Story and photo courtesy of North Dakota State Athletics
FARGO, N.D. - John Crockett scored the game-winning touchdown and Marcus Williams closed out the win with an interception as North Dakota State rallied to defeat Southern Illinois 23-17 in a Missouri Valley Football Conference game played before 18,066 fans at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome on Saturday, Oct. 27.
North Dakota State improved to 4-1 in the conference and 7-1 overall, while Southern Illinois drops to 4-2 in the MVFC and 5-4 overall. The Bison and South Dakota State are a half-game behind conference leader Indiana State.
After Austin Johnson's 35 yard field goal put Southern Illinois ahead 17-10 with 51 seconds left in the third quarter, the Bison responded with 13 answered points.
NDSU embarked on a seven-play, 79-yard drive capped off by Derrick Lang's 1-yard scoring play to tie the game at 17 with 12:38 left. A 50-yard completion from Brock Jensen to Andrew Okland highlighted the drive, which featured Lang in shotgun, handed off to Trevor Gebhart who then handed off to Jensen.
The Bison defense, which held SIU to 55 yards in the second half, forced a punt following a three-and-out. NDSU limited the Salukis to eight first downs and 3 of 10 third down conversions overall.
Ryan Smith returned the ensuing punt 16 yards. Crockett scored from five yards out as NDSU went 52 yards on 11 plays, taking 5:28 off the clock. Southern Illinois blocked its second kick of the game, the extra point try. The Salukis blocked a field goal to set up Johnson's three-pointer.
Williams recorded his fourth interception of the season with 3:37 remaining in the fourth quarter to end Southern Illinois' next drive. Williams has 15 career picks and is second all-time at NDSU. He also tied a career-high with five solo tackles.
North Dakota State outgained the Salukis 386-177 and held a 40:48 to 19:12 edge in time of possession. The Bison converted 10 of 17 third downs and had 23 first downs.
Ojuri rushed 20 times for a season-high 90 yards, while Crockett gained 75 yards on 15 carries. Jensen completed 15 of 25 passes for 200 yards to five different receivers. Smith caught six passes for 88 yards.
Southern Illinois took a 7-0 lead on Kory Faulkner's 32-yard touchdown pass to LaSteven McKinney on the game's opening drive. Jensen tied the game at 7-7 with 12:26 left in the second quarter on a 1-yard run following a 16-play, 66-yard drive that ate 10 minutes off the clock.
The Salukis went up 14-7 on Brandon Williams 55-yard fumble return after Jensen was sacked by Tyler Williamson.
NDSU trimmed the deficit to 14-10 at halftime on Adam Keller's 24-yard field goal.
North Dakota State's defense has held eight of its last nine opponents to under 250 yards, dating back to the 2011 Division I FCS championship game against Sam Houston State. Linebackers Carlton Littlejohn and Grant Olson each had six tackles for NDSU which had five tackles for loss, three pass breakups and a pair of sacks including 1.5 from Kyle Emanuel.
It was North Dakota State's first fourth quarter rally since coming back to defeat Youngstown State 34-29 on the road Oct. 9, 2010.