MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) — The day began with a dedication ceremony for a massive renovation to Bill Snyder Family Stadium, and it ended with North Dakota State playing spoiler for Kansas State's longtime head coach.
Led by a senior quarterback unflappable under pressure, and coached by someone who knows Snyder quite well, the plucky Bison rallied from a two-touchdown hole to beat the defending Big 12 champion Wildcats 24-21 on Friday night before the second-largest crowd in school history.
"It was just one of those moments where we had to gut it out," said Brock Jensen, who backed into the end zone for the go-ahead score with 28 seconds left to cap an 18-play, 80-yard drive that ate up 8½ minutes and left the Wildcats virtually no time to try for a tying field goal.
"That was the most gutty performance I've seen in my entire life in any level," Jensen said.
Turns out that Snyder had a similar opinion of the Bison's performance.
"They play very, very hard," he said. "They're a tough football team. They played harder than we did, they were tougher than we were, they were better coached than we were."
Much of the credit for that goes to Craig Bohl, the longtime assistant coach at Nebraska who has led the Bison to back-to-back FCS national champions. The defensive guru matched wits with Snyder on an annual basis during the early years of the Big 12, often coming out on top.
"Many teams have come in and Kansas State's jumped up and had folded. Our guys did not do that," Bohl said. "For me personally, I have a great deal of respect for Kansas State and Coach Snyder from all those years in Nebraska. They are a tremendous program, so for us it's a great win."
Jensen threw for 165 yards and two touchdowns for the Bison, who have made a habit of knocking off bigger and more glamorous schools. Three years ago it was the Wildcats' in-state rival Kansas, two years ago it was Minnesota from the Big Ten, and last year Colorado State was bitten.
"Obviously they're a good team. They're back-to-back national champions," said Kansas State quarterback Jake Waters, who threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns.
Waters helped the Wildcats build a 21-7 lead by the third quarter before everything fell apart. He wound up throwing a pair of interceptions, including one on a desperation heave after the Bison had taken the lead to seal the biggest win in North Dakota State history.
When the final gun sounded, the Bison raced to midfield to celebrate, and then headed to the corner of the end zone that was painted yellow by their fans — a strong contingent in the crowd of 53,351, the second-largest ever to see a game at Kansas State.
"We've had a lot of these types of wins," Bohl said, "but never over a program like this."
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