North Dakota State Notebook
Release: September 24, 2011
MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - Not one of North Dakota State's players was offered scholarships by a Big Ten school.
The Bison have built-in motivation any time they face Minnesota, no matter how overmatched an FCS team should be against an opponent from a BCS conference. But the way North Dakota State has played the Gophers, it's been difficult to determine which team was from the lower level.
Marcus Williams had two defensive touchdowns for North Dakota State on Saturday to help the Bison pull off another win over Minnesota, 37-24.
``It was pretty emotional, really, being from here and going up against the home state. People thinking I wasn't good enough to play here, probably wasn't going to play D-I ball at all,'' Williams said. ``Just coming in here and showing up and playing a real good game, it just felt real good.''
Williams, a sophomore cornerback who played at Hopkins High School in the Twin Cities - one of the dozens of Minnesotans that make up half of NDSU's roster - returned an interception of Max Shortell's 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 throw and tossed the ball back to Williams as he was taken down. Williams raced 52 more yards to put the Bison (3-0) ahead 28-14 at the break.
That's a play that NDSU practices.
``I'm yelling, 'Pitch, pitch, pitch!' and he pitched it back,'' Williams said. ``It had a great bounce. It was pitched right to me.''
NDSU scored touchdowns on drives of 65, 83 and 71 yards in the first half before the highlight-reel play by Heagle and Williams as time expired.
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.
McNorton, who was held out of the previous game with a sprained ankle and had an extra week to recover because the Bison didn't play last Saturday, looked plenty agile cutting and planting in the first half before the Gophers began to bottle up the Bison ground game.
McNorton spun past cornerback Troy Stoudermire - who played with a broken forearm - with a cunning juke on his way to a 58-yard gain late in the second quarter to set up his own score, which gave NDSU a 21-14 lead with 24 seconds left in the half.
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.
But the Bison played with more confidence, polish and discipline and seemed to have their game plan a step ahead of Minnesota's the entire game.
So is NDSU actually the better program at this point? ``We feel that way,'' McNorton said.
Bohl said he wasn't ``going to go there'' but acknowledged the confidence level the Bison brought to this game.
``If we played well, we'd win,'' Bohl said. ``It wasn't going to be a deal where Minnesota was going to need to fumble the football and do a lot of miscues. If we played well, we were going to win.''
Bison fans accounted for perhaps one-fourth of the 48,000-plus crowd, and NDSU even brought its full band.
This was the third time Minnesota had played North Dakota State since the Bison moved up from Division II, 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.
``They passed up on half our team, so the feeling that I had was the feeling that everyone else that's from Minnesota had tonight,'' said left tackle Billy Turner, who played at Mounds View High School in the Twin Cities.