By now, there might not be any reason for surprise.
Certainly a win over the reigning Big Ten West Division champions on the road will go down as an upset, and officially, it’s only the fourth time in the past 16 years that an FCS team has knocked off a ranked FBS program. But North Dakota State has made a habit of stepping up a weight class and delivering knockout blows, and the biggest testament to the strength of the program is that the 23-21 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes hardly qualifies as a shocker.
Playing a brand of physical, old-school football that wouldn’t look out of place in the Big Ten, the Bison were deserving winners over Iowa. They forced an early error and made the most of it with a defensive touchdown. They weathered a storm when the Hawkeyes found their footing and C.J. Beathard started tossing touchdown passes. After winning five straight national titles, they clearly weren’t intimidated by the moment or scared of the challenge down the stretch.
Even after gambling and failing on a late 2-point conversion attempt to take the lead, the Bison bounced right back with a spirited defensive stop and easily marched down to field-goal range. They even managed the clock to perfection, as they timed the final kick to sail through the uprights as the last second ticked away.
The loss doesn’t mean anything for Iowa’s chances of winning the Big Ten, and it isn’t fatal for its hopes of making a run to the College Football Playoff. The Bison obviously are far from a run-of-the-mill FCS squad, and the Hawkeyes have plenty of company in a club that now includes six FBS programs who made the mistake of paying the Bison to visit. Kansas, Minnesota, Colorado State, Kansas State and Iowa State have all been there and know exactly how the Hawkeyes felt on Saturday afternoon.
Iowa has the time and the ability to bounce back. But the real question, after another impressive victory for the Bison, is who will ever want to put them on the schedule again?