Chris Klieman's quote has been pounded into dust by now. After North Dakota State lost at Northern Iowa on Nov. 8, 2014, to end the Bison's 33-game winning streak, the coach said something that seemed entirely logical at the time.
"It’s something I don't think will ever be done again," Klieman said. "To win as many games as we have in a row, hard-pressed to think any FCS school could do that again."
That streak was a Football Championship Subdivision record, compiled by an NDSU program that had come to dominate the division. The Bison went unbeaten in 2013 with a senior-laden team that had a handful of NFL players and prospects. Bracketed by the 2012 and 2014 teams, both also loaded with talent and both also winners of the national championship, it appeared like winning that many games in a row was, indeed, an unlikely prospect.
But here we are.
Klieman was wrong.
With NDSU's 21-7 victory over Southern Illinois on Saturday, Nov. 23, the Bison won their 33rd game in a row, matching the record set by their predecessors just five years prior.
What seemed highly unlikely is reality.
And it's not finished yet. If the Bison can win their first game in this year's FCS playoffs, they're seeded No. 1 so they won't play until the second round Dec. 7 at the Fargodome, this year's team will set the mark for consecutive FCS wins.
Here is a look at both streaks with some highlights, some statistics and some nail-biters that nearly derailed the Bison along the way.
|1.||Oct. 20 2012||Sioux Falls, S.D.||NDSU 54, South Dakota 0|
|2.||Oct. 27, 2012||Fargo||NDSU 23, Southern Illinois 17|
|3.||Nov. 3, 2012||Springfield, Mo.||NDSU 21, Missouri State 17|
|4.||Nov. 10, 2012||Fargo||NDSU 20, South Dakota State 17|
|5.||Nov. 17, 2012||Normal, Ill.||NDSU 38, Illinois State 20|
|6.||Dec. 1, 2012||Fargo||NDSU 28, South Dakota State 3|
|7.||Dec. 8, 2012||Fargo||NDSU 14, Wofford 7|
|8.||Dec. 14, 2012||Fargo||NDSU 23, Georgia Southern 20|
|9.||Jan. 5, 2013||Frisco, Texas||NDSU 39, Sam Houston State 13|
|10.||Aug. 30, 2013||Manhattan, Kan.||NDSU 24, Kansas State 21|
|11.||Sept. 7, 2013||Fargo||NDSU 56, Ferris State 10|
|12.||Sept. 21, 2013||Fargo||NDSU 51, Delaware State 0|
|13.||Sept. 28, 2013||Brookings, S.D.||NDSU 20, South Dakota State 0|
|14.||Oct. 5, 2013||Fargo||NDSU 24, Northern Iowa 23|
|15.||Oct. 12, 2013||Fargo||NDSU 41, Missouri State 26|
|16.||Oct. 19, 2013||Carbondale, Ill.||NDSU 31, Southern Illinois 10|
|17.||Oct. 26, 2013||Terre Haute, Ind.||NDSU 56, Indiana State 10|
|18.||Nov. 9, 2013||Fargo||NDSU 28, Illinois State 10|
|19.||Nov. 16, 2013||Youngstown, Ohio||NDSU 35, Youngstown State 17|
|20.||Nov. 23, 2013||Fargo||NDSU 42, South Dakota 0|
|21.||Dec. 7, 2013||Fargo||NDSU 38, Furman 7|
|22.||Dec. 14., 2013||Fargo||NDSU 48, Coastal Carolina 14|
|23.||Dec. 20, 2013||Fargo||NDSU 52, New Hampshire 14|
|24.||Jan. 4, 2014||Frisco, Texas||NDSU 35, Towson 7|
|25.||Aug. 30, 2014||Ames, Iowa||NDSU 34, Iowa State 14|
|26.||Sept. 6, 2014||Ogden, Utah||NDSU 24, Weber State 7|
|27.||Sept. 13, 2014||Fargo||NDSU 58, Incarnate Word 0|
|28.||Sept. 20, 2014||Fargo||NDSU 22, Montana 10|
|29.||Oct. 4, 2014||Macomb, Ill.||NDSU 17, Western Illinois 10|
|30.||Oct. 11, 2014||Fargo||NDSU 38, Southern Illinois 10|
|31.||Oct. 18, 2014||Fargo||NDSU 34, Indiana State 17|
|32.||Oct. 25, 2014||Vermillion, S.D.||NDSU 47, South Dakota 7|
|33.||Nov. 1, 2014||Fargo||NDSU 37, South Dakota State 17|
Here is the 2012-2014 streak by the numbers:
1,152 points scored — 34.9 points per game
