FARGO — North Dakota State won't have to share the conference title and the Bison may not have to leave the Fargodome until the national championship game if they are able make a deep playoff run.

No. 4-ranked NDSU scored the game's first 28 points to fuel a 52-24 victory against No. 16-ranked South Dakota on Saturday in Missouri Valley Football Conference play before 16,252 fans at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

“Just keep getting better. We talked about it all year long, a work in progress," Bison head coach Matt Entz said. “November is the month we want to be hitting everything on all cylinders. ... Our kids came ready to play today. I’m really excited with where we’re at right now.”

The Bison (10-1, 7-1 MVFC) clinched the MVFC championship outright, winning their 10th league crown since 2011. NDSU has won the conference title outright six times, including 2012, 2013, 2017, 2018 and 2019.

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NDSU, which earned an automatic bid, positioned itself to earn a top-two seed for the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs, but won't find out until Sunday. The selection show is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. Sunday on ESPNU. The top two seeds are assured home-field games, if they keep winning, until the national title game in Frisco, Texas.

North Dakota State's Jake Kava sacks South Dakota quarterback Carson Camp at the Fargodome on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State's Jake Kava sacks South Dakota quarterback Carson Camp at the Fargodome on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

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"Wherever they want to put us, we know we’ve got to beat everybody," Bison senior offensive lineman Cordell Volson said of NDSU's potential playoff seeding. "We control our own destiny."

The Bison rushed for 303 yards and six touchdowns on 47 attempts, averaging 6.4 yards per carry. South Dakota (7-4, 5-3) had allowed only six rushing TDs all season heading into Saturday's game at the Fargodome. The Coyotes were limiting opponents to 97.4 rushing yards per game.

"This place is just so special to me," said Volson, who has played in 61 games for NDSU. "It’s given me so much and to have the opportunity to maybe give back in a way, that was the biggest reason I came back to help these young guys and to keep the program moving in the right direction."

Volson was one of the 13 seniors honored Saturday, playing in the final regular-season home game at the Fargodome. Volson decided to come back for an extra season, taking advantage of an NCAA eligibility waiver due to the coronavirus pandemic.

North Dakota State senior Cordell Volson hugs coach Matt Entz  during senior introductions before kickoff against South Dakota at the Fargodome on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.  David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State senior Cordell Volson hugs coach Matt Entz during senior introductions before kickoff against South Dakota at the Fargodome on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. David Samson / The Forum


"We wanted to do it for the seniors and I thought we did that today," said Bison quarterback Cam Miller, who completed 19 of 23 passes for 219 yards and a touchdown.

The Coyotes tried to hang with the Bison early in the second half, forcing an NDSU three-and-out before Carter Bell returned an NDSU punt 47 yards for a touchdown. That cut the Bison lead to 28-10 with 12 minutes, 42 seconds to play in the third quarter. That's as close as USD would get in the second half.

The Bison answered on their next drive with a 30-yard Jake Reinholz field goal for a 31-10 lead with 10:01 to play in the third quarter. Earlier in the drive, a holding penalty took a 20-yard Phoenix Sproles touchdown catch off the board. The Bison drove 36 yards in seven plays to set up the field goal.

NDSU running back TaMerik Williams extended the lead with an 8-yard touchdown run for a 38-10 lead with 4:05 to play in the third. That capped a 55-yard drive that took nine plays. Bison punter Kaedin Steindorf gained 18 yards on a fake punt to convert a fourth-and-4, moving the ball to the USD 31.

North Dakota State's TaMerik Williams crosses the goal line to score against South Dakota at the Fargodome on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021.  David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State's TaMerik Williams crosses the goal line to score against South Dakota at the Fargodome on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

"We’ve played really well," Volson said. "We’re moving in the right direction and our plan is to continue to get better."

USD quarterback Carson Camp countered with a 40-yard touchdown to Mike Mansaray that Bison safety Dawson Weber nearly intercepted and tipped. That cut the Bison lead to 38-17 with 3:15 to play in the third quarter.

Bison running back Jalen Bussey scooted into the end zone for a 20-yard touchdown run to give NDSU a 45-17 lead with 14:26 to play in the fourth quarter. Kobe Johnson added a 2-yard TD run for a 52-17 lead with 10:48 remaining.

North Dakota State's quarterback Cam Miller eyes the end zone on a touchdown run against South Dakota at the Fargodome on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State's quarterback Cam Miller eyes the end zone on a touchdown run against South Dakota at the Fargodome on Saturday, Nov. 20, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

USD tight end JJ Galbreath caught an 8-yard touchdown pass to cut the Bison lead to 52-24 with 5:28 remaining.

"We’re still developing," Williams said. "Our best ball is ahead of us."

The Bison exploded for 21 points in the first quarter and scored on their first four drives. NDSU alternated between methodical scoring drives and quick-strike touchdowns. The Bison took a 7-0 lead after Williams sauntered into the end zone from 1 yard out with 6:46 to play in the first quarter. That drive covered 62 yards on 12 plays.

Sproles took a quick pass on the first play on the next drive and then made a USD defender miss and zipped into the end zone for a 75-yard TD with 5:17 to play in the opening quarter.

“We just got our playmakers the ball out in space and they made plays," Miller said.

After a USD fumble recovered by Bison linebacker Jackson Hankey, NDSU drove 49 yards on six plays. Cam Miller capped that scoring march with an 8-yard touchdown run for a 21-0 lead with 18 seconds to play in the first. Bison receiver Christian Watson gave NDSU another one-play drive. Watson took a reverse and weaved through the USD defense for a 43-yard scoring run and a 28-0 lead with 12 minutes to play in the second quarter.

The Coyotes got on the scoreboard with a Mason Lorber 25-yard field goal to cut the Bison lead to 28-3 with 6:20 remaining until halftime. The Bison had a chance to extend their lead late in the first half, but Kobe Johnson fumbled at the USD 10-yard line with around two minutes to play in the first half.

NDSU gained 285 yards on 29 plays over the first two quarters, averaging 9.8 yards per play. Miller had an efficient first half, completing 10 of 11 passes for 138 yards and a touchdown. The Bison rushed for 147 yards and three touchdowns on 18 attempts in the game's first 30 minutes. The Bison finished with 522 yards on 70 plays.

"I’m definitely happy, but I’m not satisfied," Miller said. "There’s still room to grow and learn."