NORMAL, Ill. — North Dakota State's defense was missing three key linemen, but the Bison showed their depth against Illinois State — as well as a peek at the future.

Defensive tackle Eli Mostaert, a sophomore from Lakeville, Minn., had three sacks — all in the first half — while redshirt freshman Loshiaka Roques also had a half-sack for the Bison. Sophomore tackle Javier Derritt also had a tackle for loss in NDSU's 20-0 victory in Missouri Valley Football Conference play at Hancock Stadium.

"With the young guys especially, they pretty much take the pressure off us," Bison linebacker Jasir Cox said.

The youngsters' play was key for the Bison, who were missing regular linemen Tony Pierce and Brayden Thomas because of injury. Those losses were in addition to potential All-American end Spencer Waege already being out for the season because of a knee injury suffered in the third game of the season.

Mostaert got started early. He sacked Illinois State quarterback Bryce Jefferson on the Redbirds' first series in the first quarter, a 7-yard loss on third-and-10.

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The young linemen were part of an impressive defensive effort from the Bison against an Illinois State team that struggles offensively. The Redbirds had 1 total yard in the first quarter and 41 total yards at halftime.

Illinois State's deepest penetration of the game was NDSU's 29-yard line late in the first half. A running play and two pass plays gained nothing from there. On fourth-and-10, Jefferson was sacked by Roques for a 9-yard loss at the 38 with 42 seconds left.

The Bison responded with a 26-yard pass to receiver Zach Mathis and an eight-yard scramble by quarterback Quincy Patterson. On the last play of the half, Bison senior Jake Reinholz booted a career-high 46-yard field goal and NDSU had a 10-0 lead.

"Any time you can get a lot of pressure with four, you feel pretty good," Bison head coach Matt Entz said of his defensive line. "I was really impressed with that group and how they’ve continued to develop."

Redbirds contain Bison running backs

NDSU rushed for 201 yards on 48 attempts against the Redbirds, averaging 4.2 yards per carry. However, Patterson accounted for 100 of those yards on 18 attempts. The Redbirds defense bottled up Bison running backs for most of the game.

Junior running back TaMerik Williams scored on a 7-yard touchdown run to give the Bison a 20-0 lead with 2:37 to play in the fourth quarter. Kobe Johnson had 41 yards on 11 carries to lead the running backs.

"I thought TaMerik Williams ran hard and we need to find more ways to utilize his size," Entz said.

Entz said the Redbirds were able to contain the Bison running backs for most of the game by bringing multiple pressures off the edge of the line of scrimmage.

"They were bringing three (players) off every edge," Entz said. "We’ve got to break tackles at some point and get people out of that mode."

North Dakota State's TaMerik Williams (22) celebrates his touchdown run against Southern Illinois with teammates at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State's TaMerik Williams (22) celebrates his touchdown run against Southern Illinois with teammates at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

Work in practice paid off for Cox

Cox has been part of the program since playing as a true freshman in 2018. He was a backup his first two seasons, playing behind his brother Jabril Cox, before starting last spring and taking a higher ownership role this fall. He got the first two interceptions of his career, doing something Jabril did six times in his NDSU career.

"Finally getting one today, a dream come true," Jasir said. "I feel like I can make more as time goes on here."

Jasir Cox said he worked in takeaways more in practice last week, staying after for a few drills. Both of his picks came in the second half. The first one gave the Bison the ball at the ISU 23-yard line but the NDSU offense sputtered and threw an interception of its own.

Cox's second interception put the game away. He picked off Jefferson with five minutes remaining in the game and the Bison scored five plays later to make it 20-0.

"I knew once the ball was in the air I had to react fast and make a play," Cox said.

North Dakota State's Jerodd Vines takes down Southern Illinois' Kacper Rutkiewicz on a kickoff return at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State's Jerodd Vines takes down Southern Illinois' Kacper Rutkiewicz on a kickoff return at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

Odds and ends

NDSU fullback Hunter Luepke was a surprise scratch, missing the game because of a hamstring injury. ... Mathis made his first catch of the season late in the first half, setting up Jake Reinholz's 46-yard field goal. Mathis was hampered in fall camp and early season by an elbow injury. ... Linebacker James Kaczor did not play for the second straight game. ... Center Jalen Sundell, also injured against UND, did not dress for the second straight game.