MACOMB, Ill.-Western Illinois quarterback Sean McGuire is his school's all-time leader in touchdown passes and passing yards. Not much of that has come against North Dakota State, however.
For the third year in a row, the Bison put the wraps on the accomplished Leathernecks senior.
No. 1-ranked NDSU won its second straight road game in the Missouri Valley Football Conference Saturday night, Oct. 13. A strong defensive effort and an opportunistic offense added up to a 34-7 victory for the Bison at Hanson Field before 2,709 fans.
"All road wins are great wins," Bison head coach Chris Klieman said. "They are all tough wins in this league. It's going to be fun to get back home. This two-game stretch we had here at Northern Iowa and at Western Illinois is really difficult. I'm proud of the way the guys responded today in a tough environment in a tough place to play, at night. "
The Bison are 35-3 on the road since the start of the 2011 season.
NDSU (6-0, 3-0 MVFC) played its first outdoor game this season Saturday and first night game and the Bison didn't flinch. They forced five turnovers. Three of those were McGuire interceptions, putting his three-year total against NDSU to seven interceptions and one touchdown pass.
"You can't have the self-inflicted wounds that we had," Western Illinois head coach Jared Elliott said. "Sean obviously made some poor decisions tonight. ... But we need to protect him better and there were some issues with routes that we need to clean up. The passing game is more than one guy just throwing it."
Bison running back Lance Dunn rushed for a touchdown and quarterback Easton Stick threw for another score. It was the 70th career scoring pass for Stick, who moved within two of Brock Jensen for the all-time school record.
"It's tough to play here," Stick said. "That's a very good football team, especially defensively."
One downside for the Bison was injuries. Klieman said a number of players sustained injuries, including running back Bruce Anderson and safety Robbie Grimsley, but he didn't know the seriousness of them.
The Bison allowed a touchdown to the Leathernecks early in the second quarter, and then the Bison defense put the hammer down. NDSU scored 17 points off turnovers.
NDSU linebacker Dan Marlette also returned a fumble 38 yards for a touchdown in the first half. Bison safety James Hendricks intercepted a pass early in the fourth quarter that led to Cam Pedersen's 24-yard field goal. That gave the Bison a 27-7 lead with 11 minutes, 47 seconds to play in the fourth quarter.
"The one interception that James had was a phenomenal play," Klieman said.
Hendricks later intercepted Leathernecks backup quarterback Connor Sampson in the end zone to keep Western Illinois off the board in the second half. NDSU put an exclamation on the victory after linebacker Jabril Cox got NDSU's third interception. Running back Ty Brooks scored on the next play from 15 yards out for a 34-7 lead with 7:18 to play.
"Our defense is explosive," Dunn said. "They make plays."
Marlette's touchdown gave the Bison a two-score lead for good. Leading 10-7, blitzing cornerback Marquise Bridges popped the ball from the hand of McGuire. Marlette scooped the bouncing ball and returned it down the left sideline for the score. That gave the Bison a 17-7 lead with 6:06 left in the quarter. That advantage held until halftime.
NDSU took a 3-0 lead after a 47-yard field goal from Pedersen with 6:01 to play in the first quarter. Western Illinois took its lone lead early in the second quarter after McGuire found a leaping Isaiah LeSure in the back of the end zone for a 5-yard score.
The Bison responded the next time they had the ball with an effective running game. Back-to-back gains of 17 and 16 yards from Dunn and Anderson got NDSU deep into WIU territory. Dunn scored from the 1-yard line and the Bison led 10-7 with 9:57 to play in the first half.
The Bison shut out the Leathernecks in the second half.
"We had a chip on our shoulder," said Bison linebacker Levi Jordheim, who had seven tackles and a sack. "We locked in and got it done."