North Dakota State's Adam Cofield scored on a 71-yard touchdown run late in the fourth quarter, pushing the top-ranked Bison over third-ranked South Dakota State, 23-16, in a battle of Missouri Valley Football Conference and Football Championship Subdivision heavyweights before a record crowd of 19,371 Saturday afternoon at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium.
In retaining the Dakota Marker, NDSU improved to 8-0 overall and 4-0 in the MVFC. The Jackrabbits dropped to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in league play.
Cofield's heroics spoiled a valiant comeback bid by the Jackrabbits, who played most of the game without starting quarterback J'Bore Gibbs. After the only points scored in the first half came on field goals, Ty Brooks gave the Bison a 10-6 lead on a 59-yard touchdown run up the middle midway through the first quarter.
The Bison quickly upped their lead to 16-6 moments later after forcing the first turnover of the day on a strip-sack by Spencer Waege that set up NDSU at the Jackrabbits' 14-yard line. NDSU cashed in five plays later as Trey Lance connected with tight end Ben Ellefson on a 6-yard touchdown pass. The two-point conversion failed.
SDSU rallied behind a strong running game to knot the game at 16-all by scoring on back-to-back drives to close out the third quarter and start the fourth. Chase Vinatieri's third field goal of the game, a 40-yarder, pulled the Jackrabbits to within 16-9.
On the next Jackrabbit possession, Pierre Strong, Jr. and Mikey Daniel notched runs of 10 and 23 yards, respectively, to move the ball to near midfield. Third-string quarterback Keaton Heide entered the lineup midway through the drive, rushing for 11 yards and completing a pass to Kal Hart for nine more to the NDSU 3 before keeping and scoring on the next snap to finish off a nine-play, 80-yard game-tying drive that consumed five minutes.
The two squads traded interceptions in their next offensive possessions; Levi Brown picked off Dimitri Williams on a halfback pass at the NDSU, but Josh Hayes came up with an interception of a Heide pass at the NDSU 15.
NDSU's game-winning score came on a fourth-and-inches play as Cofield took the handoff, cutting around right tackle and past the Jackrabbit defense for the 71-yard score.
The Jackrabbits settled for first-quarter field goals on each of their first two possessions. A 34-yard pass from Gibbs to Cade Johnson to the NDSU 15 on the second play of the game set up a 29-yard field goal by Vinatieri.
Gibbs left with an injury on the next possession and did not return. Backup Kanin Nelson converted on third-and-8 with a 12-yard run, with Vinatieri completing the drive with a 25-yard field goal.
The Bison, who had a field goal blocked on their first possession of the game, got on the board via a 22-yard field goal by Griffin Crosa on NDSU's lone drive of the second quarter - a 15-play, 85-yard march that chewed up more than eight minutes.
SDSU had a chance to increase its lead on the final play of the first half, but Vinatieri missed a 33-yard attempt.
NDSU finished with a 394-330 advantage in total offense, out-gaining the Jackrabbits on the ground, 332-220. Strong finished with a game-high 120 yards on 19 carries for SDSU. Brooks led the Bison with 97 yards on nine carries, with Cofield adding 86 yards on seven attempts.
Lance ended the game for the Bison 7-of-14 passing for 62 yards and added 76 rushing yards on 18 attempts. His completions were spread among seven different receivers.
SDSU's three quarterbacks combined for 110 yards through the air. Gibbs was 3-for-5 for 70 yards before exiting. Johnson was the top receiver with four catches for 76 yards.
Christian Rozeboom tallied a game-high 13 tackles for SDSU and forced a fumble. Michael Tutsie and Jabril Cox each registered seven stops for the Bison.
The Jackrabbits open the second half of the conference season by traveling to Missouri State on Nov. 2. Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m. at Plaster Stadium in Springfield, Mo.
• NDSU leads the all-time series, 63-42-5, and holds a 10-6 advantage in Dakota Marker games
• Saturday's game marked the 12th consecutive time (including playoffs) in which both teams were nationally ranked and seventh time in that span that both squads were ranked in the top 10
• SDSU fell to 36-44 in games against nationally ranked opponents since moving to the FCS ranks in 2004
• The Bison ran their winning streak to 29 games, with their last loss coming Nov. 4, 2017, at SDSU
• SDSU had its 15-game home winning streak snapped, falling to 24-3 all-time at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium since the facility opened in 2016
• The Jackrabbits fell to 5-1 this season when scoring first
• Rozeboom tied a season high with his 13 tackles, notching the 22nd double-digit tackling performance of his career and moving to within five tackles of tying Greg Osmundson (435 tackles from 1986-89) for the SDSU career lead
• Vinatieri tied his single-game career high with his three field goals and upped his career total to 45
• Strong posted his fourth 100-yard game of the season and ninth of his career
• The previous SDSU attendance record was 18,130 in the 2017 game against North Dakota State