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Kolpack: Bison offensive freight train flattens Salukis

NDSU reverses last spring's streak-ending loss to SIU with convincing victory.

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North Dakota State quarterback Cam Miller signals silence to Southern Illinois defense after scoring a first quarter touchdown during the FCS playoffs at the Fargodome on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
Forum Communications Co.

Fargo

Turns out Jalen Bussey could have been predicting a score rather than rehashing an old one. One week ago, the North Dakota State running back tweeted “38-14” after the Bison found out who they were going to play in the second round of the FCS playoffs.

That would be Southern Illinois. The same Salukis who ended NDSU’s 39-game winning streak last spring with a 38-14 win. This one at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome had a similar feel, only the performance of the teams changed.

This time the Bison were really good. And the Salukis not so much.

NDSU’s 38-7 victory on Saturday was a clinic in time of possession. That’s the statistic that measures how much time each team had the ball and the Bison had it so often they owned stock in the football manufacturer.

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North Dakota State quarterback Cam Miller breaks away from Southern Illinois' Kholbe Coleman and Anthony Knighton for a touchdown in the second quarter during the FCS playoffs at the Fargodome on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
Forum Communications Co.

It was a clinic in offensive line play. By the time NDSU had its only punt of the game, with one minute left in the third quarter, the Salukis defensive linemen were spending more time with their hands on the hips (the body language model for being tired) than their offense had the ball.

“The first drive of the second half, it just took everything out of them,” said Bison quarterback Cam Miller. “They had their hands on their hips.”

There’s no FCS playoff record for most time of possession in one quarter, but the Bison would have been close in the second quarter. Southern Illinois scored on the first play of the frame to pull within 10-7.

After that, the Salukis rarely saw the ball.

The Bison responded with a 13-play, 65-yard drive that took just over seven minutes. Perhaps the offensive drive of kill for the Salukis came on the ensuing three plays. Javon Williams ran for no gain. Williams threw an incomplete pass. Quarterback Nic Baker, on third down, was incomplete on a screen pass.

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North Dakota State' quarterback Quincy Patterson carries against Southern Illinois' DJ Johnson during the FCS playoffs at the Fargodome on Saturday, Dec. 4, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
Forum Communications Co.

In the amount of time it took to introduce superfan Bob Clark at his 500th straight NDSU game, the Salukis had to punt.

It put the Saluki defense back on the field. This time, sensing the Saluki defense was gassed and barely had time to sip a cup of water on the sideline, the Bison went all running plays. They didn’t have to do anything else.

"Physically they wear you out and they did that to us tonight," said SIU head coach Nick Hill.

Miller, backup and new run package-master quarterback Quincy Patterson, and running backs Kobe Johnson and TaMerik Williams took turns with the carries in an 11-play, 63-yard drive. It ended with a Miller touchdown run from 5 yards and it was 24-7.

“For me it’s fun to watch our backs get 10, 15 yards a carry,” Miller said. “It was awesome to see. I feel like the five guys up front have better chemistry and think our guys are just going out and playing fast.”

The time of possession in the quarter: the Bison had the ball for 13 minutes, 25 seconds. A quarter consists of 15 minutes.

“The offense moves as the offensive line moves,” Williams said. “That’s always good. I feel like in the playoffs, this is where you want to peak and get into a rhythm and I feel like it’s big time for us. The train is already rolling and it’s only going to get better from here.”

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Speaking of a train, that fits Williams. The 6-foot-2, 225-pound junior is a load to begin with, but especially this time of the year when he looks fresh against defenders who have a season of tackling on their tires.

“When I’m coming through a hole and I see a defender, their eyes get real big,” Williams said. “So I know like, OK, he doesn’t want to tackle me. I just give the ball to the ref and do it again.”

As if that wasn’t enough to deflate the Salukis, the Bison got the ball to start the third quarter. Nothing changed. Fifteen plays. Seventy-five yards. That touchdown drive took the first 8:31 of the third quarter and it was 31-7.

Ever heard of the cliche a quarterback had so much time to throw the ball he could have had a ham sandwich? The Bison defense could have cooked a five-course meal in the time the offense was on the field.

It reached the point where the defense had to do its best to not get cold on the sideline.

“I’ll take that time if I just have to warm up any extra with the offense staying on the field,” said safety Michael Tutsie. “It was awesome to see the offense go like that. I’ll take that any day.”

NDSU finished with a 37:45 to 22:15 advantage. They ran the ball 62 times. That’s 62 times the offensive line moved the Salukis back a few yards at the line of scrimmage.

That 38-14 tweet from Bussey? The Bison players didn't need anybody to remind them of the 39-game winning streak coming to a busting end in Carbondale, Ill.

“I said it last year, we just kind of rolled the helmets out and expected to win,” Tutsie said. “I think we took it a lot more seriously. We tackled a lot better. We were great with our pre snap looks and we did some different things to affect their quarterback and just we played a lot harder. We played harder and it looked like Bison defense, Bison football.”

Related Topics: FCS FOOTBALL
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