The players from Southern Illinois gathered in front of a throng of students in the southwest corner of Saluki Stadium and sang the school song. It was a well-deserved vocal salute to one impressive football performance.
Meanwhile, for 39 games the players and coaches from North Dakota State gathered in a locker room after a game and celebrated the way they always have. It’s a rah-rah thing that most teams do.
There wasn’t much rah-rah on Saturday at Saluki Stadium.
There wasn’t much of anything all afternoon for that matter. The all-time No. 1 streak in Division I FCS football exploded into bits and pieces in a 38-14 Southern Illinois victory. It was a humbling day for the greatest dynasty in FCS history.
“Frustrating day for the Bison,” said head coach Matt Entz. “From watching the game and watching the flow of it, really frustrated with our inability to come out and start fast. I need to come up with a better way of practice, we need to get this group going in the right direction.”
Gone are any aspirations of the all-time Division I streak of 47 in a row set by Oklahoma in the 1950s, not that anybody from NDSU ever talked about it. They didn’t.
“I’m sure guys saw it on Twitter ... and obviously we wanted to keep winning and achieve that record,” said safety Michael Tutsie. “But that was never a discussion in the locker room. We just want to win the next game.”
What will be discussed is how un-Bison they looked. They looked mentally out of it. Three offsides in the first half was evidence. Having to call time out because only 10 players were on the field for a punt was another piece.
“We had a number of plays where we were short, 10 guys on the field,” Entz said. “We gave them some free downs. It was a frustrating day from the get-go and I thought we had a better grasp of the sense of urgency we were going to need to beat a good football team. We warned our kids all week long this was a cornered football team that was going to come out and play us hard. This is going to be a learning experience for us.”
The running game looked inexperienced. The passing game was missing in action. The defense had trouble getting off the field. The Bison took a beating in time of possession (SIU had the ball for over 41 minutes in a 60-minute game) and everybody contributed.
“I think what it was is guys thought we could just roll the helmets out and beat them,” Tutsie said.
Tutsie said the players saw on film all week how the University of North Dakota dismantled SIU last week and probably let their guard down. It’s commonly called overconfidence.
“I think that gave guys in their eyes, we’re the green and gold, we’re the Bison and we win a bunch of games,” Tutsie said. “We win them all. Obviously that showed the complete opposite today.”
The 39 will go down in history surpassing the 33 in a row NDSU accomplished from 2012-14. Both incredible feats. James Madison has the third-best FCS streak at 26 straight.
Now comes another feat for the program: How to put this performance behind and right the ship. It had all the feeling and look of the 2014 loss at Northern Iowa, a 23-3 defeat that ended the 33 straight.
“I was part of a streak that ended in 2014,” said Entz, then the defensive coordinator. “Unfortunately I’m part of one now but there will be another day, there will be another game coming up and we need to find a way to get better.”
It was the worst defeat since a 37-6 loss at Cal Poly in 2005, a defeat where the Bison were thoroughly outplayed. Saturday felt similar.
The last loss before the 39 in a row was 33-21 setback in 2017 at South Dakota State. This was different. This was a beatdown in all phases.
"'Forgot,' maybe is the right word," Tutsie said, in reference to perhaps his team feeling invincible. "It’s been so long. I hate to lose. Me personally, I hate it and I know everybody on the team hates it just the same … We never want to feel that feeling again."
Southern Illinois went back in time when Jerry Kill was the head coach and the program was a threat to win a national title. From 2003-09, SIU went 70-19 with five conference championships.
The scripts were flipped. The Bison left Carbondale at 1-1 in the conference and 2-1 overall and looking very average. And at least the streak questions will disappear.
“I’m dead serious when I say this, the only time I ever talk about the streak is when I get questions asked,” Entz said. “The only streak that ever matters to us is 1-0 during the week. Now maybe our players talked about it behind closed doors but we never reference it in our meetings. Only thing we talked about was making sure we’re prepared to win each week.”