Story and photo courtesy of North Dakota State Athletics
NORMAL, Ill. - Sam Ojuri and John Crockett each rushed for more than 100 yards and a touchdown, Marcus Williams returned a kickoff a career-long 98 yards for a score, and North Dakota State won the Missouri Valley Conference title Saturday, beating Illinois State 38-20 in both teams' regular-season finale.
North Dakota State improved to 11-0 on the road and 11-0 against nationally-ranked opponents over the past two seasons.
The NCAA Division I FCS playoff selection show is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Central Sunday, Nov. 18, on ESPNU.
It was the second career kickoff return for Williams, a Buck Buchanan Award candidate, and came after Illinois State built a 10-0 lead with 1:41 left in the first quarter. He returned a kickoff 90 yards for a TD against Missouri State in 2011.
Ojuri had 118 yards on the ground, including a 1-yard TD that capped a 21-point fourth quarter for the Bison (10-1, 7-1). Crockett scored on a 5-yard run and totaled 109 yards rushing. It was Ojuri's second 100-yard game of the season and seventh of his career. Crockett recorded his third 100-yard game of the season.
The Bison had two backs rush for over 100 yards for the first time since Oct. 25, 2008, when Tyler Roehl and Pat Paschall did it against Illinois State.
Brock Jensen added two short rushing scores for NDSU, which improved to 11-0 on the road the past two seasons. Jensen had just 96 yards passing, but NDSU rolled up 274 yards on the ground.
Matt Brown threw for 212 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown to Jordan Neukirch, and ran for a score for the Redbirds (8-3, 5-3), who could have claimed a share of the title with a victory.
Bison defensive end Cole Jirik recorded eight tackles including a career-high three sacks and a pair of forced fumbles. Linebacker Grant Olson posted 12 tackles, reaching double-figures for the fourth time this season and fifth time in career.
North Dakota State's defense held Illinois State to 78 yards in the second half, while the offense generated 241.
NDSU kicker Adam Keller tied the school's single-season record with his 16th field goal -- a 29-yard attempt with 7:40 left in the third quarter. The record was set in 2006 by Shawn Bibeau and tied in 2011 by Ryan Jastram.