Five takeaways from North Dakota State's blowout loss
By CRAIG HALEY
(Stats Perform) - The end of North Dakota State's FCS-record 39-game winning streak on Saturday at Southern Illinois underscores the Bison's sluggish start to the spring season.
SIU jumped to a 17-0 lead en route to a 38-14 win over the nation's top-ranked team - the second-largest loss of NDSU's Division I era (since 2004), trailing only a 38-7 defeat at Cal Poly on Oct. 8, 2005.
The loss also ended the Bison's 19-game winning streak in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
Following are five takeaways from the eye-opening game:
- North Dakota State has finished in the FCS top 20 in time of possession in every season since 2012, including four times in the top two, but held the ball for a mere 18 minutes, 34 seconds - the shortest amount of time during the Bison's D-I era by more than three minutes. Youngstown State also had a higher time of possession in the Bison's first spring game last Sunday.
"If you can't convert (first downs), you can't stay on the field," second-year coach Matt Entz said after his first career loss.
- The Bison's usual defensive dominance has not been evident through two spring games. Having returned only five defensive starters, they haven't forced a turnover and have only two sacks in the two spring games - one in each game. In contrast, their third straight national championship team in 2019 forced 23 turnovers and had 44 sacks in 16 games.
- Quarterback Zeb Noland has gotten off to a slow start in replacing Trey Lance, who went 17-0 as a starter and swept the 2019 Stats Perform Walter Payton (offense) and Jerry Rice (freshman) national awards. In his first two starts, Noland has missed too many open targets while completing just 52.4 percent of his attempts and averaging under 5.5 yards per attempt. The fifth-year senior isn't a running threat, so opposing linebackers have been able to drop in coverage to help defend Bison receivers.
"There was not any position group that played well," Entz said when asked about Noland.
- Credit Southern Illinois for the way for it bounced back from a blowout loss at North Dakota a week ago. Coach Nick Hill was a Salukis player when they posted their only other win over a No. 1-ranked opponent (31-20 over Western Kentucky on Oct. 27, 2005). In the highlight win of his six seasons, his team was a combined 12 of 17 on third- and fourth-down conversions and scored on all five trips inside NDSU's 20. The Salukis racked up 443 yards, a number topped only once in the Bison's 39-game winning streak (Northern Iowa had 466 in a 56-31 loss on Oct. 6, 2018).
"This game will be recognized for a long time, maybe the biggest win in that stadium," Hill said.
- The Bison don't lose games often, but in some ways it was just another Saturday in the extremely deep MVFC. All five of the conference's preseason ranked teams - the Salukis plus Top 10 NDSU, Northern Iowa, South Dakota State and Illinois State - have a conference loss after two weeks of the regular season. The schedule won't get easier for anybody, and some quality teams will be left out of the shortened FCS playoffs.
Updated February 27, 2021