Bison notebook: NDSU field goal game makes a difference against South Dakota
NDSU's Griffin Crosa makes both of his attempts, including difference maker in fourth quarter
VERMILLION, S.D. — After not making a field goal through its first three games, North Dakota State leaned on kicker Griffin Crosa in a road victory over South Dakota on Saturday in its Missouri Valley Football Conference opener.
Crosa, a junior, booted two field goals in the Bison's 34-17 win at the DakotaDome before 6,530 fans. NDSU was 0-for-2 in field goals prior to the game, with Will Cardinal missing twice.
Crosa's 25-yard field goal with 8 minutes, 27 seconds left in the fourth quarter was crucial, giving the Bison a 27-17 lead.
"We needed to take some points and get up multiple scores," said NDSU head coach Matt Entz. "I was excited for Griffin to be able to knock a few through. It hasn't been something we've been the most consistent at, but it's been something we've been improving at over the last few weeks."
Crosa also made a 26-yarder in the second quarter.
The Bison entered the season with an "or" on the depth chart at kicker. Either Crosa or Cardinal was slated to be the field goal kicker. Entz indicated Crosa would kick extra points and short field goals, while Cardinal would be the kicker on longer field goals.
Crosa played a key role in the Bison's 2019 championship season when as a true freshman, he replaced an injured Jake Reinholz in the first game of the season. Crosa played in 14 of 16 games that year and went 60 of 61 on PATs. He made 11 of 15 field goals with a long of 46 yards at Delaware.
Stoffel fills in for Gindorff, turns in his best career game
NDSU standout tight end Noah Gindorff sat out the game with an undisclosed injury. Junior Joe Stoffel filled in and had two catches for 28 yards.
Stoffel's 7-yard reception on third-and-6 early in the fourth extended a key drive that ended in Crosa's 25-yard field goal for a 27-17 lead.
"Huge catch," Entz said. "The way we practice the double-repping, the volume of reps we get at practice, I think that's why you see a young man like him starting to have success."
The 6-foot-3, 245-pound Stoffel, from River Falls, Wis., had two catches for 28 yards. With Gindorff out, it may put more playing time in the future of redshirt freshman Finn Diggins from Perham, Minn.
"Now there needs to be guys like Finn Diggins and Logan Hofstedt to continue to develop and grow," Entz said. "And Carson Williams. There's a lot of room for us to continue to improve."
Mauch: Focus after halftime was to finish drives
The Bison controlled the ball for 12:35 of the 15-minute fourth quarter, a testament to the NDSU offensive line laying down the law after halftime.
"We just kind of talked to each other and said have faith in what we're doing," said senior left tackle Cody Mauch. "At least offensively we thought we were running the ball pretty well, we just couldn't finish drives. That was our focal point at halftime."
That focal point turned to actions on the first two drives of the third quarter. The Bison scored on both to erase a 17-10 halftime deficit.
"We're wearing on them, let's make it hurt in the fourth quarter," Mauch said.
Mauch didn't think the 31-28 loss last Saturday night at Arizona was much of an issue in the Missouri Valley Football Conference opener. Entz thought his team played tight.
"It's always a fact that USD, they're a good football team," he said. "Any Valley game can be a good game. We're always going to get everyone's best shot and we're always going to give it our best shot and they got our best shot in the second half there."
First-quarter penalties hurt Bison from good start
For the second straight game, a Bison false start on their first possession of the game may have been costly. After holding the Coyotes offense after the opening kickoff, the Bison went on the march.
A 21-yard pass to Stoffel got the Bison to the Coyote 36-yard line. A pass to receiver Zach Mathis reached the 22. But on third-and-6, with Luepke appearing to have running room, Stoffel was called for a false start forcing third-and-11.
Miller was picked off by USD cornerback Myles Harden on the next play.
A roughing-the-kicker penalty on NDSU in the first quarter was costly. The Bison forced a third-and-9 incompletion by USD quarterback Carson Camp. But NDSU's Dawson Weber, with a couple of other teammates on a heavy rush, ran into Coyotes punter John Bickle, giving USD a first down.
Seven plays later, USD got on the board with a field goal and a 3-0 lead.
Odds and ends
Despite trailing at halftime, NDSU avoided consecutive losses for the first time since 2009. The Bison lost 31-28 at Arizona last week. ... Bison receiver Phoenix Sproles (hamstring) and tight end Noah Gindorff (undisclosed) missed the game with injuries. ... Left guard Nash Jensen left the game in the first quarter with an injury. He was replaced initially by Brandon Westberg before "ogre" lineman Grey Zabel switched jersey numbers from 98 to 74 and filled in for Jensen. ... Entz said backup quarterback Cole Payton — who did not play for the first time this season — had plays designed for him against USD, the Bison just didn't get to them.