North Dakota State to play for FCS title
Fargo, ND (Sports Network) - The sign in the Fargodome stands implored North Dakota State football to "Occupy Frisco."
But the place where the Bison don't leave room for others to go is their end zone.
The FCS leader in scoring defense shut down another top offense on Saturday, slowing Georgia Southern's vaunted triple option in a 35-7 victory in the national semifinals.
The win sends second-seeded North Dakota State (13-1) to Frisco, Texas, where it will play top-seeded Sam Houston State (14-0) in the FCS championship game Jan. 7 at Pizza Hut Park.
National titles are a big part of North Dakota State's rich history as it has won eight Division II or College Division championships. However, the Bison, like Sam Houston State, will be appearing in the FCS title game for the first time.
A near sellout of 18,108 watched North Dakota State punch its ticket to the championship game by limiting third-seeded Georgia Southern (11-3) to its season-low point total. The seven points matched the Bison's defensive average through three playoff games and lowered their season scoring average to 13.2 points per game.
GSU, a six-time FCS champion, entered the game ranked second in the FCS with 334.1 rushing yards per game, but NDSU outrushed the Eagles 314 yards to 186. Sam Ojuri had 100 yards on 15 carries for the Missouri Valley Football Conference co-champion and quarterback Brock Jensen and D.J. McNorton added 94 yards each. All three players scored on runs.
The Bison, who converted three GSU turnovers into touchdowns, pulled away with defensive stops at key sequences.
Georgia Southern surrendered three fumbles and the second one occurred on the opening drive of the second half when Bison free safety John Pike stripped J.J. Wilcox of the ball on a reception just outside the NDSU end zone, and linebacker Travis Beck gave the Bison possession of the ball at their 4. Instead of the Southern Conference champions potentially tying the game at 14-14, they fell behind 20-7 when the Bison converted the turnover into a touchdown drive.
Jensen finished off the 96-yard touchdown drive with a 55-yard keeper around left end at the 5:53 mark of the third quarter. Ryan Jastram missed the extra point attempt, keeping the lead at 20-7.
GSU then had another excellent scoring opportunity stopped deep in NDSU territory. Down 20-7, the Eagles went for a touchdown on 4th-and-goal from the Bison 3. Quarterback Jaybo Shaw pitched the ball to Dominique Swope, but Bison linebacker Brandon Jemison was left unblocked and he met Swope at the 9, slowing him down to be tackled at the 8.
Ojuri broke loose for a 39-yard run to begin NDSU's ensuing drive and he ended it with a 4-yard touchdown run to make it 26-7 with 7:45 left. McNorton then scored a two-point conversion on a shovel pass from Jensen to push the lead to 28-7.
NDSU's Ryan Drevlow recovered a fumble by Shaw with 5:39 left and the Bison converted the miscue into a 4-yard touchdown run by McNorton, increasing their lead to 35-7 with 39 seconds remaining,
North Dakota State took a 14-7 lead into halftime by answering a GSU touchdown drive with its own five-play, 60-yard scoring march late in the second quarter.
Warren Holloway caught a 29-yard pass from Jensen to reach the GSU 17 and then scored on the next play when he took a pitch from McNorton on an end-around and went untouched into the end zone at the 1:38 mark.
That left enough time for GSU to drive into field goal range, but the Eagles failed to score off a fake on the final play of the half. Holder Charlie Edwards threw an incomplete pass into the NDSU end zone, where Bison cornerback Christian Dudzik tipped a potential touchdown away from John Douglas.
In the first quarter, GSU's first lost fumble set up North Dakota State with the game's first touchdown. Shaw fumbled the ball on a fake to running back Dominique Swope and NDSU linebacker Chad Willson recovered it on the Eagles' 17.
Two plays later, Holloway separated himself from GSU safety Laron Scott in a corner of the Eagles' end zone and hauled in a 19-yard touchdown pass from Jensen with 4:45 left.
GSU's offense, not surprisingly, played aggressively. The Eagles converted on fourth down on a drive that later ended on downs early in the second quarter. Midway through the quarter, they ran a fake punt from their 33 and converted the first down on Johnathan Bryant's 13-yard run around end.
The Eagles then continued the drive over 13 plays and 83 yards until Swope scored on a 23-yard run up the middle, tying the game 7-7 with 3:58 left in the half.
Jensen completed 10-of-15 passes for 137 yards and one touchdowns, while Shaw was 11-for-18 for 134 yards. Swope had 96 yards on 23 carries for GSU.
Colten Heagle recorded a game-high 15 tackles and broke up a pass for the Bison.
12/17 18:19:20 ET