North Dakota State’s 39-game winning streak has come to an end.
NDSU, winners of eight of the last nine FCS national championships, was surprisingly knocked off on the road by Missouri Valley Football Conference foe Southern Illinois. The score wasn’t close either: Southern Illinois 38, North Dakota State 14.
With a win, NDSU would have become just the third Division I program to have a winning streak of 40 games. The record belongs to Oklahoma. OU won 47 straight games from 1953 to 1957. Washington also won 40 consecutive games between 1908 and 1914.
Instead, the streak was halted at 39 — a record for the Bison. NDSU previously had a 33-game winning streak from 2012 to 2014.
NDSU struggles on offense without Trey Lance
The top-ranked Bison, playing without star quarterback Trey Lance, struggled on offense for the second straight week. With Lance putting his name in the 2021 NFL draft (where he is expected to be a first-round pick), Iowa State transfer Zeb Noland made his second career start.
Zoland mustered only 78 passing yards in last week’s 25-7 win over Youngstown State, but the Bison were carried by a 243-yard, three-touchdown effort in the rushing game. Southern Illinois, though, was ready for that. The Bison managed only 109 yards on the ground and Noland was just 13-of-24 for 159 yards with one touchdown and an interception.
Despite the struggles, the game was within striking distance for NDSU for a while. SIU’s lead was just 17-7 entering the fourth, but that’s when the unranked Salukis opened up the flood gates. SIU scored twice in a three-minute span early in the fourth, extending the 10-point lead into a 31-7 lead.
It was too much for NDSU to overcome and resulted in the program’s first loss since Nov. 4, 2017. That came against rival South Dakota State.
How will North Dakota State respond?
After that loss to South Dakota State in 2017, NDSU responded to that loss by winning out. NDSU cruised through the regular season and the FCS playoffs to win the national title, finishing with a 14-1 record.
The Bison went 15-0 and won another title in 2018, the final year with Chris Klieman as head coach before he left for Kansas State. From there, defensive coordinator Matt Entz stepped into the head-coaching role and the Bison picked up where they left off. It was a 16-0 record and another national title in 2019.
Other than a one-off game against Central Arkansas in October, the COVID-19 pandemic pushed NDSU’s 2020 season to the spring of 2021. That game in October essentially served as a showcase game for Lance, who was remarkable as a redshirt freshman. He threw for 2,786 yards and 28 touchdowns with no interceptions while completing 66.9% of his throws. He also added 1,100 yards and 14 scores on the ground, helping NDSU go undefeated and bring another national title back to Fargo.
NDSU is a much different team without Lance, and Southern Illinois was able to exploit that. It wasn’t all about the NDSU offense, though.
SIU, on the heels of last week’s 44-21 loss to North Dakota, was able to gash the NDSU defense for 443 yards of offense. SIU quarterback Nic Baker was an efficient 17-of-23 for 254 yards and a touchdown while Romeir Elliott and Javon Williams Jr. each rushed for two touchdowns.
Following Saturday’s result, both teams have 2-1 overall records. North Dakota State returns to action next Saturday on the road against Missouri State while SIU heads to Youngstown State.
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