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Top-ranked North Dakota State was riding one of college football’s most impressive winning streaks coming into Saturday’s game against Southern Illinois at the FCS level. Now, the Bison have suffered their first loss in more than three years — their last one coming on Nov. 4, 2017 to South Dakota State — with a resounding 38-14 defeat. The loss snaps a 39-game winning streak that included three straight Division I FCS championships. 

This wasn’t just any upset. Southern Illinois outgained North Dakota State by nearly 200 yards (443 to 268) and more than doubled the number of first downs (25 to 12). Most of North Dakota State’s offense came either in garbage time or on an 80-yard Hail Mary to end the first half. 

But Southern Illinois had an answer with four rushing touchdowns, including two in the fourth quarter to put the game away for good. In the Bison’s second game without quarterback Trey Lance, who has declared for the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft, they averaged just under six yards per play. Two turnovers plus an overwhelming advantage in time of possession (41:26 to 18:34) also helped Southern Illinois keep North Dakota State from mounting any kind of comeback. 

The result is obviously unexpected considering what was at stake. For one, it marks North Dakota State’s most lopsided defeat in 16 years when the Bison lost to Cal Poly 37-6. But it also brings to an end one of the most impressive winning streaks in the history of college football, at any level. Winning 40 straight games is exceedingly rare. Only two teams have done it: Washington from 1908 to 1914, and of course, Oklahoma from 1953 to 1957 when Bud Wilkinson’s Sooners went 47 straight games without a loss. 

For context, USC won 34 straight games from 2003 to 2005 and Miami won 34 straight games from 2000 to 2002. Clemson and Florida State have both hit 29-game streaks this past decade. 

Yes, North Dakota State’s streak was bound to come to an end at some point. No team wins every time. But Saturday’s game against the Salukis was a loss in the same way that the Titanic was a ship wreck. 





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