Jeff Kolpack, Published November 17 2012
Williams' big return provides spark for NDSUNORMAL, Ill. – North Dakota State’s kickoff return game was MIA for the last couple of games. And Deveon Dinwiddie’s opening kickoff return on Saturday against Illinois State that barely reached the 20-yard line looked to go nowhere, also.
But the Bison cured that problem in a hurry in a 38-20 win over the Redbirds before 6,793 fans at Hancock Stadium.
The Redbirds were cruising after Illinois State’s Nick Aussieker’s field goal put them up 10-0. On the ensuing kickoff, Marcus Williams grabbed it at his 2-yard line and found an opening – something that’s been missing lately.
Williams put a knee-buckling move on an ISU defender near midfield and finished off a 98-yard return – his second career kickoff return for a score. The other was last year against Missouri State.
“I felt like if we could get some big momentum on this kickoff return, it would be big for the team,” Williams said. “Coach (Tim) Polasek saw some holes in their kickoff team so we exploited what we saw on film and went for it.”
The touchdown changed the complexion of a game that had the look of ISU on the verge of a big first half. As it was, the Redbirds led just 17-14 at halftime.
“It’s always hard when you give up a special teams touchdown,” said ISU quarterback Matt Brown. “We had to bounce back from that. We felt like we were in control of the game.”
Said Bison head coach Craig Bohl: “We were on our heels on defense and I think there was an emotional concern. It was a huge lift for our football team.”
Option play sets tone for 2nd half
The option offense, which at one time defined NDSU in Division II, resurfaced in a timely fashion Saturday.
Trailing 20-14 early in the third quarter and facing fourth-and-1 near midfield, quarterback Brock Jensen went right and pitched the ball to running back Sam Ojuri, who took it 32 yards to the ISU 19-yard line.
The Bison had to settle for an Adam Keller field goal, but it was the start of a productive offensive second half.
“We knew we would have an opportunity to run that play,” Jensen said. “It took the right look, we got the right look and we took advantage.”
Bohl said there was no hesitation to go for it.
“We looked at where we were at, although you knew it would be a dicey call,” he said. “But you’re playing for a conference championship, all the ducks were on the pond and we decided to go for it.”
Bison adjustment on defense made difference
The difference in NDSU’s defensive play from the first half was striking. The Redbirds were held to just 78 total yards in the final two quarters.
Part of it was all the planning ISU did in its bye week leading up to the Bison game.
“We did a good job with those two weeks game planning,” Brown said. “We gave them things they hadn’t seen yet and we did things we hadn’t run yet. In the second half, the game plan kind of fell apart.”
ISU head coach Brock Spack said NDSU changed its coverage scheme. Instead of getting technical, he called it “an NFL coverage.”
“Every week, somebody does something different,” said NDSU defensive end Cole Jirik.
Etc. etc. etc.
Adam Keller’s two field goals tied him with Shawn Bibeau and Ryan Jastram for the Bison record of most field goals in one season with 16. … The Bison have won 11 straight against nationally-ranked opponents. … Grant Olson’s 12 tackles was the fourth time this season he’s been in double digits. … Bison receiver Andrew Okland was helped off the field with an apparent leg injury, but his status wasn’t immediately known.
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found