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McFeely: Bison players know the score when it comes to game against Southern Illinois

Salukis walloped NDSU in spring game, which Bison coach downplays but players apparently don't

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North Dakota State's defensive unit is dejected after giving up a touchdown against Southern Illinois in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, in Carbondale, Ill. David Samson / Forum News Service

FARGO — The score in February was 38-14 in favor of Southern Illinois and, in fairness to the Salukis, the game wasn't even that close. North Dakota State scored a touchdown on a Hail Mary at the end of the first half and tacked on a garbage time TD near the end of the game.

Here's the statistic that tells the story of the spring season game between SIU and NDSU: 41:26 to 18:34.

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That was the time of possession advantage for the Salukis. SIU had the ball for 12:20 of the 15-minute fourth quarter alone.
It was a stunning butt-whipping during the spring season that ended the Bison's Football Championship Subdivision record 39-game winning streak , gave Southern Illinois coach Nick Hill a signature victory, put the Salukis on the national map and caused some soul-searching in the NDSU program. Safety Michael Tutsie said multiple times after the game that some Bison players believed all they needed to do to win was "roll their helmets out onto the field."

Goofy COVID-affected spring season or not, it was NDSU's worst loss since the Bison's dominant run began in 2011.

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"They were better than us on that day. They whipped us up and down the field," NDSU head coach Matt Entz said at his weekly press conference Monday.

Accurate.

But when asked whether NDSU viewed Saturday's second-round playoff game against the Salukis at the Fargodome as an opportunity at revenge, Entz played it cool as a Popsicle.

"We haven’t talked about it," he said. "It’s the next game."

If you believe this, I have some lakefront property in Absaraka I'd like to sell you.

I'm confident it's been a topic of discussion, somewhere in the hallowed halls of the dome, because at least one Bison player posted the score of the game on Twitter. Just the score. Nothing else.

"38-14," wrote running back Jalen Bussey.

Whether that helps inspire the Bison to a victory will be one of the storylines of Saturday, for sure.

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More important is whether NDSU plays better.

That includes the fundamentals like making fewer mistakes, running the ball, getting third down stops, not taking rockhead penalties. The Bison defense was offsides three times in the first half in a COVID-silenced stadium. NDSU had 10 players on the field for a punt. A defensive back jogged half-heartedly into the end zone after an interception because he figured the play was coming back.

Just gross stuff.

Southern Illinois coach Nick Hill said Monday his is a confident team, bolstered by its victory over the Bison even though the Salukis lost three of their last four regular season games before beating South Dakota in the first round of the playoffs.

  • Bison Video Blog: 2021 NDSU Football vs SIU Join WDAY's Dom Izzo and The Forum's Jeff Kolpack as they keep you up to date with all of the latest NDSU Bison news.

"This team is going to take the field with a belief that they know they can beat them, not they think they can. They've done it before," Hill said.
Makes sense. Especially considering Hill's first and last trip to Fargo was in 2018 when NDSU won 65-17 and racked up 663 yards. You don't want to lean on those memories.

This contest will be much closer than that. This is not a pushover game for NDSU.

If Bison fans are looking for positive vibes after the ugliness of the spring game there are several. The Bison are at home, where they are 28-1 in the playoffs since joining the FCS. They are healthy, well-rested after a bye week and have played their most consistent football in the last two games.

NDSU's offensive line has found some footing, young quarterback Cam Miller has given the team a passing threat and the Bison's power running game looked unstoppable against Youngstown State and South Dakota. The Bison defense remains the Bison defense, which is usually good enough.

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We're no longer living completely under the shadow of COVID.

They have made NDSU early 13.5-point favorites, even though the players for both teams are largely the same, so the bookies see something.

"Some similarities definitely," Entz said. "You look down the roster and you see a lot of the same names. I think they are a really good football team and as I've said before, I think they are better than their record."

Probably, but the key is whether NDSU can be better than it was in the spring and whether that'll be good enough to erase 38-14 from their conscience.

Related Topics: BISON MEDIA ZONEFOOTBALL
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