By JAMES ALLAN
IOWA CITY, Iowa — Cam Pedersen’s 37-yard field goal as time expired lifted North Dakota State to a 23-21 victory over the 11th-ranked University of Iowa football team Saturday afternoon inside a sold out Kinnick Stadium.
“Give credit to North Dakota State,” said UI head coach Kirk Ferentz. “They came in here to win the football game. They’re well-coached and play hard, and they certainly did today.
“This will hurt for a while, and we’ll get back to work tomorrow and see what we can do moving forward.”
The Bison trailed 21-14 with 12:20 remaining before marching on a 15-play, 80-yard scoring drive. North Dakota State’s eight-plus minute drive came via 12 rushes and included converting a fourth-and-2 from the 17. Bison quarterback Easton Stick found Chase Morlock by himself in the corner of the end zone for the touchdown.
NDSU head coach Chris Klieman went for the win with 3:41 remaining. The Hawkeyes flushed Stick from the pocket before forcing an incompletion to keeping Iowa on top, 21-20.
“We came here to win,” said Klieman. “If we didn’t make it I thought we could stop them. Our offense was wearing them down and if we could get a stop, I thought we could dial up enough plays to get us into field goal range.”
Klieman’s defense got the stop the Bison needed, allowing two short runs before sacking Iowa’s C.J. Beathard for a nine-yard loss on third down to force a punt. North Dakota State took over at its own 34 with 1:53 to play.
Stick opened the NDSU drive with a 29-yard run on a quarterback draw to the Iowa 37 and he followed by completing a 10-yard pass to R.J. Urzendowski to the 27. Two Morlock rushes moved North Dakota State to the 20, setting up Pedersen’s game-winning field goal.
North Dakota State’s victory snaps Iowa’s 14-game regular season winning streak and the program’s nine-game unbeaten streak in Kinnick Stadium.
The Bison limited the Hawkeyes to 57 yards and four first downs in the second half. NDSU had 363-231 advantage in total yards for the game, including 239 rushing yards, and had a 13-plus minute advantage (36:40-23:20) in time of possession. Iowa was held to 34 rushing yards on 25 attempts for the game.
Senior quarterback C.J. Beathard finished 11-of-22 for 152 yards with three touchdown passes and one interception. Senior LeShun Daniels, Jr., had 29 yards on 14 carries, and seniors George Kittle (five catches, 110 yards) and Matt VandeBerg (four catches, 39 yards, two touchdowns) combined for nine catches for 149 yards.
Iowa’s three starting linebackers combined for 33 tackles — 11 apiece from Ben Niemann, Josey Jewell, and Bo Bower. The Hawkeyes had three sacks and four tackles for loss and Brandon Snyder had his first career interception.
The Hawkeyes found themselves trailing for the first time in 2016 in the first quarter following the team’s first turnover of the season. On third-and-11 from its own 27, Beathard was hit from his blind side by Pierre Gee-Tucker, forcing the ball to pop into the air. M.J. Stumpf snatched the ball at the Iowa 21 and returned it for a touchdown, giving the Bison a 7-0 lead.
The Hawkeyes answered on the ensuing possession, using an 11-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game at seven. Beathard connected with VandeBerg for a 15-yard gain into Bison territory and on fourth-and-2 from the 30, Beathard hooked up with senior Riley McCarron on a slant for a 30-yard touchdown pass — the second of McCarron’s career.
Iowa took its first lead on its next possession with a three-play, 83-yard scoring drive. On the first play, Beathard found Kittle for 51 yards along the NDSU sideline and two plays later, he connected with VandeBerg for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 8:05 left.
After taking a 14-7 lead into the half, there was a 14-point swing at the start of the second half. A 62-yard run by Daniels, Jr., was negated by holding. Instead of a first-and-goal, Iowa punted following a three-and-out and the Bison tied the game with a nine-play, 65-yard scoring drive.
“It’s kind of like baseball, when you walk a guy in the ninth inning, it invariably comes back and gets you,” said Ferentz. “Those little things make a different in momentum and how your team plays.”
Iowa native Lance Dunn broke off the big play — a 35-yard run to the Iowa 3 — before King Frazier’s 1-yard touchdown run tied the game with 8:06 remaining.
The Hawkeyes took their final lead on the ensuing drive with an assist from freshman quarterback Nathan Stanley. Beathard left the game briefly after getting up slowly following a scramble for a first down on third-and-3 from the Iowa 37. Enter Stanley.
On his first play of the game, Stanley hit Kittle for a 37-yard gain to the NDSU 22 off play action. Iowa moved to the 11 before turning the reins back to Beathard. He closed out the drive with a 9-yard touchdown pass to VandeBerg, giving Iowa a 21-14 lead with 2:12 left in the third quarter.
North Dakota State moved the ball 43 yards to the Iowa 32 on its next possession before Pedersen’s attempt on a 50-yard field goal fell short. The Bison scored the final nine points, which included Pedersen’s redemption on his game-winning field goal to send North Dakota State to its sixth straight win over a Football Bowl Series opponent.
“It’s painful anytime you lose and there is not a lot of value that takes place other than if you learn from it,” said Ferentz. “The only good news for us is we have another nine football games in front of us.
“We’ve been in this situation before in other years, and it’s only September. The big thing is how we respond, what kind of improvement we can make on a daily and weekly basis.”
Stick finished the game 11-of-19 for 124 yards with a touchdown and interception, while Frazier and Dunn combined for 160 yards and a touchdown on 27 rushing attempts.
Iowa (2-1) opens Big Ten play Sept. 24, traveling to Piscataway, New Jersey, to face off against Rutgers. Game time is set for 11 a.m. (CT).