North Dakota State Upsets Minnesota 37-24

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — When North Dakota State comes to Minnesota, the Bison make themselves at home.

The Gophers just keep playing the role of the far-too-gracious host.

Marcus Williams had two defensive touchdowns for North Dakota State, including a wild play at the end of the first half on Saturday, to help an FCS team pull off yet another win at Minnesota, 37-24.

“Coach out-coached me, their team outplayed us and they deserved to win the game,” Gophers coach Jerry Kill said, adding: “I feel bad for our students. I feel bad for the state of Minnesota. I feel bad for our fans, and I feel bad for our kids.”

Williams, a sophomore cornerback who played at Hopkins High School in the Twin Cities — one of the dozens of Minnesotans who make up half of NDSU’s roster — returned an interception of Max Shortell’s late heave 40 yards for a touchdown to seal the game.

On the final play of the first half, teammate Colten Heagle picked off MarQueis Gray’s risky pass at the 18 and tossed the ball back to Williams as he was taken down near midfield. Williams raced 52 more yards to put the Bison (3-0) ahead 28-14 at the break.

“It was pretty emotional, really, being from here and going up against the home state,” Williams said. “People thinking I wasn’t good enough to play here, probably wasn’t going to play D-I ball at all.”

Donnell Kirkwood rushed 10 times for 70 yards and two touchdowns for the Gophers (1-3), but once again, it was difficult to determine which team was from the BCS conference — and who was playing at home.

“Our players had a great deal of confidence coming in,” said Bison coach Craig Bohl, whose team is 5-3 against FBS foes since moving up from Division II. “If we played well, we’d win.”

NDSU scored touchdowns on drives of 65, 83 and 71 yards in the first half before the tag-team touchdown by Heagle and Williams as time expired. Minnesota’s spirit disappeared, too.

“It was depleted. It was devastated. It’s a different ballgame if that doesn’t happen,” safety Kim Royston said.

Even when the Bison finally faced their first fourth down, with 6:25 left in the third quarter, Ryan Jastram kicked a 49-yard field goal with room to spare to stretch the lead to 31-14.

D.J. McNorton rushed 13 times for 92 yards for NDSU, and Brock Jensen completed 16 of 21 passes for 197 yards — plus 37 yards rushing and a score on six scrambles.

“NDSU’s a great team. Their quarterback’s a good player. But it comes down to what we do. Whatever they got, we gave to ’em, as far as I’m concerned,” said Royston.

The Gophers, who gave the Bison three first downs via penalties on their first two possessions, rushed for 168 yards — including a 10-play, 95-yard march, all on the ground, to tie the game at 14.

“The holes were there. It’s not like I had to fight for anything. The first five yards were coming easy,” Kirkwood said.

But the Bison played with more polish and seemed to have their game plan a step ahead of Minnesota’s the entire game.

The Gophers rotated Gray and Shortell at quarterback, and they didn’t have any rhythm when they needed it at the end. Shortell found tight end Eric Lair for a 20-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-7 to bring the Gophers within 31-24 with 9:05 left, but they couldn’t get any momentum after that.

Gray was 5 for 12 for 53 yards passing and netted just 23 yards rushing on 13 attempts. Shortell went 4 for 8 for 71 yards. Kill said he wasn’t sure yet how he’d manage that position moving forward.

“I ain’t blaming nobody else, baby. That’s me,” Kill said. “I’m putting way too much on these kids. You’d like to be able to just hand the ball off and let ’em learn to play quarterback, but we’re not in that situation right now.”

For the Gophers, struggling against an FCS foe in front of their own fans is nothing new, though it’s not any less humbling and frustrating for a school with an athletics department budget about five times as big as NDSU’s.

Minnesota lost to South Dakota last year. The Gophers barely beat South Dakota State in a three-point game the season before that. Two weeks ago, they lost at home to New Mexico State, an FBS team but frequently one of the weakest in the NCAA’s top tier.

This was the third time Minnesota had played North Dakota State in the last five years, and this game was every bit as difficult for the Gophers as the meetings in 2006 and 2007. Minnesota needed a blocked field goal as time ran out to preserve a 10-9 victory the first year and lost 27-21 to NDSU the following season.

Bison fans accounted for perhaps one-fourth of the 48,000-plus crowd, and NDSU even brought its full band.

(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

  • Joe A.

    What upset. The gophere have no offense and no defense. A new coach, a familiar failure. I can’t figure out what this “system” that Coach Kill brought with him from that famous football power house we lured him from. Apparently it’s a system that has bad offense and bad defense. Even Brewster could see that Gray could’t play QB. I don’t think the use of “UPSET” in the headline was appropriate. Perhaps “expected ” would be better. It’s good that we tore down Memorial Stadium and moved to the Dome so we could get a better football program. And now we’ve moved back to campus to get a better football program. Until we hire a coach with some major league experience, like we did when we hired Tubby (wasn’t that a surprise hire for the U!), we won’t have a winning football program. NDSU has better Minnesota players than the Gopers.

  • NDSUFan

    Joe, I won’t disagree with you. I am an NDSU grad, and for sure whenever we come to play U of MN in football, the ante is upped 110%. Since this rivalry started, NDSU has regarded it as a test of talent in its program- and clearly in recent history NDSU has proven victorious. Whether it be for a conference game or not- I do disagree with your comments about your coach. It doesn’t take a coach with major league experience- it simply takes a coach with knowledge of the game, but furthermore knowldege of the TEAM he has playing for him. I think any coach can be good or bad regardless of their history, but a coach that clearly understands his players strengths and weaknesses will always be successful. PROUD TO BE A BISON TODAY!!

  • Bison Mom

    The Gophers are better than they were last year. But for NDSU, this game between the two gives them a chance to shine on a bigger stage. Give Coach Kill a chance but don’t diminish the win for the Bison. They earned the win over the Gophers.

  • Phid

    Hard to be a MN sports fan in times like this. If it’s not the perennially-underperforming Gophers football and basketball teams, it’s the Vikings, T-Wolves, and even the Twins this year. What do we have to look forward to? Ah, but the Wild did get Heatly, which is quite nice. Still, are we doomed to see all our major sports franchises be mediocre at best?

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