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Published October 13, 2012, 11:58 PM

Indiana State cashes in on three interceptions to knock off top-ranked Bison

FARGO – A team that hadn’t thrown an interception all season, top-ranked North Dakota State had two of three interceptions returned for touchdowns Saturday in the Fargodome.

By: Kevin Schnepf, INFORUM

FARGO – A team that hadn’t thrown an interception all season, top-ranked North Dakota State had two of three interceptions returned for touchdowns Saturday in the Fargodome.

That was too much for the Bison to overcome as Indiana State stunned the Bison and the crowd of 18,164 with a 17-14 win in a Missouri Valley Football Conference game.

“I don’t think anybody thought that we would win other than our players and us as coaches,” said Indiana State head coach Trent Miles, whose unranked team improves to 5-2 overall and 3-1 in the conference. “Anytime you can beat the defending national champion at their place, it says a lot about our team.”

What it says is the Bison are beatable. Not many people thought that after last week’s impressive 48-7 win over No. 3 Youngstown State.

“This team by in large has had a great workmanlike attitude,” said Craig Bohl, whose team falls to 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the conference. “Today we didn’t show up with that attitude. We were off and we need to make sure we get that corrected.”

Even though he plays on defense, senior cornerback Johnny Towalid was responsible for Indiana State’s only two touchdowns of the game.

He returned a Brock Jensen interception 27 yards to give the Sycamores a 10-3 lead in the second quarter. He returned another interception 31 yards early in the fourth quarter to give the Sycamores a 17-6 lead.

Even though the Bison outgained Indiana State 294 to 197 in total yardage, they could not overcome three interceptions.

“We had to make more big plays than they did.,” Towalid said. “It was a heavyweight fight, and we came out with a victory today.

Words can’t explain it. It’s a very big win.”

Trailing 17-6, the Bison offense finally came to life when Andrew Okland hauled in a 31-yard pass to set up a Jensen 1-yard touchdown run and a 2-point conversion run – cutting the lead to 17-14 with 9:56 remaining of the game.

After Indiana State missed a 46-yard field goal, the Bison marched to the Sycamores’ 29 – threatening to take their first lead of the game.

But on second down, safety Larry King stepped in front of a Jensen pass intended for Ryan Smith. His interception with 3:42 remaining sealed the upset win for the Sycamores.

“I just read his eyes,” King said, referring to Jensen. “His eyes just got big when he saw his receiver from the opposite side of me. I just followed his eyes to the ball. This is the biggest win that I’ve had and hopefully there will be more to come.”

Indiana State will try to avoid a letdown when it plays at Western Illinois next week. NDSU will try to bounce back when it plays South Dakota in Sioux Falls.

“This conference, they are all heavyweights,” Miles said. “Anybody in this conference can play with anybody. It will be just as tough next week going into Western Illinois.”

Indiana State’s defense, which ranks third nationally allowing only 13 points per game, kept the high-powered Bison offense out of the end zone in the first half.

The Sycamores got off on the right foot when they returned the opening kickoff beyond midfield. They didn’t score but put the Bison in a hole, especially when quarterback Jensen was sacked at the 1-yard line. ISU got the ball back on the Bison 41, which led to a 48-yard field goal and a 3-0 lead.

Readers can reach Forum Sports Editor Kevin Schnepf at (701) 241-5549

Schnepf’s NDSU media blog can be found at www.areavoices.com