NORMAL, Ill. — No. 3-ranked North Dakota State's offense struggled to find the end zone near the goal line Saturday afternoon at Hancock Stadium, but that deficiency was remedied by the team's stingy defense.

The Bison locked down the Illinois State offense and powered to a 20-0 victory in Missouri Valley Football Conference play before 12,416 fans, holding the Redbirds to less than 100 yards.

NDSU (6-0, 3-0 MVFC) scored first-quarter and fourth-quarter TDs and also got two field goals from senior kicker Jake Reinholz and that proved to be more than enough offense. The Bison have won 11 consecutive games against the Redbirds. NDSU limited Illinois State to 99 yards on 50 plays.

"We just continue to get after the football," Bison head coach Matt Entz said of his defense. "I thought we tackled really well. ... Then we came up with some critical turnovers."

North Dakota State's Eli Mostaert (53) celebrates a sack on Southern Illinois quarterback Bryce Jefferson at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State's Eli Mostaert (53) celebrates a sack on Southern Illinois quarterback Bryce Jefferson at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

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Bison freshman defensive tackle Eli Mostaert had three sacks to lead the charge as NDSU finished with five sacks. The Bison limited the Redbirds to 2.0 yards per play. After the game, the 6-foot-3, 280-pound Mostaert was asked if he's ever had three sacks in a game.

"I don’t think I’ve ever had one, middle school?" Mostaert said. "It’s been a while."

Bison quarterback Quincy Patterson completed 13 of 22 passes for 124 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. Both interceptions came near the goal line. The 6-foot-3, 246-pound Patterson also rushed for 100 yards on 18 attempts.

The Bison finished with 325 yards on 70 plays, but turnovers spoiled two prime NDSU scoring chances. The Bison also turned the ball over on downs at the Illinois State 10-yard line on their first drive of the second half.

"We had a lot of opportunities," Entz said. "We've got to be better in the red zone. We can't turn it over."

North Dakota State's Phoenix Sporles is spun in mid-air by Southern Illinois' Zeke Vandenburgh and Jarrell Jackson after a 37-yard reception at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State's Phoenix Sporles is spun in mid-air by Southern Illinois' Zeke Vandenburgh and Jarrell Jackson after a 37-yard reception at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. David Samson / The Forum

NDSU possessed the ball for more than 37 of the game's 60 minutes. The Bison rushed for 201 yards on 48 attempts and finished with 325 yards on 70 plays, outgaining Illinois State by more than 3-to-1.

Patterson's second interception came late in the third quarter after the Bison had driven the ball to the ISU 8. Redbirds defensive back Iverson Brown intercepted a tipped pass near the goal line and had a short return to the 6 with less than two minutes to play in the quarter.

"I was trying to put a ball where it was really hard to catch it and it ended up getting tipped," Patterson said. "I’ll learn from that."

Reinholz kicked a 24-yard field goal that gave the Bison a 13-10 lead with 5 minutes, 41 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. Bison running back TaMerik Williams added a 7-yard touchdown run for a 20-0 lead with 2:37 remaining. NDSU linebacker Jasir Cox had an interception that set up the Williams TD run.

Cox finished with two interceptions.

"Those were the plays we were waiting for him to make," Entz said of Cox. "He's an experienced linebacker, he's got a ton of reps under his belt."

The Bison took an early lead with a 67-yard scoring drive that took seven plays and lasted more than four minutes. Patterson completed three passes on that march, including a 37-yard connection with receiver Phoenix Sproles.

Patterson capped the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass to receiver Christian Watson for a 7-0 lead with 4:55 to play in the first quarter.

The Bison had a chance to add to the lead after moving the ball to the Illinois State 22-yard line on their next drive. However, Redbirds safety Clayton Isbell intercepted Patterson near the 10-yard line.

NDSU put together a drive in the final minute of the second quarter, moving the ball to the ISU 28 after an 8-yard Patterson scramble. After an incompletion, Reinholz booted a 46-yard field goal for a 10-0 lead on the final play of the opening half.

The Redbirds had 41 yards on 26 plays in the first half and added 58 yards on 24 plays in the second half. Illinois State was 2 of 11 on third-down conversions.

"We knew that we didn’t play Bison defense last spring (season)," Cox said. "We knew this fall we had to create takeaways and get third-down stops."

The Bison are limiting opponents to 7.2 yards per game through six games. NDSU has two shutouts this season.

"We're making progress," Entz said. "Are we where we want to be at? Probably not, but we will worry about that on Sunday. ... I'm excited," Entz said. "It's a good win on the road. I'm going to take it and we're going to get better from it."

North Dakota State's Phoenix Sproles grabs a pass in front of Southern Illinois' Franky West at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. David Samson / The Forum
North Dakota State's Phoenix Sproles grabs a pass in front of Southern Illinois' Franky West at Hancock Stadium in Normal, Ill., on Saturday, Oct. 16, 2021. David Samson / The Forum