FARGO – North Dakota State came into Saturday leading the FCS in time of possession and third down defense. Both were not very sharp against the University of South Dakota and the result was an upset of major proportions at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
The University of South Dakota had the ball for just 16 seconds more than NDSU, but that was far better than what the Bison were used to - they came in averaging 38 minutes of having the ball in a 60-minute game. It played a big part in the 24-21 victory.
"We're not going to win games when it's dead even," said head coach Chris Klieman of the time of possession battle.
And they're not going to win games not stopping teams on third down. The Coyotes were successful on third down twice on the game-winning field goal drive - a 33-yarder by Miles Bergner as time expired. They were 3 of 3 on the game-tying touchdown drive that knotted the score at 21-21 with 4:47 to play.
"We couldn't get off the field," Klieman said. "We couldn't get into a rhythm on either side of the ball in the second half. You can get beat by anybody in this league if you're not ready to play. We were just not a focused team."
NDSU came in limiting opponents to just 20 percent on third down. The Coyotes finished 8 of 13.
More telling: USD ran 24 of the last 27 plays from scrimmage.
Vraa sets record, but Bison offense bottled up
Lost in the loss was another all-time team record by Bison receiver Zach Vraa, who passed Kole Heckendorf to become the program's leader in yards receiving with 2,738. Vraa had three receptions for 35 yards to lead the Bison.
It wasn't a prolific day on offense for NDSU overall, however. The Bison had just 125 yards rushing and were outgained on the ground for the second straight game.
"They beat us up front, bottom line," Klieman said.
USD, meanwhile, had its option game going with quarterback Ryan Saeger leading the way with 92 yards.
"He's back to being John Wayne," said USD head coach Joe Glenn.
Former Bison players mourn loss of teammate
About 30 former Bison teammates from the 1990s were in Milwaukee Saturday for the funeral of former Bison offensive lineman Carey Crimmins, who died unexpectedly early this week at the age of 40.
Crimmins was an attorney in Chicago who kept in constant check with his old school. His Facebook page, for instance, had several references to Bison football over the past year.
"We had a big group of us, about 25 on a text stream who would talk about the upcoming game," said former teammate Sean Fredricks. "Bison football is not something you just walk away from when you're done. For Carey, it was an important factor in his life."
Fredricks described Crimmins as a tough competitor on the field who was a nice man off it.
"It's been a difficult time," said Fredricks, who attended the service, "but a nice time coming together celebrating who he was as a person."