By Jeremy Hoeck
SIOUX FALLS — A loss of historic proportions was made worse by what the home team didn't do almost as much as what the defending national champions did.
Still, there was a cause and effect formula to what North Dakota State did to the University of South Dakota in Saturday night's 54-0 thrashing in front of 9,269 green and yellow-dominated fans at Howard Wood Field in Sioux Falls.
Boasting the nation's top defense, the Bison limited USD to four first downs, 0-of-12 on third downs, 17 yards rushing and 76 yards of total offense.
When the dust settled, not only was the outcome the fifth straight loss for the Coyotes (1-6, 0-4), it was the first time they were shut out in six years.
"I've been in games like this before where you're an offensive coordinator, and no matter what you call, it's not working," a dejected coach Joe Glenn said. "That was certainly the case tonight.
"When they're hitting on all eight (cylinders), they're special."
North Dakota State (6-1, 3-1), ranked fourth in the country, put together a methodical and balanced performance. The Bison ran for 171 yards, passed for 214 and didn't commit a turnover.
And then there was the defense.
"They flow, they play hard, they put a lot of pressure on us," said USD sophomore quarterback Josh Vander Maten, who was 12-of-19 for 59 yards. "They're a good team."
The Bison dominated the run game in the first half, holding USD to 16 yards on the ground and 57 total yards.
A 10-yard Brock Jensen keeper capped off NDSU's second drive, and following a USD punt, Sam Ojuri scored on an 11-yard run at the 1:33 mark of the first quarter.
Even up 14-0, the Bison looked to have their miscues from the previous week — a 17-14 home loss to Indiana State — behind them.
"There were a lot of tough breaks last week, so it important for us to move forward, not dwell on that and let the same team beat you twice," said Jensen, who accounted for four touchdowns — two on the ground and two through the air.
"It's one of those things where you want to bounce back."
North Dakota State benefited from great field position in the second quarter, thanks to a pair of long punt returns by Christian Dudzik.
His 37-yard return resulted in an NDSU punt, but his 76-yard return on the next series set up the Bison for a 1-yard Jensen touchdown run at the 5:51 mark.
USD's next play from scrimmage was fumbled by Will Powell on a reverse, and the Bison responded with a 33-yard touchdown pass to Nate Moody on the first play.
Advantage Bison, 26-0 at halftime, thanks to the composed and accurate play from Jensen, a junior from Waupaca, Wis.
"He got some pretty good weapons out there," USD junior safety Aaron Swift said. "He's a good quarterback, but at the same time, we can step up."
With the Coyotes doing close to nothing on offense in the second half, the Bison padded their lead in the third quarter.
Andrew Bonnet caught a 2-yard touchdown pass at the 8:44 mark and Ojuri scored on a 4-yard run on the last play of the third quarter.
The NDSU second string came in midway through the fourth quarter and led the Bison to another touchdown, a 19-yard pass from Carson Wentz to Taylor Nelson.
The final disaster came with 3:28 to play, when NDSU's Zach Colvin scored on a 20-yard interception return.
By that point, most of the fans behind the USD bench had already filed out of Howard Wood Field, the loss already solidified. The Coyotes, however, had to stick around and explain yet another defeat — their 13th consecutive away from Vermillion.
"Definitely always hard after a loss, we just have to stick together; lean on each other," Vander Maten said.
Up next for USD is a Missouri Valley road game next Saturday at first-place Indiana State (6-2, 4-1).
For now, though, the Coyotes have some self-analyzation to sort through, as Glenn made clear during his post-game comments.
"You learn from it, realize where you're at as a program, and probably start recruiting harder down the stretch," he said. "It's what it is. I'm not very used to this, and I'm sure our kids aren't either.