For the first time in the history of the Indiana State football program, the Sycamores took down the nation's top ranked team as well as a team from the Top 5 when they shocked 18,164 fans inside the Fargodome and the defending national champions No. 1 North Dakota State by the score of 17-14 on Saturday afternoon.
Indiana State won for the third consecutive week to improve to 5-2, 3-1 MVFC while the Bison lost for the first time this season and fell to 5-1, 2-1 MVFC.
The win was the first for the Sycamores over a No. 1 ranked program in seven attempts and its first over a team inside the Top 5 in 20 attempts. The victory was also the third consecutive road victory in league play for the Sycamores (at Missouri State in 2011, at Southern Illinois & at No. 1 North Dakota State). ISU had never won three times in a row on the road in the MVFC prior to this run.
With Indiana State holding on at No. 1 North Dakota State by the score of 10-6 as the game entered the first quarter, Johnny Towalid stepped in for his second big play of the game. After returning an interception for a touchdown earlier in the second quarter, he stepped up again off a tipped pass and took the Brock Jensen offering back 31 yards to the end zone to give the Sycamores a 17-6 lead with less than a minute elapsed in the final stanza.
North Dakota State punched back with a long drive of their own and Jensen got a measure of redemption with a one-yard touchdown plunge plus a two point conversion with 9:53 remaining in the game to inch the Bison closer at 17-14.
Taking over at their own 20-yard line, the Sycamores got a nine-yard reception by Spencer and then Bell broke off two long runs to go over 1,000 yards for the second consecutive season. Doing it in the team's seventh game, Bell is once again the fastest to a milestone in a career as he did it in eight games last year.
The drive stalled inside the 30 and Tanner Fritschle missed a 46-yard field goal with 5:52 remaining to keep the score at 17-14 in favor of the Sycamores.
The Sycamore defense stopped the Bison with an inteception by Larry King and put together a pair of first downs before NDSU was flagged for pass interfecence with two minutes left to go in the game. ISU was able to run the clock down to under 20 seconds and forced the Bison to move 80 yards for a touchdown.
Just as they did all game long, the Sycamore defense held and the celebration was on for the Sycamores.
Bell finished the game with 96 rushing yards on 26 attempts to move over 1,000 yards for the season. Mike Perish completed 10-of-18 passes for 109 yards while Donald Spencer led the way with five catches for 51 yards.
Aaron Archie led the way with 12 tackles while Connor Underwood posted a career-best 10 tackles with two quarterback sacks.
Indiana State opened the game with a 51-yard kickoff return by Taje High, but were unable to capitalize with a first down and Lucas Hileman pinned the Bison at their own nine-yard line with a 35-yard punt.
Connor Underwood posted his team leading fourth quarterback sack of the season on the Bison's first play which pinned NDSU back at the one. NDSU moved out to the seven and then punted 34 yards, giving the Sycamores excellent field position at the 41. A 19-yard screen pass from Mike Perish to Shakir Bell moved the ball down to the 12-yard line and he had another six-yard gain escaping tacklers all over the field which moved it back to the 11 after an ISU false start penalty.
A high snap moved the ball to the 28 and the Sycamores eventually went all the way back to the 32 on a screen pass to Bell that lost four yards. Tanner Fritschle connected on a career long 48-yard field goal with 7:57 left in the opening stanza to give the Sycamores a 3-0 advantage.
The Bison controlled the ball for the remainder of the opening quarter and moved all the way down to the ISU 3-yard line as the game transitioned to the second period. On the first play, Johnny Towalid got a beat on a Brock Jensen pass and would have returned it 100 yards for a touchdown but lost control at the last second. The Bison took advantage with a 20-yard field goal from Adam Keller to knot the score at 3 with just six seconds elapsed in the second quarter.
The Sycamores took the ball at the 22 on the kickoff and got back-to-back pass completions from Perish to Donald Spencer of 6 and 20 yards to move to the ISU 48. Bell raced 13 yards to forced a second and two situation, but the Sycamores failed to convert and Hileman punted 32 yards to the NDSU 14.
Facing third and four, from their own 20-yard line Jensen dropped back and fired an interception to Towalid who was able to race 27 yards untouched for the score and gave the Sycamores a 10-3 advantage with 10:31 remaining in the first half. It was the second career interception return for a touchdown in Towalid's career as he had a 78-yarder at South Dakota State in the Beef Bowl last season.
North Dakota State would move to the 50 on each of its final two drives of the first half, but each time
had to punt to ISU as the Sycamore defense held strong and led the way to the 10-3 halftime advantage.
ISU was limited to just 61 yards of total offense in the first half while the Bison churned out 137, 80 of which came through the air.
The Sycamore defense started the second half pinned back much as the Bison did to start the game at the 40-yard line. ISU got a stop on third and four just after NDSU entered the red zone and forced the Bison to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Keller as ISU held on for a 10-6 advantage with just over 11 minutes remaining in the contest.
The Sycamores stay on the road next week in Missouri Valley Football Conference play when they travel to Western Illinois for a 7:00 p.m. (ET) kickoff at Hanson Field.
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