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South Dakota State dominates 2nd half to knock off top-ranked Bison

SDSU scored 16 unanswered points in the second half to rally past NDSU.

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South Dakota State’s sophomore running back Amar Johnson holds up the marker trophy for his team to see after their win against North Dakota State on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, at the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum
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FARGO — No. 2-ranked South Dakota State owned the final 30 minutes Saturday afternoon at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

The Jackrabbits scored 16 unanswered points in the second half to rally for a 23-21 victory against top-ranked North Dakota State in Missouri Valley Football Conference play before a sellout crowd of 18,603 fans.

The Bison offense was nearly unstoppable in the first half, but didn't score after halftime. SDSU (6-0, 4-0 MVFC) has won three consecutive Dakota Marker games. The Bison (5-2, 3-1) lost their first conference game, unable to hold a 14-point halftime lead.

"I just thought they played better in the second half than they did in the first half," Bison quarterback Cam Miller said of the SDSU defense. "I don't think we really changed much. They did a really good job. And we just didn't execute. And that comes down to us players on the field."

Jackrabbits kicker Hunter Dustman hit a 18-yard field goal for a 23-21 lead with 3 minutes, 49 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter, SDSU's first lead of the game.

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"I learned something about our team in the second half and that I really love what I learned," SDSU head coach John Stiegelmeier said.

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North Dakota State’s Joe Stoffel gets some air as he’s tackled by South Dakota State’s Dalys Beanum during their football game on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, at the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

SDSU scored on the first drive of the second half to cut the Bison lead to 21-10 after a Dustman 31-yard field goal with 10:47 to play in the third quarter. That 61-yard scoring drive took 10 plays.

The Jackrabbits added an Amar Johnson 16-yard touchdown run that cut the Bison lead to 21-17 with 3:03 to play in the third quarter. Moments earlier, the Bison nearly covered a quarterback Mark Gronowski fumble at the SDSU 29-yard line, but the Jackrabbits were able to grab the loose ball to keep the drive alive. That missed turnover opportunity proved to be a turning point.

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SDSU offensive lineman Mason McCormick recovered the fumble.

"I love my hogs," Gronowski said. "They bring 110% effort every single play. And if Mason doesn't show all that effort on that play, we might not win that game."

The Jackrabbits scored on their first four drives of the second half and didn't punt after halftime.

Dustman also had a 38-yard field goal that trimmed the Bison lead to 21-20 with 10:25 to play in the fourth quarter. Dustman was 3-for-3 on field goals in the second half.

Earlier in the game, NDSU look positioned to knockout the Jackrabbits.

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The Bison started fast and took a 7-0 lead after receiver DJ Hart caught a 22-yard touchdown pass from Miller with 11:07 to play in the first quarter. The game's opening drive covered 75 yards and took seven plays. Miller completed 4 of 4 passes for 53 yards on the first drive.

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South Dakota State's Isaiah Davis makes a touchdown run against North Dakota State during their football game Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, in Fargo.
Michael Vosburg/The Forum

SDSU countered on its first drive. Running back Isaiah Davis scored on a bruising 24-yard touchdown run that tied the score at 7-7 with 4:21 to play in the first quarter. That drive covered 75 yards and lasted 11 plays. The Jackrabbits converted two key third downs on that scoring march. Davis had five carries for 54 yards on the drive.

The Bison answered quickly with a Miller 6-yard TD run for a 14-7 lead with 3:02 to play in the first quarter. NDSU covered 60 yards in three plays for the score, including a Hart 29-yard catch to the SDSU 6.

Bison fullback Hunter Luepke caught a 30-yard touchdown pass from Miller for a 21-7 lead with 11:08 to play in the second quarter. On the play, Miller faked a run into the line of scrimmage before pulling up and lofting the TD pass to a wide open Luepke. That drive covered 59 yards in nine plays.

"I don't know if anyone ever feels like they're in control in this game," Bison head coach Matt Entz said. "I mean, we've seen pretty unique ups and downs throughout this series. And so I don't think anyone felt like we were comfortable at that time."

Miller had a stellar first half, completing 12 of 12 passes for 181 yards and two touchdowns.

"Doesn't matter," Miller said. "We didn't win."

The Bison had 280 yards on 30 plays in the opening 30 minutes.

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North Dakota State’s Cam Miller gives a thumbs up to the crowd as he enters the end zone for a six-yard touchdown against South Dakota State during their football game on Saturday, Oct. 15, 2022, at the Fargodome.
Alyssa Goelzer/The Forum

"We were glad to be only be down by that much," Gronowski said of the 14-point halftime deficit. "Our offense wasn't really playing that great, but we're also shooting ourselves in the foot (but) they weren't stopping us. We were stopping ourselves."

The Jackrabbits defense was stingy after halftime, however, limiting the Bison to 74 yards on 22 plays over the final two quarters. SDSU had 248 yards on 34 plays in the second half.

The Bison have a bye week before they next host Illinois State on Oct. 29.

"The only thing I do know how to do is work hard and so we're going to get back to work," Entz said. "I'm excited about it because we're gonna find out who really wants to get down to work, get their hands dirty and get better."

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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