Frisco, TX (Sports Network) - Hopefully, the NCAA won't make the mistake again
of mailing North Dakota State's FCS national championship banner to the wrong
Of course, the NCAA could consider saving on the postage and just handing off
the banner to the Bison next January at the NCAA Division I Football
North Dakota State left no doubt about its reign over the FCS when on Saturday
it became the fifth program and the first in six years to repeat as the
national champion, defeating Sam Houston State for the second straight year,
39-13, before a raucous, Bison-dominated sellout of 21,411 at FC Dallas
The Missouri Valley Football Conference champions completed their second
straight 14-1 campaign while becoming the first team to repeat as the FCS
titlist since Appalachian State won three in a row from 2005-07.
It also was the Bison's eighth football national championship either in the
FCS, NCAA Division II or Small College Division (wire service polls).
"It's very rewarding and it's extremely hard to do," said NDSU coach Craig
Bohl, the 2012 Eddie Robinson Award winner as FCS coach of the year. "Once you
do that, I think you're now transitioning your program into a pretty premier
program, to be able to go back-to-back."
Considering Bohl has a lineup that started only four seniors in the title
game - and only two if not for injuries - he seemingly will wind up his squad
for a run at a championship three-peat next season.
So the NCAA could hold off on sending the NDSU banner, which last year hung in
its Hall of Champions until it mistakenly sent the banner to the University of
North Dakota in June.
"I'm sure they're going to get it correct this team," All-America cornerback
Marcus Williams said with a laugh.
Sam Houston also may have the returnees to get back to the national title
game, but the Bearkats (11-4) should probably be hoping the Bison get tripped
up along the way.
NDSU's top-ranked defense again slowed Sam Houston's fast-break offense that
entered the game with a 41.9-point average. The Bison picked off four passes
and turned three of them into touchdowns.
"I thought the turnovers were really critical," Bohl said, "us being able to
control the line of scrimmage - that was really important. I thought
defensively we gave up some yardage, but we did a good job keeping them out of
the end zone, and it's very rewarding to have back-to-back national
"This is the best defense we've played this season," Sam Houston coach Willie
Fritz said, "and (Texas) A&M and Baylor have great defenses. They really play
with leverage, stay over the top, tackle real well, don't make very many
mistakes, got to earn every yard you get. They do an excellent job.
Junior quarterback Brock Jensen, named the game's most outstanding player
award after totaling 159 yards and rushing for three touchdowns, led the
opportunistic Bison offense.
The game was tied 10-10 early in the third quarter when the Bison turned the
second of three interceptions thrown by Sam Houston quarterback Brian Bell
into the go-ahead touchdown. Linebacker Carlton Littlejohn's pick of Bell at
the Bison 40 was followed by a 10-play, 60-yard scoring drive which was capped
by Jensen's 1-yard quarterback sneak with 8:30 left in the third quarter.
Then after NDSU stopped Sam Houston on downs at the Bison 35, the visitors -
if you can call them that considering their program owned Frisco again - drove
the 65 yards to score again on Sam Ojuri's 2-yard run on fourth down at the
If the Bearkats weren't emotionally drained at the point, the extra point
attempt turned on the spigot.
After a botched snap, holder Ben LeCompte lateraled the ball to kicker Adam
Keller, who whie being pressured lofted the ball into the Sam Houston end zone
and it came down in the hands of Mike Hardie, a defensive end by trade who was
in to block, and the two points extended the lead to 25-10.
Sam Houston countered with Miguel Antonio's second field goal with 13:20 left
in the fourth quarter, to cut its deficit to 25-13, but the Bison kept
marching downfield, with Jensen again scoring from one yard out and Ojuri (92
yards) racing in an 11-yard run. The Bison rushed for 300 yards on 45 carries.
"It's got to be the hardest thing you do in sports," Jensen said, "repeat a
championship, go back-to-back, especially a national championship. It's hard
enough to repeat a conference championship, especially when you're playing in
"But it takes a great deal of resiliency from a group of young men like us and
also our coaching staff."
The second half could have gone differently after the first half ended in a
10-10 tie. Sam Houston nearly had a potential go-ahead score on the opening
drive of the third quarter - a Timothy Flanders 41-yard touchdown run - but
the big play was negated by an offensive holding.
On the next play, Littlejohn completely wiped out the drive by intercepting
Bell to jump-start the NDSU momentum machine.
"That's a big turning point," Williams said about NDSU getting the lead
instead of Sam Houston.
The Bearkats managed only one touchdown in the two championship games against
NDSU, but the score in the final minute of the first half prevented them from
having a nervous locker room at halftime.
They, too, were helped by a penalty. NDSU cornerback Andre Martin was whistled
for a holding penalty to negate his interception of Bell with 53 seconds left.
Bell then lofted a 30-yard sideline pass over Martin to Richard Sincere to
move the Bearkats to the Bison 1, where one play later the junior quarterback
faked a handoff to Flanders and threw to tight end K.J. Williams near the back
of the end zone for a 1-yard TD and a 10-10 deadlock with 33 seconds
NDSU had grabbed a 10-3 lead after Williams set the school record with his
17th career interception. His second of the game in the fourth quarter took
him up to 18.
The Bison converted the game's turnover into a five-play, 72-yard touchdown
drive. The last three plays were each runs of at least 20 yards: a Jensen
third-down scramble for 21, wide receiver Ryan Smith's reverse for 24 and then
Jensen going around left end to weave his way into the Sam Houston end
zone from 20 yards out to put NDSU ahead 10-3 with 3:09 left in the half.
Until then, the first half had the feel of a chess match considering both
teams were familiar with each other's tendencies. Sam Houston, not
surprisingly, had the more aggressive play calling.
To open the game, the Bearkats had an interesting approach when it targeted
passes toward Williams four times in their first two drives, connecting twice
while also drawing a pass interference call. But the Bearkats came up empty on
both drives, the second time when Antonio went the dreaded wide right on a 32-
yard field goal attempt with 6:26 left in the first quarter.
NDSU opened its ensuing possession with John Crockett taking a pitch and
rushing a career-best 57 yards to the Sam Houston 23, setting up Keller for a
successful 32-yard field goal and a 3-0 Bison lead with 3:49 left.
"We're a really physical football team," said Bohl, whose team has defeated 15
straight nationally ranked teams. "We're going to be disciplined, we play all
three elements of the game. When you really cut the veneer off the table,
we're going to be really hard-nosed stopping the run, we're going to be able
to run the football as Billy (Turner, NDSU's All- America left tackle) said,
throw it when we need to and control the football.
It's a Bison legacy that is becoming an FCS dynasty in the making.
The Sports Network