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Jeff Kolpack, Published October 27 2012

Bison shut down Salukis rushing attack

FARGO – The previous three weeks were a rush for Southern Illinois, which won games with big plays like players going 100 yards with interceptions and fumbles. The Salukis did it again Saturday returning a fumble 55 yards for a touchdown.

But ultimately, there was no rush. Literally. North Dakota State held SIU to 11 yards rushing and the time of possession advantage that resulted from that contributed to a 23-17 Bison win before 18,066 fans at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

“We talked how stopping the run was the first thing we had to do,” said Bison defensive end Cole Jirik. “And holding a team to 11 yards is stopping the run I think. The defensive line up front, if we just do our job, that lets the linebackers flow through the holes and it was just a great team effort.”

SIU starting running back Mika’il McCall would probably agree. He had 16 yards on 10 carries. Leading rusher Steve Strother had one carry for no yards. That didn’t do much for time management – NDSU the ball for almost 41 of the 60 minutes.

Plus, the Bison did enough on offense to keep the Salukis on the field in a physical Missouri Valley Football game

“They executed well on first and second down,” said SIU defensive tackle Kayon Swanson. “It was physical football. They’re good up front and we tried to hit them in the mouth. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t.”

Bison able to overcome fumble, blocked punt

It was the third straight week the Salukis defense came up with a big scoring play. With the game tied at 7-7 and the Bison driving into Saluki territory with the look of a team that was about to take a lead, quarterback Brock Jensen was blindsided by blitzing linebacker Tyler Williamson on a first down pass attempt.

Brandon Williams scooped up the loose ball and went untouched the other way from 52 yards.

“We couldn’t sit and dwell on it,” said Bison running back Sam Ojuri. “We had to move forward.”

It gave SIU a 14-7 lead with 5:31 remaining before halftime.

“We had edge pressure,” said SIU head coach Dale Lennon. “It’s something we preach every day, creating turnovers. Every week we do drills and that’s the expectation our defense has.”

NDSU head coach Craig Bohl said his offense had a missed blocking assignment.

“Typically when your opponent scores on defense, you’re not going to win,” Bohl said.

And teams typically don’t win after getting a punt blocked, which SIU did in the third quarter. The Salukis, starting from the Bison 40-yard line, reached the 19, but had to settle for a 35-yard Austin Johnson field goal.

The Bison also had an extra point blocked after their last touchdown.

“We have some major issues,” Bohl said. “We have to get it straightened around. We have some work to do there.”

Bison backs effective running in traffic

The NDSU running backs did not see many wide open, booming runs. John Crockett’s longest run was 13 yards and Ojuri’s best was 11.

But the two were effective in the four to five-yard range with Ojuri finishing with a season-high 90 yards. He looked to get stronger as the game wore on.

“It felt a lot better,” he said. “I hadn’t been doing as well as I thought I could. I just had to keep practicing hard and the o-linemen did great job creating holes today.

Etc. etc. etc.

Marcus Williams’ fourth quarter interception was the 14th of his career, which put him in sole possession of second place on the Bison all-time list. Steve Krumrie (1967-69) has the record with 16. It was Williams’ fourth interception of the season. … NDSU’s Ben LeCompte 65-yard punt in the first half was a season best. … Bohl said after the game there were no apparent injuries that would keep a player out of next week’s game at Missouri State.

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia