North Dakota State Beats Gophers 37-24
September 24, 2011

Tim Brewster’s first season as Minnesota coach, in 2007, produced a triple-overtime win over Miami (Ohio), the Gophers’ only win of the season, and a loss to North Dakota State. Jerry Kill’s first season, in 2011, has produced a close win over Miami (Ohio), so far the only victory for the Gophers, and now a 37-24 loss to North Dakota State as Minneapolis-native Marcus Williams returned two interceptions (one following a fumble on the runback) for touchdowns for the Bison.

“Coach [Craig Bohl of North Dakota State] outcoached me, and the team outplayed us,” said Minnesota coach Jerry Kill. “We gotta get a lot better.”

North Dakota State had nearly pulled off a win in 2006, its first season in the (Division I-AA), losing 10-9 when the Gophers blocked a 42-yard field-goal attempt on the final play of the game. The Bison then outplayed the Gophers, winning 27-21 in 2007.

Against Kill’s Gophers, the Bison reached the end zone on all three of its possessions in the first half and then capped the second quarter with an incredible runback of an interception. With 5 seconds left and the Gophers at midfield, MarQueis Gray had his pass intercepted by strong safety Colton Heagle at the 18. Heagle ran the ball 30 yards and flipped it backward as he was being tackled. Cornerback Marcus Williams took the ball on the bounce, burst around the Minnesota defenders along the left sideline and found himself in the open, taking it into the end zone as time ran out and giving North Dakota State a 28-21 lead.

The teams had exchanged touchdown drives on their first possession, the Bison benefitting by Minnesota penalties on third down. Explain. North Dakota State capped its drive with a 1-yard quarterback sneak into the end zone by Brock Jensen on the first play of the second quarter (giving them touchdowns on the first and last plays of the second quarter). On the drive the Bison faced a third down and 19 to go from its own 29. Linebacker Gary Tinsley then sacked Jensen for an 11-yard loss but was called for hands to Jensen’s face, a 15-yard penalty that came with an automatic first down. Later the Gophers stopped Jensen on a third-down run that came up short but defensive end Matt Garin was called for being offside.

On the Bison’s next drive, Jensen scrambled for a first down on a third-and-seven and then got additional yardage when Minnesota lineman Ra’Shede Hageman was flagged on the play for illegal hands to the face of a North Dakota State blocker. Two plays later Sam Ojuri carried it in from the one to give the Bison a 14-7 lead.

With Max Shortell in at quarterback for Gray, he led the Gophers on a 10-play rushing drive that produced the tying touchdown when Donnell Kirkwood burst through the left side of the line for 30 yards with just over two minutes left in the half.

The Bison didn’t need much time to cover the length of the field on its next drive with D. J. McNorton getting much of it with a 58 yard run to the Minnesota 13. After Jensen rolled left and ran to the 2, McNorton followed a block from fullback Andrew Grothmann on safety Kim Royston and ran around the short side of the field for a touchdown with 24 seconds left.

Down by seven and with Gray back in, the Gophers tried to make something happen with the little time it had left; instead the Bison got the big play by Williams, a Minneapolis native who had played football and basketball at Hopkins High School.

The Bison took the opening kickoff of the second half and produced a 49-yard field goal by Ryan Jastrem on a time-consuming drive (more than eight-and-a-half minutes) for a 31-14 lead. Chris Hawthorne countered with a 36-yard field goal for the Gophers late in the third quarter.

The Gophers finally forced the Bison to punt in the fourth quarter, and got the ball at the North Dakota State 46 when Matt Voightlander’s punt of only 31 yards rolled out of bounds.

Kill used both Gray and Shortell on the drive, and Shortell hit an open Eric Lair over the middle for a 20-yard touchdown that brought the Gophers to within 31-24 with 9:05 left.

The Bison didn’t score, as Jastrem missed a 35-yard field-goal attempt, but used up more than six minutes on its next drive. Right tackle Paul Cornick kept the drive going by recovering a fumble by Ojuri on the North Dakota State 43. Jensen, on third down, then connected with Ryan Smith for a gain to the Minnesota 26, using up more time and giving the Gophers a long way to go before the Bison finally gave it up.

Just under three minutes remained as the Gophers started at their 20. After an incomplete pass Shortell threw to the right side for Marcus Jones but Marcus Williams cut in front for an interception and weaved his way across the field and down the sideline for a touchdown to seal the win for the Bison.

North Dakota State outgained the Gophers with 336 yards on 49 plays from scrimmage to 292 yards on 61 plays for Minnesota. The Bison did an outstanding job of containing Gray, who ran for 170 yards the previous week in the Gophers’ win over Miami. In this game Gray was held to 41 yards rushing and 53 yards passing.

Of the switching between Shortell and Gray, which even occurred once on the same drive, Kill said they were “scrambling” with the situation and admitted, “We’re putting too much on these kids.”

For the Bison, Jensen completed 16 of 21 for 197 yards and McNorton led all rushers in the game with 100 yards.

Having completed their nonconference schedule, with a record of 1-3, the Gophers will go to Michigan for their Big Ten opener.

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