CEDAR FALLS, Iowa — Northern Iowa kept three-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State out of the end zone and handed the Bison their first loss, 23-3 on Saturday.
The loss snapped North Dakota State's 33-game winning streak, the longest in Football Championship Subdivision history. It also snapped an 18-game Missouri Valley Football Conference win streak. The loss knocked the Bison (9-1, 5-1) into a first-place tie with Illinois State atop the MVFC standings. Northern Iowa (6-4, 4-2) pulled into a tie with Youngstown State for second place.
There was no second-half magic to save the Bison, only a frustrating Northern Iowa defense that snuffed out one of the longest winning streaks in the history and the longest active winning streak in college football.
The 19th-ranked Panthers shut down the running game of the top-ranked Bison and held them without a touchdown for the first time since a 3-0 loss to Missouri State on November 20, 2010.
UNI turned the tables on the Bison, outscoring them 16-3 in the second half. NDSU had allowed just 55 second-half points in its last 18 games.
Darrian Miller put an exclamation point on the win with a 30-yard TD run with 5:04 to play. UNI outrushed the Bison 213-43.
The loss knocked the Bison (9-1, 5-1) into a first-place tie with Illinois State atop the MVFC standings. Northern Iowa (6-4, 4-2) pulled into a tie with Youngstown State for second place.
David Johnson rushed for 133 yards on 28 carries to lead Northern Iowa. Brion Carnes finished with 43 yards, including a 6-yard run for a first-quarter touchdown.
With neither team generating offense, the game came down to breaks and UNI created more.
UNI's first touchdown was set up by an interception and long return. The first of Michael Schmadeke's three field goals was set up by a fumble, and a 56-yard kickoff return set up the second kick.
With the Bison ground game ground to a halt, NDSU had to rely on quarterback Carson Wentz and the junior struggled. He was 15-for-25 for 132 yards and an interception. He missed several open receivers deep over the middle in the third quarter.
With neither team able to sustain an offense, NDSU's defense created the first scoring chance but UNI's defense took it away.
Brian Schaetz recovered a Carnes fumble giving NDSU the ball at the UNI 34. The Bison drive stalled and Adam Keller missed a field goal. But UNI was whistled for a penalty and the Bison got the ball back at the UNI 13.
On third down, NDSU's Andrew Bonnet bobbled a Carson Wentz pass and Tim Kilfoy picked it off and returned it 45 yards to the NDSU 37.
Carnes later kept the ball for 6 yards and a TD with 3:59 left in the half.
UNI attempted a fake field goal as time ran out in the half. Holder Logan Bieghler's pass was intercepted by Carlton Littlejohn and the Panthers took a 7-0 lead into the break.
It was the second straight game that NDSU trailed at half. South Dakota State led 10-7 only to collapse in the second half of a 37-17 Bison win last week.
The second half began with a fumble by NDSU's Darius Anderson. Makinton Dorleant recovered at the Bison 25 and the Panthers went up 10-0 on Schmadeke's 43-yard field goal just 1:19 into the half.
Ben LeCompte set up NDSU's first score with a punt out of bounds inside the Panthers' 1-yard line.
After a three-and-out, C.J. Smith returned a UNI punt to the Panthers' 12. But again, the Bison failed to move the ball and settled for an Adam Keller 21-yard field goal with 2:27 left in the third.
UNI took back the momentum right away when Chad Owens returned the ensuing kickoff 56 yards to the NDSU 44. That big return led to Schmadeke's 36-yard field goal on the first play of the fourth quarter and a 13-3 lead.
Schmadeke struck again with 9:25 left from 42 yard for a 16-3 lead.
With 5:04 to play, Miller ran up the middle and through the secondary for 30 of his 40 yards and a score that ended any hope of a Bison comeback.
NDSU running back John Crockett was held to 32 yards. He came in averaging 115 yards per game.
NDSU was just 1-for-14 on third down and finished with 175 yards of total offense.
It was the second straight win by the Panthers over an unbeaten team. UNI handed Illinois State its first loss last week.