Bison Game Day: Kicking their way into Bison football history
NDSU's last game vs. an FBS opponent was one for the ages in a win at No. 11 Iowa
FARGO — The kick defied the laws of wind on a warm, sunny day in Iowa City, Iowa. The flags on top of the goalposts at University of Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium were blowing west, but the football curved east about halfway between Cam Pedersen’s foot and the back of the end zone.
For the longest time on a play that happened so fast, it was debatable if it was going to be successful. Pedersen’s first thought after kicking it was that he hit it solid and figured it would sneak inside the upright because that’s what the ball was doing all day — moving from west to east. It was NDSU's last game vs. an FBS opponent before facing Arizona on Saturday night at Arizona Stadium.
As the long snapper, James Fisher, in a rarity, didn’t have a defender immediately in front of him and the reason he figures is Iowa knew the penchant Fisher had for drawing roughing the snapper penalties. The Hawkeyes didn’t want to risk that.
So after snapping the ball to holder Cole Davis, Fisher held his ground and looked up at the ball sailing toward the right upright.
“It was either right at the goalpost or just outside of it and it curved back in,” Fisher said. “Then you could really hear a pin drop with all of the Iowa fans and thousands of Bison fans who made that trip screaming and going crazy.”
As the holder, Davis had one job: catch Fisher’s snap and place it in perfect position for Pedersen’s foot. Davis’ primary thought while getting ready to do his job?
The trio had practiced the teamwork of the field goal so many times and this was just another time to make it work. When Pedersen kicked it, Davis saw a ball that was moving in and out on its way to the goalpost.
“At first it looked like it was going in just inside the right upright and then it went back out a little bit,” Davis said. “And then finally skirted in at the end.”
After that, Davis and Pedersen both have the same memory of the celebration. They don’t have much of one, with both using the phrase “kind of a blackout.”
Davis remembers Pedersen running and jumping and himself running after his kicker. The entire Bison sideline sprinted onto the field. NDSU head coach Chris Klieman quickly jogged to midfield looking for Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz.
“Just kind of chaos ensued,” Davis said. “I remember screaming and yelling so much I actually almost threw up.”
A bit later, the Bison players ran over to a corner of Kinnick Stadium where most of the NDSU fans had gathered. One of the biggest field goals in Bison football history had the college football world buzzing that afternoon.
Iowa came in ranked No. 11 in the top 25 poll.
“It’s crazy to think I was part of that, but it was completely a team effort to get to that position,” said Pedersen, currently living in the Denver area and preparing to start a law career. “I was fortunate to be the guy to have a chance to put the ball through the goalposts.”
Said Davis: “It’s cool for all the guys who were part of such a significant play in NDSU history and for me, obviously it’s amazing. Maybe the hold seems like an insignificant part of the play, but for me personally, it’s one of the highlights of my sports career being out there for that play. However you contributed to that game and to the team, I think it was really special for all of us.”
Davis is still working for Carson Wentz’s AO1 Foundation based in Indianapolis. Fisher is living in Atlanta these days and that story resurfaces from time to time if he’s wearing an NDSU shirt and he runs into Iowa fans.
“They all remember that very well,” Fisher said.
What most people don’t remember is the Bison defensive stand that allowed them to get the ball back and have a chance. The Bison drove 80 yards in 15 plays, taking 8:39 off the clock to pull within 21-20 on a 7-yard touchdown pass from Easton Stick to running back Chase Morlock.
But Stick’s two-point conversion pass failed and NDSU trailed by a point with just under four minutes remaining.
Starting at its own 32-yard line, two runs by Iowa’s Leshun Daniels lost 1 yard, making it third-and-11. NDSU head coach Matt Entz, then the Bison defensive coordinator, remembers linebackers MJ Stumpf and Nick DeLuca making big plays on those runs.
Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard was sacked for a 9-yard loss forcing a punt.
“There was more of a mental error offensive-line wise,” Entz said this week. “It was three really good plays in a row. Our kids played unbelievably hard and just continued to give us opportunities to be successful.”
The Bison, after the Iowa punt, took over at their 34-yard line with 1:53 remaining in the game. Stick ran 29 yards on the first play to the Hawkeyes 37-yard line. That was followed by a 10-yard pass from Stick to wide receiver RJ Urzendowski.
Meanwhile, on the sideline, Fisher and Pedersen were doing their usual staying-ready routine, with Pedersen kicking a few into a portable net. Davis, as the backup quarterback, was hanging with the Bison offense on the sideline.
NDSU ran two plays for 7 yards and called time out with five seconds left. Pedersen developed a reputation for maintaining his cool in his career.
“I don’t remember specifically seeing what he looked like, but I think there was a confidence there because Cam has always been a super calm dude,” Fisher said.
The previous year, Pedersen kicked a 40-yard field goal in the fourth quarter at Youngstown State in a game the Bison eventually won by three points. In 2017, his 36-yard field goal in overtime won the game against the Penguins.
“I think I was focusing on that (Iowa) kick like any other kick and just trying to keep the routine the same,” Pedersen said. “That’s the biggest thing, you want everything to be the same. You want the routine to be the same and just treat it like any other time you’ve done it because I’ve kicked a million footballs. Just staying within myself is the biggest thing.”