IOWA City, Iowa-For North Dakota State head coach Chris Klieman, the decision to go for a two-point conversion with under four minutes to play in the fourth quarter Saturday, Sept. 17, wasn't difficult.
"We came here to win," Klieman said. "Period."
Trailing by a point, the Bison didn't convert but later rallied for a 23-21 college football victory against the No. 11-ranked Iowa Hawkeyes after kicker Cam Pedersen hit a 37-yard field goal on the game's final play at Kinnick Stadium before 70,585 fans.
"If we didn't make it, I thought we could stop them," Klieman said.
The Bison cut the Hawkeyes lead to 21-20 with 3 minutes, 41 seconds remaining after running back Chase Morlock caught a 7-yard touchdown pass.
The first time the Bison lined up for two points, Iowa called a timeout. On the ensuing play, Stick dropped back and couldn't find an open receiver. After a scramble, Stick's pass sailed incomplete.
The Bison forced an Iowa punt after three plays on the next drive. That defensive stop helped lead to Pedersen's game-winning field goal.
"I thought our offense was wearing them down," said Klieman, who added playing in two overtime games to start the season was also a factor in his decision to go for two points. "We have some guys battling their tails off, guys injured and fighting through things."
Stumpf provides early spark for Bison
The Bison took an early lead thanks to a big play from their linebackers.
NDSU senior Pierre Gee-Tucker drilled Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard in the back as Beathard was throwing the ball. That caused the football to pop up into the air toward the sideline.
Bison senior MJ Stumpf picked off the errant pass and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown. That gave NDSU a 7-0 lead with 2 minutes, 26 seconds to play in the first quarter.
"We made a statement early," said Stumpf, who finished with three tackles. "I thought that gave us momentum."
Bison ground game grounds Iowa
The Bison dominated time of possession, holding the ball for more than 13 minutes longer than Iowa. NDSU held it for nearly 11 minutes in the final quarter.
That ball control helped the Bison rush for 103 yards on 15 attempts on the final quarter. Behind that ground-and-pound running game, the Bison scored the game's final nine points.
Iowa junior linebacker Ben Niemann said his team did not underestimate the Bison.
"No, not at all," Niemann said. "We had a lot of respect for them. We knew that they were a good team, well-coached and they beat a lot of teams at this level. No, we did not underestimate them."
Not only was the NDSU rushing attack better, so was its penalties-or lack of them. The Bison were flagged just once for 15 yards after 13 infractions for 137 yards last week against Eastern Washington.