No. 1 NDSU downs Salukis 31-10 with second-half surge

    LaSteven McKinney led SIU with six receptions and scored the Salukis' only touchdown of the game.

    LaSteven McKinney led SIU with six receptions and scored the Salukis' only touchdown of the game.
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    Oct. 19, 2013

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    CARBONDALE, Ill. – No. 1 North Dakota State ran away from Southern Illinois with three third quarter touchdown runs to hand the Salukis a 31-10 homecoming loss Saturday afternoon at Saluki Stadium. The loss negated SIU's bid for a win over a top 10 team in three-consecutive weeks.

    The Bison (7-0, 4-0 MVFC) scored 31 unanswered points after SIU (4-4, 2-2 MVFC) built a 10-0 lead midway through the second quarter.

    “We played well enough in the first half to put ourselves in position to win,” SIU Coach Dale Lennon said. “We came out with a chance to win in the second half. Unfortunately, the events that happened prevented that.”

    Following SIU’s first drive of the second half, Saluki starting quarterback Kory Faulkner left the game with an injury to his throwing hand. The drive ended when SIU missed a 48-yard field goal attempt. From that point on, the Bison outgained SIU by a margin of 296 to 40 yards. North Dakota State finished with 504 yards of total offense.

    “They just got the momentum and flow to get their game going,” Lennon said. “Once they get that north-south game going, they are hard to stop. It seems like it shouldn’t be that difficult, but it is.”

    The Bison took a 14-10 lead when John Crockett scored on a 10-yard touchdown run with just over eight minutes left in the third quarter. It came two plays after the drive was extended when Saluki linebacker Bryan Presume was called offside on a missed field goal attempt.

    “I think that a big part of the game is that we weren’t able to keep our offense on the field, especially in the second half,” Lennon said. “We gave them the momentum. They went from missing a field goal to getting a first down and eventually a touchdown.”

    Crockett capped the next two drives with a 26-yard touchdown run and then a 30-yard touchdown run to extend the lead to 28-10 and put the game out of reach with under a minute left in the third quarter.

    Crockett finished with a career-high 171 rushing yards. He and fellow Bison tailback Sam Ojuri combined for 308 yards on the ground.

    NDSU Coach Craig Bohl credited the effective rushing attack to having all five starting offensive linemen healthy.

    “We were really encouraged to be able to have those five guys back,” Bohl said. “I think it’s really important for us to be able to come up with those five guys, and I thought our running backs were just phenomenal as well.”

    SIU took a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter when Faulkner completed seven-straight passes and punctuated an 80-yard drive with a 13-yard touchdown pass to LaSteven McKinney. Midway through the second quarter, Thomas Kinney extended the lead to 10-0 with a career-long 47-yard field goal.

    However, the Bison managed to go into the half with a little momentum. On third-and-six with 1:30 left in the first half, quarterback Brock Jensen avoided the Saluki rush and completed a 55-yard touchdown pass to Zach Vraa to cut the lead to 10-7. NDSU was 0-for-4 on third downs prior to that play.

    Despite the disappointment of the loss to NDSU, the Salukis remain in the playoff hunt and will head into a bye week before traveling to Western Illinois for their next game on Nov. 2.

    “When you are given the opportunity to play the No. 1 team in the nation, and you have prepared for them it can be deflating when you come out on the bottom half,” McKinney said. “The locker room is very quiet, and our heads are down, but on Monday we will recuperate. We'll keep chugging to get ready for Western Illinois.”