NDSU Holds Off James Madison to Win FCS Championship
For the sixth time in seven years, the North Dakota State Bison are FCS national champions!
NDSU defeated the James Madison Dukes, 17-13 in an intense battle to the end. The Bison defense was stingy and forced three turnovers while holding the James Madison Dukes to just 241 yards total.
The game featured several momentum swings throughout and came down to the last minute.
In the first quarter, JMU (14-1) was forced to a three and out on their first possession, and the Bison came out ready to attack. Quarterback Easton Stick setup the first Bison touchdown on consecutive plays, running for 9 yards, and then hitting R.J. Urzendowski for a gain of 15 before another 9 yard pass to Darrius Shephard. That put the Bison inside the 10 yard line where they would punch it in two plays later on a Bruce Anderson run from 3 yards out to put them up, 7-0.
The biggest plays for yardage for James Madison came from their special teams. D'Angelo Amos returned a Jackson Koonse 37 yard punt exactly 37 yards the other way to put the Dukes at the Bison 14. But the NDSU defense forces a three and out again and held JMU to a 31 yard field goal from Ethan Ratke to make it 7-3.
At the start of the second quarter, JMU had great field position, but was once again forced by the NDSU defense to a field goal attempt. This one sailed wide left from 42 yards out, keeping it at 7-3. Near the middle of the quarter, a crazy sequence occurred when JMU's Symeon Robinson forced a sack-fumble from Easton Stick. The Dukes looked to be in prime position at the Bison 28 yard line. But just three plays later, defensive lineman Nate Tanguay made an incredible interception for NDSU, catching the batted ball off his shoetops. The turnover gave the Bison life on offense as they moved to midfield.
The drive looked like it might stall when on 3rd and 17, Stick threw a 50-yard bomb to Shephard in the end zone to make it 14-3.
On the ensuing drive, JMU had a 3rd and 19 and thought they had a first down when Riley Stapleton caught a 27-yard pass, but was then stripped by NDSU's Josh Hayes, and recovered by Jabril Cox and returned 12 yards to the JMU 41 yard line. An Easton Stick run of 17 yards would setup at 32-yard field goal by Cam Pedersen to make it 17-3.
JMU would start to move the ball on their next possession just before the half. Quarterback Bryan Schor was able to help the Dukes drive deep into Bison territory before the half as they were able to kick a 21-yard field goal to make it 17-6 at halftime.
The Dukes went to work on their first possession of the third quarter. After another long punt return of 33 yards by Amos to the NDSU 33 yard line, JMU quarterback Bryan Schor and running back Marcus Marshall went to work. The combination traded off runs that found the Dukes at the Bison 1 yard line just eight plays later. Amos would run it in from there to make it 17-13.
After a stalled drive on NDSU's ensuing possession, a short punt put JMU with good field position just inside Bison territory. Two pass receptions from Stapleton later had JMU knocking on the door once again, but Marquise Bridges picked off Schor on a pass to the 3-yard line to get the ball back for NDSU.
On both teams next two possessions, neither offense could move, forcing each other to exchange punts. Midway through the fourth quarter, NDSU began moving the ball and eating up the clock. Lance Dunn found a hole and ran 21 yards to the JMU 26-yard line. However, the drive would stall on a 4th down at the JMU 21-yard line. From there, Cam Pedersen attempted a 38-yard field goal that was blocked by Robinson, giving the ball back to the Dukes with 4:37 remaining.
It looked as if the Bison had stopped JMU near midfield with 2:58 left. JMU punter Harry O'Kelly came when the Dukes ran a fake punt on 4th and 9 as O'Kelly ran for the first down inside Bison territory. NDSU's defense was as tough as ever though. The Dukes had the ball inside the Bison 20-yard line at the 19, but could get no further. Then on a 4th and 16 at the Bison 25, Schor threw up a desperation pass toward the end zone into a crowd of receivers and defensive backs which was batted to the ground and fell incomplete and the celebration was on.
Stick was 13 of 22 for 130 yards and a touchdown while the running game of Anderson and Dunn had 113 yards on 31 carries and a touchdown between them. While those state might not look spectacular, they helped pound away at the JMU defense. Shephard had 6 catches for 74 yards and a touchdown to lead the Bison receiving corps.
NDSU's defense held JMU's Bryan Schor to just 14 of 32 passing for 148 yards and 2 interceptions.
The North Dakota State Bison finish with a record of 14-1 and are FCS national champs once again.
Congrats to Coach Chris Klieman and the Bison players!