FARGO, N.D. - Darrius Shepherd caught five passes for a career-high 118 yards as No. 1-ranked North Dakota State reclaimed the Dakota Marker with a 21-17 victory over third-ranked South Dakota State in the Missouri Valley Football Conference opener for both teams Saturday, Sept. 29.
Shepherd caught a 41-yard TD pass in the second quarter to give NDSU its first lead 14-7, and the Bison (4-0) went ahead for good early in the fourth quarter when quarterback Easton Stick's five-yard run capped an eight-play, 80-yard scoring drive.
Stick passed for 182 yards and two touchdowns as the Bison improved to 9-6 in the Dakota Marker series since 2004. Jabril Cox and Robbie Grimsley each made eight tackles to lead the NDSU defense.
South Dakota State (2-1) threatened to add on to its 7-0 lead in the first quarter when NDSU's Jalen Allison intercepted Taryn Christion in the end zone. Stick found Shepherd on passes of 34 and 24 yards on the ensuing drive, then rushed for 22 yards on third-and-21 before hitting tight end Ben Ellefson with a 17-yard touchdown pass to tie the game 7-7.
It was 14-7 at the half before the Jackrabbits got a 39-yard field goal from Chase Vinatieri and a 61-yard TD run from Isaac Wallace on their first two drives of the third quarter to go ahead 17-14.
NDSU had a 389-357 edge in total yards and the Bison converted 8 of 16 third-down opportunities compared to 3 of 12 for the Jacks.
Christion finished 19 of 29 passing for 202 yards, Wallace finished with a game-high 110 yards on the ground, and linebacker Christian Rozeboom made a game-high 12 tackles for SDSU.
North Dakota State goes on the road for its next two games against Northern Iowa and Western Illinois. NDSU and UNI are scheduled for a 1 p.m. kickoff Saturday, Oct. 6, at the UNI-Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa.