North Dakota State football fans were introduced to Bo Pelini on Nov. 14, 2015. That was the day the first-year Youngstown State coach, fresh from getting the boot from Nebraska in part because of profane and over-the-top meltdowns, had a profane and over-the-top meltdown against the Bison.
The game was at Stambaugh Stadium and the Bison, already with two defeats and starting quarterback Carson Wentz sidelined with a broken wrist, trailed the Penguins 24-10 early in the fourth quarter. Their defense was being shredded by Youngstown's running game and their offense was sputtering under backup redshirt freshman quarterback Easton Stick, who had played well in relief of Wentz.
A King Frazier touchdown run pulled the Bison within 24-17 and a Cam Pedersen field goal with 9:57 remaining made it 24-20.
And then all hell broke loose.
Facing third-and-3 from the Penguins' 18, Stick gathered a mistimed snap and threw a high pass to senior receiver Nate Moody inside the Youngstown State 10. The throw was incomplete, but defensive back Kenneth Durden was flagged for pass interference.
(The Forum sports section from Nov. 15, 2015:)
Pelini wents nuts on the officials. Loco, batty, bonkers and whatever other adjective describing straitjacket-unhinged you can come up with. It was a scene. The Bison scored a touchdown two plays later to take a 27-24 lead with 35 seconds left — and Pelini wouldn't stop going nuts, loco, batty, bonkers and straitjacket-unhinged, despite the fact a Penguins field goal would've tied the game.
Pelini got two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties after his team received the kickoff and Youngstown State was backed up to its 4-yard line, its chances finished.
A legendary tale was born amidst the dozens of memorable and important games NDSU's football team has played since its historic FCS run began in 2011.
(Here's video of the 2015 game from WDAY-TV:)
Call it "The Meltdown Game."
It has led each year to one of the most anticipated contests of the Bison schedule, despite the fact Youngstown State is not necessarily a rival and hasn't defeated NDSU since 2011. The Penguins aren't really even a consistent national power during Pelini's five seasons, making the playoffs only once. That was 2016 when Youngstown advanced to the national championship game before losing to James Madison.
But one thing is certain among Youngstown State's ups and downs under Pelini: The Penguins will be physical and athletic defensively, and they will be ready for the Bison. Nothing less should be expected this Saturday when NDSU visits Stambaugh Stadium for a 5 p.m. kickoff.
The last time NDSU went to Youngstown it was another grinder, a classic Missouri Valley Football Conference slugfest that again goes down as one of the most unforgettable regular-season games in the Bison's streak.
Call this one "The Chili Game."
(Or maybe "The OMG Jabril Cox Game" because it was the contest in which the then-freshman linebacker made several jaw-dropping plays.)
That's because after R.J. Urzendowski made a spectacular one-handed touchdown catch in the second quarter to carve into a 10-0 Youngstown lead, a fan dumped a cup of chili on the NDSU receiver.
The game was much more than that, though.
(The Forum sports section from Oct. 15, 2017:)
Another Valley slobberknocker, NDSU tied the game at halftime after a Cam Pedersen field goal.
Youngstown took a 17-10 in the third quarter before Stick hit Nate Jenson on a 22-yard scoring pass to tie it. Then Stick made one of the many signature plays of his career, sprinting 80 yards for a touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter for a 24-17 NDSU lead.
Game over, right, considering the Bison's outstanding defense?
Nope. Penguins QB Nathan Mays engineered a nine-play, 90-yard touchdown drive that tied the game 24-24 with 1:05 left.
In overtime, Youngstown State kicker Zak Kennedy missed a field goal before Pedersen nailed a 36-yarder for the win.
- Bison, Penguins prone to close games in Youngstown
- Pelini dismisses close Bison-Penguins games in recent years
(Here's video of the 2017 game from WDAY-TV:)
In a moment of hyperbole, Bison coach Chris Klieman called Pedersen's kick bigger than the game-winner he made against Iowa the season prior.
Whatever. It was another remarkably competitive, entertaining contest between the Bison and Penguins in Youngstown.
There's no reason not to expect the same Saturday. Youngstown State's defense dominated South Dakota State for nearly three quarters in mid-October before drifting off into the mental ether a couple of costly times. Its offense is not explosive, but Pelini and his staff are good enough to find cracks in the Bison defense.
It will be physical, it will be intense and will likely be close. Youngstown State's conference record doesn't reflect it, but this is a game the young Bison could easily drop. It sets up for that kind of night.
Past performance isn't indicative of future results, but NDSU's last two trips to Youngstown have been nightmares from which the Bison have snapped awake just in time. What drama awaits this time? A meltdown? Chili? A Bison defeat?