When the Bucks needed one more big play, Jauhem Byrd delivered.
The fourth scoring strike of the game from Tyler Johnson to Byrd proved to be the game-winner as the Bucks edged the Omaha Beef 33-32 Saturday night at the Bismarck Event Center.
Byrd's game-winner came with just 13 seconds left in regulation. A short kickoff and penalty on the Bucks actually teed up a potential game-winning kick. But Omaha's Tucker Milliken pushed the 23-yarder to the right, sending the Event Center crowd home happy.
"This is a great win for our team," said Byrd, who hauled in touchdown catches of 23, 24, 10 and 23 yards. We have a bye week coming up. This is exactly what we needed."
Byrd, who totaled nine catches for 110 yards, saved the best for last.
Down 32-27, Byrd again beat man-coverage by the Beef and went crashing into the end zone wall to nab the game-winner with just 13 seconds left.
"My coach, (offensive coordinator) Paco Martinez, believed in me to make a play. (Tyler) threw a great ball and I went up and got it," Byrd said. "And the rest is history."
The Bucks improved to 3-2 in the Champions Indoor Football League with the win. Omaha, which advanced to last season's CIF championship game, fell to 1-3.
"I hope it was fun for the fans but boy, it was an interesting game. We can definitely say that," Bismarck coach Richard Davis said. "Omaha is a really good team. We're very happy to get out of here with a win."
Bismarck's defense held Omaha's high-powered offense, led by quarterback Anthony Iannotti, to just three touchdowns.
"Our defense played lights-out," Davis said. "We feel really good about how we've played defensively all season."
The Bucks forced two fumbles, including one on a bone-crunching sack by 6-foot-9 defensive lineman Shawn Oakman. Marquis Smith had a team-best 10 tackles for the Bucks, including 1 1/2 sacks.
Bismarck turned the ball over just once, but neither team was able to muster much on the ground.
Both squads struggled in the kicking game with a combined five missed field goals and two clanked extra points.
Johnson was an efficient 12-for-18 with 127 yards for the Bucks. Zavier Steward added a 4-yard touchdown run.
"That's a really good defense we played," Davis said of Omaha. "They've been proving it week after week."
But the Bucks have the 27-year-old Byrd, who views his role on the team more than just a big-play threat.
"I'm a vet. This is my second year with the Bucks and we have a bunch of young guys and I need to provide leadership and make sure I'm helping guys out whenever they need something," he said.
Byrd says the sky is the limit for the Bucks, who return to action on April 21 at home for their second game against the Salina Liberty. Salina won the first meeting in Kansas on March 17, 50-32.
"We can take it all the way to the championship and win it. I truly believe that," said Byrd. "We still have to be more consistent, we know that, but we have a really good team. I feel great about what we can accomplish if we stay on this path."