Golden Gophers Commit Costly Errors, Drop Border Battle to NDSU Bison

Mark MillerCorrespondent ISeptember 25, 2011

With as many as 20,000 North Dakota State University fans expected to invade TCF Bank Stadium this Saturday, Golden Gopher head coach Jerry Kill knew he'd have his hands full.

A long opening drive from the Golden Gophers would ensure that they'd at least temporarily silence the Bison faithful. Gray used both his legs and arm during the opening drive as they ran 8:39 off the clock before Donnell Kirkwood scored from four yards out.

The silence proved to be short lived as the Bison answered with their own clock-eating drive that dragged into the second quarter before NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen pushed through the goal line to even the score at 7-7.

After Gopher quarterback MarQueis Gray failed to move the team down field, the Gophers punted the ball away and watched the Bison once again drive into the end zone to take a 14-7 lead.

With the Bison faithful drowning out any cheers from the home fans, coach Kill made the move that everyone was waiting for.

Freshman Max Shortell took to his own five yard line and in a high-pressure situation methodically led the team down field as a 10-play, 95-yard drive was capped off with a 30-yard Duane Bennett touchdown run.

Once again, however, the momentum would be short-lived as a 58-yard rush by NDSU running back D.J. McNorton would put the Bison back in the red zone. They would score shortly thereafter, leaving just seconds on the clock before halftime.

Things hit rock bottom for Kill's Gopher squad when what appeared to be a first half-ending Hail Mary was taken back 52 yards by Bison cornerback Marcus Williams, extending their halftime lead to 28-14.

It didn't get any better when the second half got underway, as the Bison controlled the clock and ran off more than half the time in the third quarter before hitting a field goal from 50 yards out.

The Gophers would pull within seven points of the Bison, and after a missed NDSU field goal would have one last shot at evening the score with Shortell at the helm.

His shot at glory didn't have a chance to get off the ground, as Marcus Williams picked off Shortell and returned it 40 yards for his second defensive touchdown of the game and the game-clinching score.

In the end, the Bison faithful headed back to North Dakota with a 37-24 victory and a busload of bragging rights over their bordering state.

There appear to be more questions than answers on this roster, whether it's their inability to stop opposing offenses or their clear indecisiveness at quarterback.

With a trip to the Big House just a week away and an extremely difficult Big-10 schedule just behind it, they'll need to find answers to these questions sooner rather than later.