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NDSU powers past USD football behind second-half shutout

The No. 1 Bison overcame three turnovers and a seven-point halftime deficit, sending the Coyotes tumbling to 1-3 in the process.

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South Dakota wide receiver Wesley Eliodor (9) holds on to the football with one arm while being dragged down by North Dakota State defensive back Destin Talbert (6) during the first half of a Missouri Valley Football Conference contest on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at the DakotaDome, in Vermillion.
Landon Dierks / Mitchell Republic
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VERMILLION — As North Dakota State’s first-half mistakes faded away, so, too, did the University of South Dakota’s chances of pulling off an upset of the top-ranked Bison.

Turnovers and penalties hindered FCS No. 1 NDSU in the first half, but by correcting those miscues in the final 30 minutes, the Bison turned a seven-point deficit into a comfortable 34-17 win on the Coyotes’ home turf inside the DakotaDome on Saturday afternoon.

Using the third NDSU turnover of the first half — a fumble on the first play of the drive following a Coyote touchdown that tied the game at 10 — USD scored for the second time in as many offensive snaps, surging to a 17-10 halftime lead in the final minute before the break.

But it was all Bison from there. NDSU controlled the game on the ground, rushing for an even 200 yards and three scores in the second half on its way to the final 24 points of the afternoon. For the game, NDSU gained 476 total yards (356 rushing) and wore down the USD defense with 80 plays, 61 of which were rushing attempts. The Bison also flipped the script in the turnover department in the second half, taking the ball away thrice without giving it away.

On the other side of the ball, the Bison defense limited a Coyote rushing attack that gained 100 first-half yards to just 45 yards in the second half, including nine yards on seven carries in the third quarter. It was indicative of a larger trend, as 177 total first-half yards turned into just 265 for the game.

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NDSU’s Hunter Luepke paced all ballcarriers with 20 rushes for 146 yards and two touchdowns, while backfield mates Kobe Johnson, Dominic Gonnella and TaMerik Williams combined for 27 carries, 155 yards and one score, a 2-yard Johnson run midway through the second quarter. Cam Miller went 10-of-19 for 120 yards with one interception, though he added a game-tying 13-yard scramble in the third quarter.

For USD, Carson Camp completed 13 of 26 passes for one touchdown — a 28-yard strike to Wesley Eliodor just before halftime — and two second-half interceptions. Eliodor caught two passes for 51 yards to lead the Coyotes in receiving, while running back Travis Theis had 63 yards rushing on 10 carries and 35 yards on six catches out of the backfield.

NDSU (3-1) is back in Fargo for a meeting with Youngstown State on Oct. 1, while USD (1-3) is off next week ahead of a rivalry matchup with South Dakota State on Oct. 8, in Brookings.

Dierks covers prep and collegiate athletics across the Mitchell Republic's coverage region area, focusing on Mitchell High School football and boys basketball and area high school football, volleyball and basketball, as well as Dakota Wesleyan women's basketball. He was also the lead on the Mitchell Republic Gridiron Spotlight, producing video and providing live play-by-play for the traveling weekly prep football broadcast during its first season in the fall of 2021. Dierks is a Mitchell native who graduated from South Dakota State University with his bachelor's degree in journalism in May 2020. He joined the Mitchell Republic sports staff in August 2021. He can be reached at ldierks@mitchellrepublic.com and found on Twitter at @LDierksy.
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