The third-longest winning streak in FCS history is now, well, history.
No. 1 North Dakota State, winners of 39 consecutive games including 15 top-10 opponents and two national title games, lost Saturday. Not only that, the Bison were blown out -- a 38-14 whacking at the paws of the Southern Illinois Salukis.
NDSU was one of three Division I teams in history teams to pass or approach 40 consecutive, and the first to do so since Oklahoma set the record of 47 straight way back in 1957.
Leading 3-0 after the opening frame, SIU grabbed control with a 12-play, 93-yard touchdown drive. After forcing a Bison three-and-out, the Salukis then marched 74 yards in seven snaps, taking a 17-0 lead on a 4th-and-goal 1-yard run by Javon Williams, Jr. The Williams run put an exclamation point on a 13-minute stretch where SIU ran 19 plays for 167 yards and scored 14 points over 10:25 of possession, while the Bison didn't gain a yard.
North Dakota State got on the board with a 37-yard hail mary on the first half's final play, but that score was a mere delay of the inevitable, not a reversal of fortune.
Southern Illinois ran off three consecutive touchdown drives while forcing three punts, a fumble and an interception, putting the game completely out of reach at 38-7 on a 20-yard Romeir Elliott run with 3:07 to play. Elliott and Williams each ran for two scores, while Nic Baker hit 17-of-23 passes for 254 yards with a touchdown and no picks. Zeb Noland, now NDSU's starter with Trey Lance prepping for April's NFL draft, went 13-of-24 for 159 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
The loss is NDSU's first since Nov. 4, 2017, and its first 20-point setback since a 23-3 loss to Northern Iowa in 2014. The last time a Bison outfit lost a game worse than this was Oct. 8, 2005, when North Dakota State competed in the Great West Conference.
To further illustrate how rare a loss like this is in general, consider the FBS AP No. 1 team hasn't lost to an unranked foe since Sept. 25, 2008, when Oregon State took down USC. According to College Poll Archive, the FBS AP No. 1 has lost to an unranked opponent by 20 points or more twice in the poll's 85-year history, and not at all since 1981.
What's more, in this sprint of an FCS season, only a handful of at-large bids are there for the taking. The 3-time defending national champions are just three games into a 9-game season, so there's still six weeks of football ahead of them. But one more slip up could spell real trouble for the green and gold reign atop the FCS.
But that's for another day. Now, we'll need to crown a new No. 1, and that team may very well be in North Dakota.
While NDSU was getting clobbered, the North Dakota Fighting Hawks were at home in Grand Forks doing some clobbering of their own.
UND, ranked No. 14 entering the day, took down No. 3 South Dakota State 28-17.
The Fighting Hawks trailed 7-0 early and would've been down 14-0 but for a dropped touchdown pass that led to an SDSU field goal try, which North Dakota then blocked. In fact, UND blocked a kick and a punt and registered a long kickoff return, while the Hawks' defense limited the Jackrabbits to three second-half points.
The win pushed North Dakota to 2-0 on the year, their first win coming by a 44-21 decision over giant slayer Southern Illinois.
The Hawks have a great argument for No. 1, but reigning FCS runner-up James Madison -- 2-0 with a cumulative score of 88-16 -- is No. 2 now and proven worthy of a No. 1 ranking as well.
Either way, it's still early, but Saturday's results showed this once-in-a-lifetime FCS spring season will be a sprint the entire way.