375 points allowed — 11.4 points per game
Games over 50 points scored — 6
Games over 40 points scored — 10
Games over 30 points scored — 26
Most points scored in one game — 58, vs. Incarnate Word 9/13/14 (58-0)
Fewest points scored in one game — 14, vs. Wofford 12/8/12 (14-7)
Shutouts — 5
- 54-0 vs. South Dakota, 10/20/12
- 51-0 vs. Delaware State, 9/21/13
- 20-0 at South Dakota State, 9/28/13
- 42-0 vs. South Dakota, 11/23/13
- 58-0 vs. Incarnate Word, 9/13/14
One-score games — 8
- 23-17 vs. Southern Illinois, 10/27/12
- 21-17 at Missouri State, 11/3/12
- 20-17 vs. South Dakota State, 11/10/12
- 14-7 vs. Wofford, 12/8/12
- 23-20 vs. Georgia Southern, 12/14/12
- 24-21 at Kansas State, 8/31/13
- 24-23 vs. Northern Iowa, 10/5/13
- 17-10 at Western Illinois, 10/4/14
... at home — 19
... on the road — 11
... at a neutral site — 3
... in the playoffs — 8
... in the national title game — 2
... against opponents ranked in top 10 — 7
... against opponents ranked in top 25 — 16
... in how many different states — 10
... vs. FBS — 2
... vs. Division II — 1
Largest announced attendance — 54,800 at Iowa State, 8/30/2014
Smallest announced attendance — 5,009 at Indiana State, 10/26/13
The streak ended in the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa, when a talented Northern Iowa team dominated the Bison 23-3. NDSU lacked energy and was never really in the game. When the final horn sounded, UNI students rushed the field to celebrate the Panthers' big victory.
"We've had some great games in here, the Delawares, the Maines, the New Hampshires. I've never seen the students hit the field," Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley said. "That was a cool moment. To have them involved, vested, that’s why you play college football. The student energy and spirit … it was great for our school. That energy is awesome to see."
Here are some highlights from the game from WDAY-TV:
Here is the Forum's sports section from the next day:
But it's not like the Bison didn't have several close calls and memorable games during the first 33-game streak. They, in fact, had eight one-score games and a handful in which they trailed in the fourth quarter. Their playoff run in 2012, when the Bison were chasing their second straight national title, had back-to-back nail-biters in the quarterfinals and semifinals.
They beat option-crazy Wofford 14-7 despite a tremendous game by Terriers' running back Eric Breitenstein. NDSU linebacker Grant Olson made a school-record 29 tackles trying to stop Breitenstein.
The next week was the Fargodome game by which all other Fargodome games are measured. The Bison walloped Georgia Southern in the playoffs the year prior, but the Eagles came to Fargo in 2012 with an uber-talented team that featured several future NFLers and the experience of playing in the crazed atmosphere of the dome.
The result was one for the ages. The Bison beat the Eagles 23-20 when quarterback Brock Jensen ran in a five-yard touchdown on fourth-and-goal with 3:05 remaining in the fourth quarter, and NDSU hung on for dear life in the final seconds to advance to Frisco again.
A new term was coined that day for the decibel levels in the Fargodome: Georgia Southern loud.
NDSU opened the next season at Kansas State of the Power 5 Big 12, a game that many expected would not end well for the Bison. But Jensen had more late-game heroics, capping the epic 18-play, 8 1/2-minute drive (that, of course, became known as The Drive) with a short TD run in a 24-21 Bison victory.
