FARGO, N.D. – Third-ranked South Dakota State took a lead into the fourth quarter against top-ranked North Dakota State Saturday afternoon at the Fargodome, but the Bison came away with the lone score of the final stanza on a 5-yard touchdown run by quarterback Easton Stick to regain the Dakota Marker with a 21-17 victory.
In the Missouri Valley Football Conference opener for both teams, NDSU improved to 4-0 overall, while the Jackrabbits fell to 2-1.
Stick engineered an eight-play, 80-yard drive for the winning score and added key runs late in the game to seal the victory. He began the game-winning drive with a 28-yard pass to Darrius Shepherd and 24-yard strike to Dallas Freeman before the Bison tallied the final 18 yards on the ground.
On the ensuing possession, SDSU missed a 48-yard field goal attempt that would have brought the Jackrabbits within a point. The Jackrabbits got the ball back one final time deep in their own territory with under six minutes to play, but did not pick a first down and gave the ball back to NDSU via a punt with 3 minutes and 32 seconds remaining.
The Bison ran out the clock as Stick, who gained a team-high 63 yards on 15 carries, picked up a pair of first downs on third-down runs.
The Jackrabbits' offense clicked early as eight of their first 16 plays from scrimmage resulted in first downs. On its second possession of the game, SDSU strung together a 10-play, 89-yard drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown pass from Taryn Christion to Cade Johnson. It was Johnson's seventh touchdown reception of the season.
SDSU was poised to go up by two scores on its next drive. Ten-yard runs by Isaac Wallace and Christion were followed by a 24-yard pass from Christion to Adam Anderson that moved the ball to the Bison 13. However, Christion's third-down pass to end zone was intercepted by Jalen Allison.
The Bison seized the momentum with the interception, putting together a pair of touchdown drives in the second quarter to take a 14-7 halftime lead. Stick scrambled for 22 yards and a first down on third-and-21, then connected with tight end Ben Ellefson on the next play from 17 yards for the game-tying score.
Later in the quarter, and after missing a 48-yard field goal moments earlier, the Bison took their first lead with a quick two-play, 56-yard drive. Ty Brooks ran for 15 yards before Stick found Shepherd over the middle for a 41-yard touchdown. Shepherd tallied a game-high 116 yards on five receptions.
The Jackrabbits went back in front, 17-14, by scoring all 10 points of the third quarter. Chase Vinatieri drilled a 39-yard field goal and Isaac Wallace followed on the next SDSU possession with a 61-yard touchdown run around right end. Wallace topped the 100-yard for the second game in a row with 110 yards on only nine carries.
Christion ended the day 19-of-29 passing for 202 yards, while Anderson paced the SDSU receiving corps with 102 yards, topping the century mark for the second consecutive game, on a career-high eight catches.
NDSU held a 389-357 advantage in total offense. Stick completed 9-of-20 passes for 182 yards.
Christian Rozeboom led the Jackrabbit defensive effort with a game-high 12 tackles, followed by redshirt freshman defensive tackle Krockett Krolikowski with seven stops, including 1.5 sacks. Ryan Earith also tallied a sack and a half for SDSU.
Jabril Cox and Robbie Grimsley each registered eight tackles to lead the Bison.