IOWA CITY, Iowa — With the biggest win in school history less than 3 yards away, North Dakota State went for two and failed.
The Bison earned the ball back though — and they finished off the program's signature victory by running the ball right at Iowa.
Cam Pedersen kicked a 37-yard field as time expired and North Dakota State, of the FCS, rallied to beat No. 13 Iowa 23-21 on Saturday for its sixth straight win over an FBS opponent.
The Bison went for a 2-point conversion down 21-20 with 3:41 left, but couldn't punch it in. North Dakota State's defense then held, and quarterback Easton Stick's 29-yard run put the Bison in position for the biggest win in school history.
"If we didn't make it I thought we could stop them," North Dakota State coach Chris Klieman said. "I thought our offense was kind of wearing them down."
The loss was just the fourth by a ranked FBS team to an FCS school. North Dakota State isn't just another Football Championship Subdivision team, though. The Bison have won the last five FCS national titles.
Against the Hawkeyes, they ran for 239 yards and held Iowa to 231 total yards. North Dakota State's defense was at its best on Iowa's final drive, sacking Iowa's C.J. Beathard to give its offense one more shot.
Stick had 124 yards passing and a touchdown for the Bison (3-0), who also snapped Iowa's nine-game home winning streak.
"As an offense we preach: if we get the chance to end the game with the ball in our hands, we have to do it. We believe in Cam and we knew if we got the ball down there he could do it," Stick said.
Beathard had three TD passes for Iowa (2-1). But the Hawkeyes ran for just 34 yards on 25 carries.
"Am I shocked that we lost? Yeah, to an extent. But these guys came ready to play," Iowa defensive tackle Jaleel Johnson said.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes can forget about the playoffs. Barring something extraordinary, it's tough to imagine the committee letting in a team that lost to an FCS school — even one as talented as North Dakota State.
North Dakota State: North Dakota State is FCS is name only though. The Bison's blocking at every position was exactly how coaches draw it up, and they didn't commit a penalty in the first half. North Dakota State might not lose again all season — and a sixth straight FCS title is a distinct possibility.
Iowa will likely lose its spot in the Top 25. The bigger question is how many votes the Bison will receive. The Associated Press began allowing voters to put FCS schools on their ballots after Appalachian State stunned Michigan in 2007.
The Hawkeyes were without starting offensive linemen Sean Welsh and James Daniels, and it showed in the run game. The huge holes that Iowa's backs had to run through in its first two games were largely non-existent. ...Iowa began the second half with a 62-yard run by LeShun Daniels Jr. that put it at NDSU's 3 up 14-7. But a hold brought the play back. "It's like baseball. When you walk a guy in the ninth inning, invariably it comes back and gets you," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. ...Iowa nearly lost to an FCS school in 2009, when it had to block back-to-back field goals to hold off Northern Iowa. The Hawkeyes went on to win the Orange Bowl that season.
THE LAST WORD
"We came here to win. Period," Klieman said on his decision to go for two down 21-20.
Iowa: The Hawkeyes open their first nine-game Big Ten season with a trip to Rutgers next weekend, their first road game and their first-ever against the Scarlet Knights. It should be, along with an October 15 meeting at Purdue, the easiest game the Hawkeyes will play outside of Iowa City.
North Dakota State: The Bison return home to face a decent Missouri State team in their league opener. That'll likely be the first breather for the Bison, who won their first two games in overtime.
AP college football website: collegefootball.ap.org