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Forum staff reports, Published October 19 2013

Bison gain second-half groove against Southern Illinois

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Defense has always seemed to be the spark for North Dakota State’s football team.

For a change, it was the offense that was the catalyst in Saturday’s 31-10 Missouri Valley Football Conference win at Southern Illinois.

Trailing 10-7 at halftime, the Bison offense erupted for 205 rushing yards in the third quarter. It sparked the Bison to a

28-10 lead before the fourth quarter.

“That was great,” Bison linebacker Grant Olson said of the Bison offense. “It really motivates us especially to go out and get a turnover or a three-and-out. Because we know if we get the ball back to our offense right away, they are going to score.

“It’s amazing what kind of grind-it-out team we are. Defenses just get grinded down. It’s really fun to see. I love watching it. It’s great football.”

While the Bison offense found its groove in the second half, so did the Bison defense, which has been allowing only 13.3 points per game. After giving up 172 total yards in the first half, the defense limited Southern Illinois to 55 total yards in the second half.

“We were able to relax and get our composure back,” Olson said after his team’s slow start. “This win gives us confidence moving forward. We know we can handle tough road tests. We are going to have to win more games like this if we are going to achieve our goals.”

The ultimate goal is a third straight national championship. With Saturday’s win, the Bison won their 16th straight game and their 15th straight on the road.

Late TD in first half was huge for North Dakota State

Southern Illinois dominated much of the first half, building a 10-0 lead.

It appeared it would stay that way for the first half until the Bison struck on a big, third-down play late in the second quarter. On third-and-six, Brock Jensen connected with Zach Vraa for a 55-yard touchdown that helped cut the lead to 10-7.

“I thought that was huge,” said Bison head coach Craig Bohl. “Anytime a team plays that type of coverage, you are going to open yourself up to some big plays. Brock put the ball on the money and Zach made a great catch. That was a big, big play.”

Coach Dale Lennon

impressed with longtime foe

Southern Illinois head coach Dale Lennon’s team was coming off of two straight road victories against top-10 teams. But he said the answer to how the Bison compare with the rest of his team’s opponents is obvious.

“They’re by far the best team we’ve played up to this point,” Lennon said, “probably including the University of Illinois.”

The Salukis won at No. 7 South Dakota State and at No. 4 Northern Iowa in its last two games. SIU lost 42-34 to Illinois to open the season.

Lennon had a 4-1 record against the Bison as a head coach at the University of North Dakota. Since taking over at SIU in 2008, his team is 1-5 against NDSU.

SIU starting QB Faulkner leaves with hand injury

The Salukis were without starting quarterback Kory Faulkner after he left the game in the third quarter with a hand injury.

That forced redshirt freshman backup Ryan West into duty. West had attempted only 10 career passes entering Saturday’s game.

“You’re always disappointed when someone goes down, especially your starting quarterback,” said SIU linebacker Jordan Poole.

SIU has a bye next week before playing at Western Illinois on Nov. 2.

“I don’t know how he did it,” Lennon said. “I don’t know what his status will be.”

Readers can reach Kevin Schnepf and Hayden Goethe at (701) 241-5549