FARGO — Missouri State cornerback Montrae Braswell enjoyed talking to North Dakota State's players. That much was clear by how much time Braswell spent facing the Bison bench at the Fargodome, and by the unsportsmanlike conduct he got near the end of the second quarter after the Bears stopped an NDSU drive dead.
Braswell's penalty was for 15 yards, gave the Bison a first down and led to a Jake Reinholz field goal that cut Missouri State's lead to 13-10 heading into the locker rooms. Missouri State is no longer a Missouri Valley Football Conference doormat, as witnessed by the Bison's narrow 27-20 victory Saturday, but the Bears maybe need to tighten their mouth game a little bit.
It was no big deal for Bison receiver Christian Watson, though, who spent the afternoon being covered by the talented Braswell. It's likely Watson gave as good as he received in the chatter department.
"It's just part of the game," Watson grinned after the game. "There's always going to be a little back and forth."
More from North Dakota State's victory against Missouri State:
- Miller magic: Backup QB rallies Bison to home victory against Missouri State
- Kolpack: QB Cam Miller wanted no part of transfer portal, rescues Bison against Missouri State
- PHOTOS: Scenes from dramatic Bison comeback victory against Missouri State
Watson got the last word this time. In spectacular fashion. The 6-foot-5, 210-pound senior finished with four catches for 106 yards, including the game-winning touchdown on a 24-yard bullet from quarterback Cam Miller with 4:57 left in the fourth quarter.
The winner was a beauty, with Watson catching the ball above Braswell's helmet despite the cornerback being flagged for pass interference.
It was a play Miller called at the line of scrimmage when he saw Missouri State's coverage, switching from an out route to Watson going for the gold. Good decision.
"He's the best receiver in the FCS. There's no way around that. To have him out there makes me feel confident," Miller said.
And that was only Watson's second-best catch of the drive. His 32-yard snare from Miller seven plays earlier was positively Moss-like. As in Randy. One of the best-ever in the NFL.
The theme of this Bison victory was Miller Magic, as the backup QB replaced struggling starter Quincy Patterson II in the third quarter and revived NDSU's offense. But how about a shout-out for some Watson Wizardry, too? The receiver was electric when the Bison needed him most. And he did it against one of the best corners in the Valley in Braswell.
"That was a great battle. He made a couple of big plays for them, there's no question about it," Missouri State coach Bobby Petrino said. "I thought we were in position a couple of times and he still made the catch."
One of those times was the 32-yard catch. It looked the Bison were in trouble, facing second down-and-26 from their 49 after a facemask penalty on offensive lineman Nash Jensen and a pass to Kobe Johnson that lost a yard. Miller dropped back and pumped, giving Watson a chance to stop and go against a tight-covering Braswell on the right sideline. That gave Watson just enough of an edge to get past Braswell and Miller delivered a strike near the Missouri State 20.
Watson slowed, leaped and made a spectacular catch over a quickly closing Braswell. First down. Drive alive. Touchdown upcoming.
Perhaps caught in the heat of the moment, Watson ranked it the top catch of his career.
"Being able to go up top on somebody like that, I love that. That's probably about No. 1 right now, honestly, even though it's not a touchdown," he said. "Being able to use my body, use my God-given talent to make a play like that, that's No. 1 for me."
It was the type of catch on which Moss made a living in the NFL, where Watson hopes to be next season.
Watson, of course, is fan of Moss.
"If you play football and you're a receiver, if Randy Moss isn't one of your top two or top three, then you're not doing it right," Watson said.
Speculation the upcoming week about who will be the Bison's starting quarterback is going to be all-encompassing. Quincy or Cam? Cam or Quincy? Bison head coach Matt Entz isn't going to say a thing before 2:29 p.m. next Saturday. But it should be noted Miller made some throws Patterson hasn't made and, frankly, looked far more poised and confident in the passing game.
Heck of a throw.— NDSU Football (@NDSUfootball) October 23, 2021
Heck of a catch.
Bison back on top, 27-20. pic.twitter.com/IAMZRC50Se
Miller's 29-yard touchdown pass to Phoenix Sproles that tied the game 20-20 early in the fourth quarter was as impressive as his TD pass to Watson one drive later.
Watson and Patterson connected on several deep balls this season, including a 60-yard dandy against Missouri State that was called back when NDSU was flagged (questionably) for an ineligible receiver downfield and a 45-yarder that counted. But if Watson and Miller have a little something cooking that can spark the Bison offense just a touch ... then Entz has to go that way.
Those two throws and catches on the game-winning drive were special.
"I think it's just the trust and connection that me and Cam have built in practice regardless of whether he's getting the snaps. I have 100% faith in Cam and Cam has 100% faith in me," Watson said.
Starting the 2nd half with a pic.twitter.com/G2MfemY1lO— NDSU Football (@NDSUfootball) October 23, 2021
And the Bison, with losses by Eastern Washington and South Dakota State on Saturday, have 100% control over their fate for a top-two playoff seed and homefield advantage. Magic Miller and Watson Wizardry helped see to that.