After holding a halftime lead, the Western Illinois Leathernecks found out firsthand why North Dakota State has been annually considered a favorite to win the FCS national championship for nearly a decade.
The No. 2-ranked Bison scored a pair of third quarter touchdowns and held 10th-rated WIU in check after the halftime show to post a 24-12 victory.
North Dakota State--winners of five of the last six FCS titles--improved to 7-0 overall and a 4-0 in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Western slipped to 5-2 overall and 2-2 in the conference.
WIU did mount a late threat as the roommate combination of quarterback Sean McGuire and receiver Jaelon Acklin hooked up on a 45-yard completion to the NDSU five-yard line. However, the nation's top-ranked defense was able to stop Western on four straight plays, forcing a turnover on downs with 6:36 left.
"That one hurt, because we had to get that one in. We had to score the touchdown there and not settle for three because it still would have been a two-score game," head coach Charlie Fisher said on GoLeathernecks.com
Ball control Bison
"They are a team that knows how to bleed the clock, so we had to go for it there. Obviously our guys competed and we knew we had a great challenge. We played a heck of a football team. I know we have a good football team, and we knew that we were going to come in and compete to fight. They did everything I asked them to do, but we came up a little bit short," Fisher said.
Western got the ball back after a stop on 3rd-and-2, but on the ensuing drive, the Bison recorded their first takeaway of the game on an interception and would eventually run out the clock.
NDSU quarteback Easton Stick averaged 6.8 yards on nine carries and finished with 61 yards on the ground. He went 11-of-18 passing for 221 yards and threw his 45th career touchdown, tying Carson Wentz for third all-time at NDSU.
Quotable . . .
"I told our players that we were going to spill it out, not play with any regrets and move forward. We were right there and had a chance, but couldn't make a few plays. I tip my hat to North Dakota State. They came out in the second half and they made more plays than we did."
--WIU head coach Charlie Fisher
"I thought, especially in the second half, we dominated the line of scrimmage and that's the challenge we gave to the guys at halftime. We had to come out and own the line of scrimmage, both sides of the ball."
--NDSU head coach Chris Klieman
. . . and notable
Leatherneck receiver Jaelon Acklin moved into 10th place on the season 'Top 10' WIU yardage list at 943 yards, just one shy of ninth place.
Players of the game
NDSU quarterback Easton Stick finished 11-of-18 passing for 221 yards and a touchdown (two more running) while throwing the two first-half interceptions.
NDSU receiver RJ Urzendowski caught four passes for 100 yards, including a 58-yard touchdown late in the second quarter.
WIU senior linebacker Brett Taylor, the national leader in tackles per game, improved on his 14.5 average after recording a game-high 17 stops (9 solos).
WIU senior receiver Jaelon Acklin caught six passes for 115 yards.
By the numbers
4 -- Total penalties in the game (3 by Western Illinois)
5 -- Sacks by North Dakota State
12.3 -- Average yards-per-attempt by North Dakota State
23 -- Percent of third downs converted by Western Illinois (3-for-13)
43 -- Yard touchdown scored off an interception by WIU linebacker Quentin Moon
52 -- Yard field goal by Western's Nathan Erickson on the first attempt of his career
186 -- Difference in total offense (NDSU 402, WIU 216)
Western hosts nationally ranked South Dakota State Oct. 28 at Hanson Field