That wasn't the last time the mighty Bison of 2013 had to rally late to win. In an Oct. 5 game at the dome against rival Northern Iowa, the Bison trailed 23-10 entering the final quarter. Kick returner Christian Dudzik fumbled away the opening kickoff, and lost another fumble later in the game, to set the tone.
But an 11-yard TD pass from Jensen to Zach Vraa early in the fourth pulled NDSU to within 23-17 and Sam Ojuri ran 19 yards for a score with 2:52 left for the lead. Cornerback C.J. Smith had a game-clinching interception.
The Bison went unbeaten in 2013, meaning they'd begin 2014 with the winning steak still intact. But they'd again open against a Big 12 opponent, this time at Iowa State. With two dozen seniors graduated, it seemed like a good time for NDSU to stumble. They had a new weapon, though: Junior quarterback Carson Wentz made his collegiate starting debut in Ames and was the story of the game. NDSU fell behind early, but rallied to crush the Cyclones 34-14.
NDSU's streak would end eight games later.
Now a look at the Bison's current winning streak:
|1.||Nov. 11, 2017||Fargo||NDSU 49, South Dakota 14|
|2.||Nov. 18, 2017||Normal, Ill.||NDSU 20, Illinois State 7|
|3.||Dec. 2, 2017||Fargo||NDSU 38, San Diego 3|
|4.||Dec. 9, 2017||Fargo||NDSU 42, Wofford 10|
|5.||Dec. 15, 2017||Fargo||NDSU 55, Sam Houston State 13|
|6.||Jan. 6, 2018||Frisco, Texas||NDSU 17, James Madison 13|
|7.||Sept. 1, 2018||Fargo||NDSU 49, Cal Poly 3|
|8.||Sept. 15, 2018||Fargo||NDSU 38, North Alabama 7|
|9.||Sept. 22, 2018||Fargo||NDSU 38, Delaware 10|
|10.||Sept. 29, 2018||Fargo||NDSU 21, South Dakota State 17|
|11.||Oct. 6, 2018||Cedar Falls, Iowa||NDSU 56, Northern Iowa 31|
|12.||Oct. 13, 2018||Macomb, Ill.||NDSU 34, Western Illinois 7|
|13.||Oct. 20, 2018||Fargo||NDSU 28, Illinois State 14|
|14.||Oct. 27, 2018||Vermillion, S.D.||NDSU 59, South Dakota 14|
|15.||Nov. 3, 2018||Fargo||NDSU 17, Youngstown State 7|
|16.||Nov. 10, 2018||Springfield, Mo.||NDSU 48, Missouri State 7|
|17.||Nov. 17, 2018||Fargo||NDSU 65, Southern Illinois 17|
|18.||Dec. 1, 2018||Fargo||NDSU 52, Montana State 10|
|19.||Dec. 8, 2018||Fargo||NDSU 35, Colgate 0|
|20.||Dec. 14, 2018||Fargo||NDSU 44, South Dakota State 21|
|21.||Jan. 5, 2019||Frisco, Texas||NDSU 38, Eastern Washington 24|
|22.||Aug. 31, 2019||Minneapolis||NDSU 57, Butler 10|
|23.||Sept. 7, 2019||Fargo||NDSU 38, North Dakota 7|
|24.||Sept. 14, 2019||Newark, Del.||NDSU 47, Delaware 22|
|25.||Sept. 21, 2019||Fargo||NDSU 27, UC Davis 16|
|26.||Oct. 5, 2019||Normal, Ill.||NDSU 37, Illinois State 3|
|27.||Oct. 12, 2019||Fargo||NDSU 46, Northern Iowa 14|
|28.||Oct. 19, 2019||Fargo||NDSU 22, Missouri State 0|
|29.||Oct. 26, 2019||Brookings, S.D.||NDSU 23, South Dakota State 16|
|30.||Nov. 2, 2019||Youngstown, Ohio||NDSU 56, Youngstown State 17|
|31.||Nov. 9, 2019||Fargo||NDSU 57, Western Illinois 21|
|32.||Nov. 16, 2019||Fargo||NDSU 49, South Dakota 14|
|33.||Nov. 23, 2019||Carbondale, Ill.||NDSU 21, Southern Illinois 7|
Here is the 2017-2019 streak by the numbers:
1,323 points scored — 40.1 points per game
396 points allowed — 12.0 points per game
Games over 60 points scored — 1
Games over 50 points scored — 8
Games over 40 points scored — 16
Games over 30 points scored — 24
Most points scored in one game — 65, vs. Southern Illinois 11/10/18 (65-17)
Fewest points scored in one game — 17, vs. James Madison 1/6/18 (17-13) and vs. Youngstown State 11/3/18 (17-7)
