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McFeely: Bison have to get grounded again against USD

Bruce Anderson of North Dakota State carries against South Dakota State during their football game Saturday, Nov. 4, 2017, in Brookings, S.D. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

The strangest offensive series of North Dakota State’s 33-21 loss at South Dakota State came near the end of the first half when Bison offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham called for four straight pass plays with less than 4 minutes left. The drive ended when quarterback Easton Stick threw an interception to SDSU’s Jordan Brown with 1:40 remaining in the second quarter, a gift the Jackrabbits turned into a touchdown just before halftime.

Instead of NDSU trailing 10-7 and getting the ball to start the second half, it trailed 17-7. The Bison were able to stay close to the Jacks, but never got the lead. They were chasing points the entire game, in part because of the turnover and resulting points after it.

Of course, making five turnovers is always going to make it nearly impossible to win no matter how good you are.

But the series in question was strange because the Bison — one of the best rushing teams in Football Championship Subdivision — didn’t run the ball once. With an opportunity to run some clock, get to halftime down only three points after a lackluster first half, after SDSU had clearly indicated it was willing to get to halftime ahead by three points — the Bison came out firing.

SDSU had punted and pinned the Bison at the 10-yard line, after a second-down running play gained nothing and an extremely safe third-down pass play went for zero yards. The Jacks clearly didn’t want to take a chance on a turnover, even though they were in NDSU territory.