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Eric Peterson, Published September 28 2013

Bison beat SDSU for Dakota Marker

BROOKINGS, S.D. – Pounding the rock helped North Dakota State keep “The Rock.”

The top-ranked Bison rushed for 155 yards and two touchdowns in the fourth quarter Saturday at Coughlin-Alumni Stadium. That ground surge capped a 20-0 victory against South Dakota State in Missouri Valley Football Conference play before a sellout crowd of 16,498 fans. NDSU retained the Dakota Marker trophy with the victory.

“That is where our pride and conditioning allowed us to make things happen,” Bison senior quarterback Brock Jensen said of the fourth-quarter scores.

The Bison (4-0, 1-0 MVFC) have won five consecutive games against the Jackrabbits, including four in a row for the Dakota Marker.

“We are a fourth-quarter team,” said Bison junior running back John Crockett, who rushed for 76 yards and a touchdown on 12 attempts. “When it’s time to get down, nitty and gritty, we knew how to do that.”

While the Bison defense dominated throughout the afternoon, the offense didn’t start rolling until the final 15 minutes. NDSU scored on its first two drives in the fourth quarter.

Crockett played a key role during that late-game surge, carrying the ball all seven times on NDSU’s first scoring drive in the fourth quarter. That march covered 67 yards, but was nearly derailed on its third play.

Crockett fumbled the ball toward the sideline after he was stripped from behind by a Jackrabbits defender. SDSU covered the loose ball, but was unable to do so before the ball went out of bounds. The Bison maintained possession.

“I was really upset that it happened, and I knew I owed the team one,” Crockett said. “I kind of let my teammates down in that aspect. I knew I had to get going again.”

Crockett responded with runs of 4, 14, 16 and 14 yards. That second 14-yard gain ended in the end zone and gave the Bison a 13-0 lead with 10 minutes, 36 seconds to play in the fourth quarter.

“It was a good job by our offensive line and John to get it done,” Jensen said.

After a SDSU three-and-out, the Bison were back on the grind on their next drive. This scoring drive covered 66 yards on eight plays, all runs. Senior running back Sam Ojuri had a 31-yard run that moved the ball to the SDSU 9. Three plays later, Jensen scored on a 1-yard run. That gave NDSU a 20-0 lead with 4:44 remaining.

“I felt for three quarters that it was a tough, hard-fought game,” SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said. “We just quit tackling and playing defense in the fourth quarter.”

The Bison ran 20 plays in the fourth quarter, all of which were running plays. They held the ball for a shade over 11 minutes in the final 15 minutes.

“It’s always tough to win in Brookings,” Jensen said. “Our guys stuck together. We found a way to get it done.”

The Bison players rushed to the southeast corner of Coughlin-Alumni Stadium to grab the Dakota Marker trophy as the final seconds ticked off the game clock.

“It’s something that we are going to cherish,” said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl.

The Bison defense limited SDSU to 124 totals yard, including minus-32 rushing on 19 attempts. Jackrabbits junior running back Zach Zenner was held to 4 yards on eight attempts, more than 180 yards below his per game rushing average. NDSU finished with 262 rushing yards on 55 attempts. More than half that yardage came in the fourth quarter.

“We knew if we wanted to win and stop them we had to be the more physical team,” said Bison senior linebacker Grant Olson, who had a team-high eight tackles.

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

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