CARBONDALE, Ill. — North Dakota State went nowhere for the first 29 minutes of the first half. The last minute gave the Bison some hope Saturday afternoon at Saluki Stadium.
A 37-yard "Hail Mary" pass from quarterback Zeb Noland found a group of players in the end zone, but NDSU receiver Jake Lippe ultimately grabbed the deflection for a touchdown. It pulled the Bison to within 17-7 at halftime, but was about the only highlight in a 38-14 Southern Illinois win.
Starting from their own 20-yard line after Javon Williams Jr.'s 1-yard touchdown gave the Salukis a 17-0 lead with 52 seconds left in the half, NDSU got a boost when Noland hit running back Kobe Johnson for 13 yards on third-and-8 with 15 seconds remaining.
A 13-yard pass to receiver Cole Jacob reached the 48 at :09. A 15-yard pass to tight end Noah Gindorff got the Bison to the 37 with 2 seconds left, with Gindorff stepping out of bounds even though he had more space in front of him. That's when Noland lofted a pass that 6-foot-6 tight end Josh Babicz first got his hands on the ball, with Lippe waiting underneath for the deflection.
Here's the play from Zeb Noland to Jake Lippe for the receiver's first career touchdown. More highlights coming up tonight on @WDAYSports at 6 and 10!#SCTop10 @ESPNAssignDesk pic.twitter.com/GQhvWg25R4— Zach Staton (@ZStaton_WDAY) February 27, 2021
"It's something we practice every week," Lippe said. "Babbo tips it up and me or Christian (Watson) are supposed to make a play on it."
The last time that happened with NDSU was in 2006 at Ball State (Ind.) when Steve Walker's pass into the end zone was deflected by Bison receiver Travis White into the hands of Kole Heckendorf. That play right before half was big in NDSU's 29-24 upset, the first victory over an FBS program.
"The whole mood changed right after the play," Lippe said. "We had a lot of momentum."
But the Bison failed to take that momentum and do anything with it in the third quarter. That surprised head coach Matt Entz.
"I thought we had opportunity," Entz said.
But the Bison offense stalled going three-and-out on their first two possessions of the third quarter.
Hill says humbling UND loss fueled Salukis
The Salukis were coming off a disappointing 44-21 road loss against the University of North Dakota heading into their second conference game against the Bison.
The Fighting Hawks rushed for 229 yards on 39 attempts in that game and outscored Southern Illinois 28-7 in the second half.
“Last week was not the outcome that we wanted, the fashion that we took a loss, but honestly I don’t know if we come out and play the way that we played without taking the loss like we did last week,” Southern Illinois head coach Nick Hill said of the loss at UND.
The Salukis rushed for 170 yards on 48 attempts against the Bison, while limiting NDSU to 109 rushing yards on 21 attempts. The Bison gained most of those yards on a Jalen Bussy 63-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
“We really controlled the line of scrimmages,” Hill said. “Never take winning for granted against the No. 1 team. …. But then it’s right back to work. Unless you go on the road and get a win against Youngstown (State) next week, this win won’t really matter as much.”
SIU won battle of third down
The Bison lost the battle of third downs against SIU with the biggest problem for NDSU is having too many third-and-longs. They faced third-and-12 and third-and-8 in their first two drives of the third quarter and finished 4 of 10 for the game.
"We were behind the chains," Entz said. "If you can't convert, you can't stay on the field and help each other out."
SIU, meanwhile, was 11 of 16 on third down including a big third-and-3 midway in the third quarter. A 65-yard pass from quarterback Nic Baker to Avante Cox reached the Bison two-yard line. Javon Williams Jr. scored from a yard out and it was 17-0.
"They did a tremendous job," Entz said. "We couldn't get them off the field, we couldn't get our offense back on the field and create any consistency or momentum. We just kept shooing (ourselves) in the foot."
Etc. etc. etc.
- NDSU's streak-breaking loss prevented the Bison from matching Washington's 40 in a row from 1908-14.
- Bison true freshman backup quarterback Cam Miller saw his first game action late in the first quarter. He carried for no gain and got one more carry later in the first half for two yards. Bison coaches said before the game they'd put in some run plays for Miller, who is considered more mobile than senior starter Zeb Noland.
- Bison fullback Hunter Luepke did not dress again. He did not play in spring opener against Youngstown State. Also out was wide receiver Phoenix Sproles.