No. 1 North Dakota State hands Bears first MVFC loss

SPRINGFIELD – No. 1 North Dakota State used a stifling defensive effort to clamp down on a 27-3 victory over Missouri State Saturday afternoon at Robert W. Plaster Stadium. The Bison forced four turnovers and limited MSU to just 30 rushing yards, while the NDSU offense rolled up 269 yards on the ground to overcome a strong start by the Bears (3-2, 1-1 MVFC).

NDSU (5-0, 2-0 MVFC) overcame a sluggish start that saw MSU take a 3-0 lead into the second quarter, thanks in large part to a defense that held the Bison to just one first down and minus-six yards in the opening quarter.
Matt Plank totaled 6.0 tackles, including three of NDSU’s 11 tackles for losses, and King Frazier rushed for a game-high 126 yards and a pair of touchdowns to lead a Bison offense that outgained the Bears by a 428-176 margin in total offense.

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Over the final three periods, the Bison gashed the Bears for 275 rushing yards and controlled the football for just under 27 of the remaining 45 minutes.

After outscoring Indiana State by a 45-17 margin to close out last Saturday’s MVFC victory, the Bears picked up right where they left off, using a 13-play drive on their opening possession to take an early 3-0 lead. Brodie Lambert completed 4-of-6 passes for 33 yards, before Zach Drake nailed a career-best 50-yard field goal to open the scoring.

NDSU seized control of the defensive struggle with a dominant second-quarter performance in which the Bison defense limited the Bears to just 15 yards of total offense. Trailing 3-0 entering the second period, the visitors evened the score with an 11-play drive, which was capped by the first of Cam Pedersen’s two first-half field goals. The Bison kicked their high-powered ground attack into gear, accounting for 43 of their 52 first-half rushing yards on the drive.

Next, the NDSU defense registered a momentum-swinging play, as Jalen Allison stepped in front of a Brodie Lambert pass at the MSU 29 to give the ball back to the Bison. Easton Stick teamed up with Darrius Shepherd for the go-ahead 21-yard scoring pass on a 3rd-and-10 call.

On the Bears’ ensuing drive, a Jason Randall 11-yard run handed MSU its lone first down of the period, before another critical defensive play halted the possession. A scrambling Lambert was stripped by Nate Tanguay, and Stanley Jones scooped up the fumble at the Bears 26 for the second Bison takeaway of the quarter.

The Bears defense stiffened to force a punt, however, after a holding penalty and a short run stalled the drive.

A pair of long completions from Stick—a 12-yarder to Nate Jenson, and a 19-yarder to Shepherd—set up another Pedersen field goal in the closing minutes of the half to make it a 13-3 game at the break.

Following the Bears’ initial scoring drive to open the game, the NDSU defense stepped up its game to force a pair of turnovers and limit MSU to just 28 yards of offense over the remainder of the half.

The Bison dominated the third quarter time of possession battle, eating up 6:44 of clock time on their opening drive of the half and controlling the ball for over 10 minutes in the period. Altogether, NDSU rushed 14 times for 103 yards in the third period, highlighted by Bruce Anderson’s 53-yard run late in the quarter.

A pair of fourth-quarter touchdowns by Frazier would eliminate any doubt about the outcome of the game. The third MSU turnover of the day—a Lambert fumble that was returned by Aaron Steidl to the MSU 22—set up a back-breaking scoring run by Frazier on the next play from scrimmage that stretched the NDSU lead to 20-3 with 13:08 to play. With just under five minutes remaining on the clock, the senior running back would strike again, this time from four yards out to cap a 72-yard drive—the longest of the day for either club.

In all, NDSU gained 217 rushing yards on 20 second-half carries to help seal its sixth-straight win over the Bears.

Dylan Cole led a valiant effort by the Missouri State defense, which held the Bison to just 37 yards while forcing a pair of three-and-out possessions on NDSU’s first three drives of the game. Cole tallied a game-high 15 tackles, including 2.5 stops for losses, a forced fumble and a quarterback hurry, while freshman safety Cameron Price finished with a career-high nine tackles and a pass break-up.

For the second straight week, junior receiver Malik Earl turned in a banner performance for the MSU offense. He reeled in a game-high seven catches for 53 yards, while Lambert completed his day 20-of-35 for 146 yards through the air.

Up next, Missouri State hosts Western Illinois next Saturday (Oct. 17) for a 2 p.m. homecoming match-up at Robert W. Plaster Stadium.