FARGO - It looked to be a typical field goal attempt when North Dakota State lined up for a 22-yard try late in the fourth quarter. That's when the last of about a handful of crucial South Dakota State penalties killed the Jackrabbits.
Instead of fourth-and-3, the half-the-distance walkoff gave NDSU fourth-and-short, which the Bison converted into a 3-yard touchdown run by running back Sam Ojuri with 2:39 remaining. That two-possession lead held up in a 20-17 Bison win before 18,721 fans at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
The Jackrabbits were flagged for illegal substitution, a problem that head coach John Stiegelmeier said resulted from miscommunication between an assistant coach and a player.
"In the anxiety, the excitement to try and block it, they just made an error, and that's my fault," Stiegelmeier said. "It boils down to me not being meticulous with everything we do. That's not a young man's fault or an assistant coach's fault, that's my fault."
The touchdown made it 20-10. A roughing-the-passer penalty on defensive lineman Chase Douglas after a third-and-8 Brock Jensen incompletion kept the Bison drive alive.
"When you jump offsides in this environment, yeah that is discipline," Stiegelmeier said. "When you hit the quarterback late, and I'm going to look at the film, that's bonehead. That's taking the other 59 guys on the bus and saying I'm more important than you. I'm frustrated. And that's totally unacceptable."
In all, the Jacks had nine penalties for 76 yards to NDSU's three for 15 yards.
"That's something that really hurt us today," said SDSU linebacker Ross Shafrath. "We had several chances to get off the field and we didn't."
Jensen, a quarterback, makes good of job won in August
NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen had his team's best offensive play with a 56-yard run. He also had his team's best hands when the game was on the line.
After SDSU pulled within 20-17 on Trevor Tiefenthaler's three-yard touchdown reception with 47 seconds left, the Jackrabbits set up for an onside kick.
On the other side, the Bison had their "hands" team, which was decided during a tryout-like process in fall camp in August.
"During those days that are long and hard," said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl. "It's like one of those last-guy-standing things."
Jensen was actually a backup on the team, but he replaced running back John Crockett, who has been battling a hip pointer. Before getting on the field Saturday, Jensen said he borrowed a pair of gloves from teammate Lucas Albers.
SDSU kicker Justin Syrovatka's grounder went right in Jensen's direction. He fell on it without incident.
"Coaches will tell you quarterbacks typically have good hands," Bohl said. "That ball took a different bounce and he was able to adjust to it."
Etc. etc. etc.
Bohl said defensive tackle Leevon Perry suffered a knee injury of some sort and may miss next week's game at Illinois State. Perry was to have a further examination today. "That's a big loss," Bohl said. ... The 18,721 fans was the 13th time in the last 14 games where NDSU has had at least 18,000 fans. ... Clinching a tie for the Missouri Valley Football Conference title was the programs' 29th overall league title and third since 2006. ... The 43 yards by SDSU running back Zach Zenner was a season low, with Southern Illinois holding him to 47 last week. "That's a credit to their defensive line," Stiegelmeier said. "They're good."
Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.
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