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Eric Peterson, Published September 29 2012

Bison cash in on turnovers to capture rare UNI-Dome win

CEDAR FALLS, Iowa – The last time North Dakota State lost a game on the road, there was snow falling onto the red artificial turf field in Cheney, Wash.

That was nearly two years ago.

The Bison played on green turf and under a roof Saturday night as they continued their excellence away from Fargo. Junior quarterback Brock Jensen passed for 243 yards and a touchdown to help lead No. 1-ranked NDSU to a 33-21 victory against Northern Iowa in Missouri Valley Football Conference play before 16,008 fans in the UNI-Dome.

“We’re a focused bunch of guys,” said Jensen, who was a freshman QB in that Bison playoff loss at Eastern Washington. “We are ready for hostile environments. We are ready for anything anybody throws at us.”

In that 38-31 overtime loss in 2010 against Eastern Washington in the Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals, one of the lasting images was an emotional Jensen on his knees in the snow after it was ruled he fumbled inches away from the goal line. That play ended the game.

Jensen, now a junior, was all smiles after an impressive 12-point win at Cedar Falls, a place NDSU hadn’t won since 1976.

The Panthers had won their three previous meetings with NDSU in the UNI-Dome, one in 1979 before UNI went Division I.

Jensen has been the Bison starting quarterback in all those eight consecutive victories away from Fargo.

Included in that streak is NDSU’s 17-6 victory against Sam Houston State last January in Frisco, Texas, to win the FCS national title.

Jensen’s 22 completions against the Panthers on Saturday evening tied a career high. His 31 attempts set a career high.

Jensen threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to tight end Kevin Vaadeland with 12 minutes, 38 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. That staked the Bison to a 33-14 lead and sent many fans to the exits.

“Brock Jensen did some unbelievable stuff,” Bison head coach Craig Bohl said.

The Bison didn’t turn over the football and held the ball for nearly 36 of the 60 minutes against Northern Iowa. In contrast, the Panthers had three turnovers that the Bison converted into 17 points.

“Don’t beat yourself,” Bohl said. “Our guys have done that. This was another notch. This was a really big win.”

The Bison finished with 419 yards, chewing up 176 rushing yards on 41 attempts. NDSU scored on its first four drives in the second half to put away the Panthers. The Bison took a knee on their fifth possession to run out the clock.

“They played strong the whole time,” Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley said. “We are learning the hard way and we are learning against some very good football teams.”

The Bison trailed 7-3 late in the second half when Northern Iowa committed its first turnover. Senior Varmah Sonie fumbled a punt that Bison sophomore Christian Dudzik covered at the Northern Iowa 9-yard line. Three plays later, sophomore running back John Crockett scored on a 3-yard run. That gave NDSU a 10-7 lead with 3:37 to play in the first half. The Bison never trailed from that point.

“We have had a real hard time winning in Cedar Falls,” Bohl said.

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

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