Southern Illinois scored the first 17 points of the game and Bison, the No. 1, couldn’t recover. The Salukis made that strong start to a 38-14 victory in the Missouri Valley Football Conference game at Saluki Stadium.
The Bison (2-1, 1-1 MVFC) had their 39-game winning streak interrupted, losing for the first time since the 2017 season.
“We didn’t get there and we played very well,” Bison head coach Matt Entz said. “There was no group of position that played well ”.
Southern Illinois running back Romeir Elliott enters the end zone against the state of North Dakota on Saturday, February 27, 2021, in Carbondale, Illinois. David Samson / The Forum
NDSU’s last loss was a 33-21 setback in the state of South Dakota on November 4, 2017. The three-time defending NCAA Division I FCS national champions were not initially scheduled to play southern Illinois this season fall, but the MVFC shuffled the league. schedule after the state of Indiana opted out of the season for health and safety concerns.
“This game will be recognized for a long time, perhaps the biggest win at that stadium,” Southern Illinois head coach Nick Hill said of the end of NDSU’s FCS record winning streak.
The Salukis (2-1, 1-1) pulled away early in the fourth quarter after quarterback Nic Baker threw a 6-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Landon Lenoir. That gave Southern Illinois a 24-7 lead with 13 minutes and 41 seconds left in the fourth quarter. Baker completed 17 of 23 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown. The 5-foot-9, 194-pound sophomore was making his first career start for southern Illinois.
“It’s what I hope, it’s what I’ve dreamed of,” Baker said. “I want those moments.”
“I really don’t have many words to explain,” Bison safety Michael Tutsie said. “It’s really difficult. It feels terrible.”
Southern Illinois forced a key rotation late in the third quarter to establish that score. Salukis safety Clayton Bush sacked Bison’s quarterback Zeb Noland, which his teammate Jordan Berner recovered near midfield. Bush’s big play came when NDSU had a first-ten play at the 42-yard line in southern Illinois. The Salukis took over on their own 49 with 1:13 to play in the third quarter.
Salukis cornerback Roderick Campbell intercepted Noland on the next possession, moving the ball to the Bison 18 with 13:09 to play after an NDSU penalty was added at the end of the return. Southern Illinois running back Javon Williams Jr. scored moments later on a 3-yard dash to give his team a 31-7 lead with 11:42 left in the fourth quarter.
The Salukis scored two touchdowns in less than two minutes, taking advantage of those consecutive turnovers.
“Turnover margin is the key to winning football games,” Southern Illinois head coach Nick Hill said. “It’s statistic number one.”
Second-year running back Romeir Elliot added a 20-yard touchdown run that gave the Salukis a 38-7 lead with 3:07 remaining.
“We’re just trying to finish, going against the country’s No. 1 team, trying to end their winning streak,” Elliott said.
The 6-foot-2, 224-pound Noland scored on a 5-yard touchdown run to cut the lead in southern Illinois to 38-14 with 2:16 left. He completed 13 of 24 passes for 159 yards and a touchdown with an interception.
Southern Illinois limited the Bison to 109 rushing yards on 21 attempts. The Salukis gained 443 yards on 73 plays, rushing for 170 yards on 48 attempts.
“There are not many teams that control the line of scrimmage against the state of North Dakota,” Hill said.
Southern Illinois dominated early on, gaining 254 yards on 38 plays in the first half, while possessing the ball for more than 21 minutes.
The Salukis scored the first touchdown of the game with a 93-yard drive on 12 plays that took nearly seven minutes. Elliott capped that series with a 3-yard touchdown run that gave Southern Illinois a 10-0 lead with 7:24 remaining in the second quarter.
The Salukis extended that advantage on their next trip. Southern Illinois marched 74 yards in seven plays on its way to the end zone. The big play was a pass from Baker to wide receiver Avante Cox for 65 yards. That big play came at third and 3 and moved the ball to Bison’s 2-yard line. Four plays later, Williams scored on a 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal. That gave the Salukis a 17-0 lead with 55 seconds left in the first half.
“We talked about not backing down, you have to hope to play well,” Hill said. “We really controlled the line of strikes. … Actually, in addition to two plays, we dominated the game of soccer.
The Bison showed some spark in its last mid attack. Noland hit wide receiver Jake Lippe on a 37-yard “Hail Mary” touchdown pass on the last play of the second quarter. Lippe was able to secure the ball with a tip in the end zone, cutting Salukis’ lead to 17-7 heading into halftime.
“The result definitely takes that away,” Lippe said. “It was a sweet play, but the only thing that matters to me is winning.”
The Bison were limited to 106 yards on 19 plays in the first 30 minutes. NDSU gained 80 of those yards on its last drive of the second quarter in six plays. Noland completed four consecutive passes to end the first half. El Bisonte had the ball for less than nine minutes in the first two quarters.
Southern Illinois dominated the game’s possession time, controlling the ball for more than 41 minutes.
“We have to be better in every way,” Tutsie said. “We never want to feel this feeling again because that is not how we operate at NDSU.”