Shutouts — 2
- 35-0 vs. Colgate, 12/8/18
- 22-0 vs. Missouri State, 11/19/19
One-score games — 3
- 17-13 vs. James Madison, 1/6/18
- 21-17 vs. South Dakota State, 9/29/18
- 23-16 at South Dakota State, 10/26/19
... at home — 20
... on the road — 10
... at a neutral site — 3
... in the playoffs — 8
... in the national title game — 2
... against opponents ranked in top 10 — 13
... against opponents ranked in top 25 — 18
... in how many different states — 9
... vs. FBS — 0
... vs. Division II — 0
Largest announced attendance — 34,544 vs. Butler at Target Field, 8/31/2019
Smallest announced attendance — 2,709 at Western Illinois, 10/13/18
Given the difficulty of winning 15 or 20 college football games in a row, nobody gave another streak much thought — until NDSU started rolling through the 2018 season unbeaten. With no FBS game on the schedule in 2019, people who follow the program began to look ahead and count games. If NDSU kept winning, when would they match the previous streak?
Turns out it was going to be the 2019 regular-season finale at Southern Illinois. The Bison did, indeed, go through their schedule unblemished in 2018 by winning their seventh national title in eight years with a 38-24 victory over Eastern Washington in Frisco to finish 15-0.
The question about matching or breaking the streak wasn't so much about NDSU's opponents, but more about the Bison. They again lost two dozen seniors, including the starting quarterback with the most wins in FCS history in Easton Stick, and the concern was how quickly the young players and new QB Trey Lance would acclimate.
The answer came quickly and decisively. Lance starred in his first college start against overmatched Butler at Target Field in Minneapolis and kept getting better. With only a couple of close games, the Bison rolled toward their matchup at Southern Illinois.
The second streak has had fewer close games and more blowouts. But one memorable game was the national championship game after the 2017 season against James Madison. The Bison led 17-6 at halftime and didn't score in the second half, surviving a fake punt by the Dukes and a last-second Hail Mary by excellent quarterback Bryan Schor, to win back the title trophy from JMU.
Here's how The Forum looked the next morning:
About the only other team to challenge NDSU during the latest run of victories is archrival South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits beat the Bison in the regular season in 2016 and 2017 and despite not having much success against NDSU in the playoffs, have played it close in the subsequent regular seasons.
In 2018, it took a strong performance from Stick in the fourth quarter to seal a 21-17 victory at the Fargodome.
This season's regular-season game against SDSU was another classic. The Bison needed a 71-yard TD run by Adam Cofield late in the fourth quarter in Brookings to win 23-16. It capped a day that saw ESPN's popular "College GameDay" show broadcast from the SDSU campus.
The Bison will have a chance to break the record and win a 34th game in a row on Dec. 7 at the Fargodome. That would make the following list look different, but only slightly.
LONGEST FCS WINNING STREAKS
33 — North Dakota State, 2012-14
33 — North Dakota State, 2017-present
26 — James Madison, 2016-17
24 — Penn, 2013-15
24 — Montana, 2001-02
22 — Harvard, 2013-15