TERRE HAUTE, Ind. — The only thing keeping North Dakota State from a perfect season last year was a loss to Indiana State. That won’t be the case this year, even if the Bison go on to win it all again.
NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen made amends for last year’s debacle against the Sycamores by throwing for 186 yards and four touchdowns Saturday in a 56-10 Missouri Valley Football Conference win.
Linebacker Kyle Emanuel said last year’s loss was a motivator.
“Definitely it was a motivating factor for us. They got after us,” Emanuel said. “They got to celebrate on our home field, so we used that as fuel.”
NDSU has won 17 straight games and 16 straight on the road, including the last two NCAA Division I FCS championship games. The Bison haven’t lost since the 17-14 loss to the Sycamores last season at the Fargodome.
Against Indiana State, the Bison special teams scored three times and the defense added a score.
“Our guys have been working hard, and we feel like we’ve got good teams. It was great to see them come out today and have a huge impact on the game,” NDSU coach Craig Bohl said.
Ryan Smith had a 100-yard kickoff return and Chris Dudzik tied a MVFC record with two punt return scores.
“It was a lot of fun going out there and being able to run around a little bit,” Smith said.
Jensen threw two TD passes to Zach Vraa and one each to Smith and Trever Gebhart. He was 12-for-13 for 186 yards and three scores in the first half as NDSU raced out to a 49-10 lead. He left after three quarters having completed 13 of 14 passes.
Jensen completed his first seven passes for 139 yards before throwing an incompletion. But on the next play, he threw his third TD pass of the game, this one a 20-yarder to Smith all alone in the end zone.
Things couldn’t have started much worse for the Sycamores, whose first possession included a sack, an incomplete pass and a 15-yard personal foul penalty after a punt.
The Bison then marched 46 yards in six plays, capped by Jensen’s 11-yard TD pass on a straight slant to Vraa with 10:14 left in the first quarter.
Two plays later, linebacker Colten Heagle stepped in front of a Rob Tonyan pass and raced 35 yards for a score, giving NDSU a 14-0 lead.
“We knew they like to throw the ball more than they used to, so we honed in on that,” said Heagle, who had seven tackles.
The Bison limited ISU to 4-for-20 passing for 59 yards.
If there was any doubt who was in control, that was decided for good in the 38-point second quarter, Smith answered LeMonte Booker’s 97-yard kickoff return with a 100-yard (officially, about 103 yards unofficially) return of his own for a 35-10 NDSU lead. Twenty-seven seconds earlier he had caught a 20-yard TD pass.
On fourth-and-goal from the 3 late in the half, Jensen rolled right and threw a missile to Gebhart, who tip-toed the sideline for a TD that staked NDSU to a 42-10 lead with 2:21 left in the first half.
One minute later, Dudzik returned a punt 43 yards for a score. He had a 68-yard punt return in the third quarter.
Defensively, NDSU crushed ISU in the first half. It gave up just 44 total yards, all of it on the ground.
Tonyan was 0-for-8 with an interception that linebacker Heagle returned 35 yards for a touchdown during a 21-point first quarter.
NDSU 21 28 7 0 — 56
Indiana State 0 10 0 0 — 10
NDSU: Zach Vraa 11 pass from Brock Jensen (Adam Keller kick), 10:14.
NDSU: Colten Heagle 35 interception return (Keller kick), 9:52.
NDSU: Vraa 29 pass from Jensen (Keller kick), 4:36.
ISU: Eric Heidorn 40 FG, 14:15.
NDSU: Ryan Smith 20 pass from Jensen (Keller kick), 11:30.
ISU: LeMonte Booker 97 kickoff return (Heidorn kick), 11:16.
NDSU: Smith 100 kickoff return (Keller kick), 11:03.
NDSU: Trever Gebhart 3 pass from Jensen (Keller kick), 2:21.
NDSU: Chris Dudzik 43 punt return (Keller kick), 1:18.
NDSU: Dudzik 68 punt return (Keller kick), 9:09.
First downs 22 8
Rushes-yards 41-168 37-98
Yards passing 233 59
Com-Att-Int 17-19-0 4-20-1
Total yards 401 157
Fumbles-lost 3-2 0-0
Punts-average 3-40 8-42
Penalties-yards 4-53 5-48
Rushing: NDSU — Sam Ojuri 16-54, Brock Jensen 5-46, Chase Morlock 5-18, Derrick Lang 7-15, John Crockett 5-14, Carson Wentz 1-12, Ryan Smith 1-11. ISU — Buck Logan 15-76, LeMonte Booker 7-21, Kendall Walker 1-11, Trent Lancaster 1-3, Austen Wozniak 1-(minus 2), Ron Tonyan 12-(minus 11).
Passing: NDSU — Jensen 13-14-0, 186 yards; Wentz 4-5-0, 47 yards. ISU — Tonyan 3-17-1, 64 yards; Walker 1-2-0, minus-5 yards; Lancaster 0-1-0.
Receiving: NDSU — Zach Vraa 7-122, Taylor Nelson 3-35, Smith 2-37, Kevin Vaadeland 2-7, Luke Albers 1-29, Trever Gebhart 1-3, Eric Perkins 1-0. ISU — Tanner Riley 2-20, Demory Lawshe 1-44, Booker 1-(minus 5)
Records: NDSU 4-0 MVFC, 8-0 overall. ISU 0-4, 1-7.