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Hayden Goethe, Published October 19 2013

Trailing at halftime, top-ranked Bison roll to 31-10 win at Southern Illinois

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Southern Illinois head football coach Dale Lennon said he doesn’t need to brag about North Dakota State after watching the Bison mount a third-quarter rally behind an impressive running game.

NDSU’s undefeated record, he says, speaks for itself.

The top-ranked Bison ran for 205 yards and three touchdowns in the third quarter alone, picking up a 31-10 victory against the Salukis in Missouri Valley Football Conference action Saturday afternoon in front of 11,121 fans at Saluki Stadium.

“Those are huge numbers,” NDSU head coach Craig Bohl said. “It was really an outstanding performance.”

SIU jumped out to a 10-0 lead in the second quarter. But the Bison responded with 31 unanswered points, 21 of which came in the third quarter.

NDSU (7-0, 4-0 MVFC) trailed 10-7 at halftime, pulling within three on Zach Vraa’s 55-yard touchdown catch from quarterback Brock Jensen.

In the third quarter, the Bison made the most of a couple of second-chance opportunities.

Junior running back John Crockett gave the Bison the lead for good, running up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown to put NDSU in front 14-10 with 8 minutes, 11 seconds left in the quarter.

SIU had a couple of chances to preserve the lead prior to Crockett’s go-ahead touchdown, but came up short on each.

Jensen lost a fumble at the NDSU 46-yard line on the first drive of the third quarter. But Salukis kicker Thomas Kinney had a 47-yard field goal attempt hit the left upright to keep the SIU (4-4, 2-2) lead at just 10-7.

“For them not to get any points was huge,” Bohl said.

On the ensuing possession, the Bison drove to the SIU 15-yard line. On a fourth-and-6, NDSU kicker Adam Keller missed a 32-yard field goal. But SIU linebacker Bryan Presume was whistled for offsides.

“We can’t afford to make mistakes like that,” SIU wide receiver LaSteven McKinney said. “We killed ourselves basically.”

With the penalty making it a fourth-and-1 for NDSU, Bohl elected to have his team go for the first down. Crockett ran for the first down, and on the next play, he gained 10 more yards on his way into the end zone for the go-ahead score.

“That ended up being their game,” said Lennon, who previously coached at the University of North Dakota. “That’s what they love to do. They’re good at that.”

Compounding the Salukis’ woes was the loss of starting quarterback Kory Faulkner. Faulkner left the game with a hand injury in the third quarter and did not return.

“It was like adding insult to injury,” McKinney said. “It didn’t go our way to say the least.”

Crockett added touchdown runs of 26 and 30 yards in the third quarter. He finished with career highs of 171 yards rushing and three touchdowns. Fellow running back Sam Ojuri had 137 yards rushing.

Bohl said he could tell, even in the first half, that the Bison were close to breaking off some big runs.

“I didn’t see a second down-and-9,” he said. “I was seeing more second down-and-6s. And you go, OK, sooner or later, that’s going to turn into a 16- or 18-yard gain.”

The Bison finished with 331 rushing yards, while the Salukis managed just 46.

“Everyone was playing well together today,” Bison sophomore guard Zack Johnson said. “Everything was working like we planned it. It worked out perfectly.”

Readers can reach Forum Assistant Sports Editor

Hayden Goethe at (701) 241-5558