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Chris Murphy, Published October 12 2013

Jensen, Vraa have career days to lead NDSU

FARGO – As North Dakota State quarterback Brock Jensen’s throw to wide receiver Zach Vraa pierced the Fargodome air with 32 seconds left in the first half, Missouri State quarterback Kierra Harris was being carried to the locker room with a left knee injury and would not return.

One play after Bison free safety Christian Dudzik intercepted Harris and brought it back 29 yards to the Bears 36-yard line, Vraa caught Jensen’s pass to put the Bison up two scores right before half and the Bison rolled from there en route to a 41-26 victory. In two plays, the Bears lost their quarterback and lost all momentum.

“Any time you turn the ball over versus the Bison, we’re a pretty opportunistic team,” Jensen said. “It was a big play for us.”

It was a career day for Jensen and Vraa. Jensen had a career-high 313 yards passing to go along with tying a career-high three touchdowns. Vraa caught a career-high 179 of those yards and tied a career high with two touchdown catches on his five receptions.

“Every deep ball we get, every time I get a chance to make a play at it and every time we go up there and connect it really boosts my confidence,” Vraa said. “Getting those short passes are good, but getting the deep ones is really good for the connection with me and Brock.”

Vraa’s performance may have come as a surprise to the Missouri State secondary, but it was no surprise to Jensen.

“He’s deceivingly fast,” Jensen said. “I don’t think (defensive backs) realize how fast he is until he’s running past them. He’s a great deep threat for us and we’re going to need him to keep doing well for us this season.”

Missouri State (1-6, 1-2) held its ground after NDSU’s initial punch to the gut. Ryan Smith took back a punt 85 yards midway through the first to get the Bison (6-0, 3-0) on the board and, four minutes later, Adam Keller’s 33-yard field goal put the Bison up 10-0.

The Bears came back with a swing of their own, scoring 13 unanswered points to go up by three. Marcelo Bonani drilled field goals of 47 and 21 yards and Harris found Julian Burton for a 65-yard touchdown pass to leave the record 19,108 in attendance at the Fargodome in stunned silence.

Jensen and Vraa answered. The Bison marched 73 yards, 52 of which came on a pass from Jensen to Vraa. Sam Ojuri scooted into the end zone from two yards out on the next play after the Vraa catch to retake the lead 17-10.

“He’s a threat,” Jensen said of Vraa. “Teams have to account for him downfield. He’s going to make plays.”

Missouri State’s defense got the Bears back in the game when Jensen was intercepted by Caleb Schaffitzel, who took it back 19 yards for a touchdown to pull the Bears within four on NDSU’s first drive of the second half. Jensen and Vraa would answer again, hooking up on a 23-yard touchdown pass on the ensuing drive.

After a Missouri State fumble on the next drive, Jensen found Kevin Vaadeland for a 33-yard touchdown pass late in the third to put the Bison up 38-20.

“I don’t think a whole lot about the 300-yard deal,” Jensen said about eclipsing the 300-yard mark for the first time. “I just try to do what’s asked of me. If I get 300 yards in a game, great. If I don’t, oh well. At the end of the day if we win a game, that’s an accomplishment.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Chris Murphy at (701) 241-5548