirik said. “We knew we had to settle down and get back to what we do.”

The Bison defense hounded Grayson throughout the game, finishing with four sacks and two quarterback hurries. Jirik finished with two tackles for a loss, including the safety.

“I thought after that our guys performed really well,” Bison head coach Craig Bohl said. “I thought we were able to take their quarterback out of their rhythm.”

The score was tied 7-7 in the first quarter when Colorado State stuffed Bison running back John Crockett on a fourth-and-goal play from the 1-yard line with 5 minutes, 39 seconds to play in the first quarter.

The Rams started the ensuing drive from their own 1. On the first play, Jirik sliced into the Colorado State backfield and dropped freshman running back Tommey Morris in the end zone. That gave NDSU a 9-7 lead with 5:34 to play in the first, and the Bison never trailed from that point.

“We get a safety, that’s huge for us to get some points and get the ball back,” said Jirik, a 6-foot-4, 250-pound junior from Northfield, Minn.

The Bison scored 16 points in the first quarter and rode their defense in the final three quarters.

Colorado State couldn’t sustain drives. The Rams were 1-for-10 on third-down conversions. They didn’t convert their first third down until just under five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

Bison held Colorado State to 72 yards rushing on 24 attempts. NDSU senior defensive end Ricky Hagen stripped Grayson on Colorado State’s final offensive play in the final minute. Sophomore defensive end Mike Hardie recovered the loose ball with 18 seconds to play in the fourth quarter.

“We talk about being relentless on defense,” Jirik said. “We chart ‘loafs’ we call them if you don’t run to the football. We just have a relentless mentality to get there every time.”

Olson credited the Bison offense with helping his unit. NDSU nearly had a 2-to-1 edge in time of possession. The Bison had the ball for 39 minutes, 52 seconds.

“Any time the defense can be off the field as long as we were, it’s a phenomenal advantage,” Olson said. “Defenses get more tired than offenses on long drives. It was a very good team win.”

The Bison defense has limited its opponents to seven points in two games. NDSU had a 52-0 home victory against Robert Morris in its season opener.

“I thought our guys played very focused and disciplined, very good football,” Bohl said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Eric Peterson at (701) 241-5513.

Peterson’s blog can be found at peterson.areavoices.com