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Kevin Schnepf, Published August 30 2013

Bison-Kansas State tied 7-7 at halftime

MANHATTAN, Kan. – In its most challenging regular season game ever, North Dakota State’s football team appeared up to the test during the first half of Friday night’s game at Kansas State.

The Bison battled to a 7-7 halftime tie in a game that began with 98-degree heat and played in front of 50,000 fans at Bill Snyder Family Stadium.

It was the hottest season-opening game at Kansas State since Sept. 2, 2000, when the Wildcats played Louisiana Tech in 109-degree heat. But it was the Bison, a 13-point underdog, who were generating the heat in the first half.

NDSU, which has won the last two national championships at the second-highest level of college football (FBS), got its first big break with 3 minutes 39 seconds left of the first quarter when Christian Dudzik returned a punt for 49 yards to the Kansas State 23-yard line. Five plays later, Ryan Smith hauled in a third-down, 5-yard touchdown pass from Brock Jensen to help the Bison take a 7-0 lead with 56 seconds remaining of the first quarter.

Kansas State, which flirted with a national championship last season at the highest level of college football (BCS), responded when junior college transfer quarterback Jake Waters completed three straight passes to move the Wildcats to the Bison 33. But on fourth-down-and-three from the Bison 26, NDSU’s Cole Jirek and Bryan Shepherd stopped Waters shy of the first down for a two-yard gain.

Kansas State, ranked 26th in the Associated Press preseason poll, got the ball back after a Bison punt and scored. Waters, an Iowa Western Community College transfer in his first start for Kansas State, rifled a 45-yard touchdown pass to Tramaine Thompson. That big play helped the Wildcats tie the score 7-7 with 10:13 remaining of the second quarter.

The Bison, with 20 starters back from last year’s national-title team, displayed its experience on their next drive by marching to the Kansas State 27. The drive stalled when Jensen was sacked for a seven-yard loss on third down. The saving grace was punter Ben LeCompte pooching a 34-yard punt, pinning Kansas State on its own 3-yard line with 5:14 left of the second quarter.

That’s when the Bison got another big defensive play when All-American cornerback Marcus Williams intercepted a third-down pass, putting the Bison on the Wildcat 29 with 3:54 left.

On a key third-down-and-10 play from the 29, Derrick Lang rumbled 14 yards for a first down to the Wildcat 15. On the next play, the bison missed a golden opportunity when a wide-open Kevin Vaadeland dropped a high pass in the end zone. Then on third-down-and-eight from the 13, Jensen was sacked for a four-yard loss.

Adam Keller’s 34-yard field goal attempt bounced off the left upright.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor

Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be

found at www.areavoices.com