CARBONDALE — Now it's up to the committee.
Adam Cofield broke a 7-7 tie for No. 1 North Dakota State with an 8-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, and the Bison went on to beat SIU 21-7 and snap the Salukis' five-game winning streak Saturday. NDSU won its 33rd straight game, tying its own FCS record, and finished another season unbeaten. SIU closed a 7-5 season tied for third place in the Missouri Valley Football Conference with No. 5 South Dakota State and No. 6/7 Illinois State and in the top 20 of the Sagarin Ratings.
The Salukis feel like their season is not over, but will have to wait until Sunday's FCS Playoff Selection Show at 11:30 a.m. on ESPNU to find out for sure. SIU has one of only three wins this year by an FCS program over an FBS program, and played seven of its 12 games on the road.
"It was a fight for four quarters, that we competed with the best team in the country, and I think a lot of people will notice that and see that," SIU safety Jeremy Chinn said after snagging 12 tackles in the loss.
Javon Williams Jr. scored SIU's only touchdown off a 28-yard run in the second quarter and finished with 117 yards on 23 carries. He and D.J. Davis, who had 70 yards rushing on 13 carries, became the first 1,000-yard rushers in the same season in Saluki history.
SIU nearly cut into the lead in the fourth quarter, but Williams was denied on a fourth-and-goal run from the 1. The Salukis earned a first-and-goal from the 5, but couldn't punch it in against the nation's second-ranked scoring defense.
SIU did become just the second team in the last three years to clear 200 yards rushing against the Bison, who have won seven of the last eight national championships and were a unanimous No. 1 in both of the major polls this week. The Salukis rushed for 206 yards on 42 carries and held NDSU to a season-low 21 points at Saluki Stadium. The Bison rushed for 246 yards on 45 carries, about 59 yards under their season average, and scored two of their three touchdowns off big plays. Kobe Johnson broke through the middle of the defense for a 44-yard touchdown run on NDSU's opening drive, and quarterback Trey Lance had a 34-yard run with 11:36 to play.
Lance, the likely MVFC Freshman of the Year, completed 13 of 23 passes for 146 yards and no touchdowns. He completed his first regular season as the starter without an interception, and rushed for 57 yards on 10 carries. Lance, a 6-foot-3, 221-pound redshirt freshman righty from Marshall, Minnesota, helped NDSU pick up three of its eight third down conversions with big throws.
"We've played so well on third down on defense this entire year, you know? It's top-10 in the country, and those third down throws that he made...," SIU coach Nick Hill said. "We had him in third-and-long so many times that he just stands back there and throws the ball early with anticipation on those out breaking routes, and the ball comes out tight and he's accurate."
SIU reached the NDSU 1-yard line in the fourth quarter on a drive that might have cut the lead to seven, but was denied when Williams was stopped on fourth-and-goal. The Salukis also missed just their second field goal in their last eight games, when Nico Gualdoni's 44-yard attempt went wide left.
"We really didn't hype up the game like it's David vs. Goliath, because we just don't feel like we're David," Hill said. "We feel like we're a really good football team. We've been preparing for this since January, of finishin' and being a physical football team, learning what it takes to win. So when you get to moments like this, you really don't change who you are. You show up and you go to work."
On Twitter: @THefferman
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