McFeely: Bison going back home to Frisco for sixth time in last seven years
The jam-packed Fargodome crowd, already rocking and rolling, rose to its feet and roared as North Dakota State's football team jogged toward the locker room as the first half ended in the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals on Friday night.
There were likely two reasons for this.
First, the fans might've been following the lead of the Bison head coach, Chris Klieman, who was angry after he saw starting cornerback Jalen Allison suffer a season-ending knee injury caused by a Sam Houston State player's illegal low hit. More on that later.
Second, they get to make a return a trip to Frisco, Texas.
Bison fans can take their annual early January vacation again.
"We're going back to Frisco. It's really hard to get there. I know a lot of people think it's easy," Klieman said. "Now I can go back to the grocery store and tell people, 'You bought those tickets in July and you can use them now.' I'm really thrilled. It's really hard to do what we've done. To do it the way we've done it these last three weeks—those were three dominating performances on both sides of the ball. It's fun when your guys are executing at such a high level."
This one was over early. So much so that the NDSU game management crew blasted "If You're Gonna Play in Texas" over the dome loud speakers with 9 minutes left in the third quarter and NDSU leading 48-6.
This was the signal that the Bison are headed back to Toyota Stadium, their home away from home for five straight years before James Madison ended their record-setting run last year.
As we've said before: Buy more booze, Frisco and Plano bar owners, because there might be 20,000 Bison fans headed your way.
They'll likely still be in a mood to celebrate after what transpired against the Bearkats. NDSU won 55-13, and the outcome was only in doubt for a few minutes.
With an offense allegedly run on rocket fuel, Sam Houston State came to the dome with the swagger of their head coach, K.C. Keeler. And on the Bearkats' first drive, it looked like quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe and his talented stable of receivers were going to be able to puncture the Bison's savage defense. But the Bearkats settled only for a field goal and then something happened.
His name was Bruuuuuuce.
NDSU junior running back Bruce Anderson ran over, around and through a Sam Houston State defense that was even less resistant than advertised. Dazed and confused might be the best description of the Bearkats' scheme and execution, and there's a pretty good chance Texas native Matthew McConaughey would've been an upgrade at linebacker.
"Their men were definitely better than my boys today," Keeler said.
Anderson scored four touchdowns in the first half, three by running and one by receiving, and rushed for 160 yards. He had his career high in the first two quarters. Anderson scored a fifth time in the third quarter.
The Bison's offense was like something from Madden NFL 18, except that the video game defenders probably would have been able to get a hand on Anderson when he went off-tackle and sprinted 62 yards for NDSU's second TD in the first quarter.
The totals were off the charts. NDSU finished with 471 rushing yards and 642 total yards, both postseason school records. True freshman Seth Wilson ran for 194 yards, Anderson finished the game with 183.
The only downside for the Bison, and it's a huge one, was injuries. Three starters—Allison, running back Ty Brooks and cornerback Jaylaan Wimbush—left the game in the first half with what Klieman deemed as season-ending injuries.
Klieman was steamed about Allison's injury. He was hit low by Sam Houston State running back Remus Bulmer during an interception return by Tre Dempsey in the second quarter, a play that was negated by a penalty anyway.
"Really frustrated," Klieman said. "It was an unethical play. It should have been called a penalty. The kid lost an opportunity to play and will probably have to have surgery. It was unfortunate because that shouldn't happen."
Klieman said the injury to Allison took away from the victory.
"A little bit. I'm irritated. Absolutely," Klieman said. "The kid's a great football player and it was an illegal play."
For Sam Houston State, it was another inglorious end to a playoff run. Keeler's team lost 35-3 to the Bison in the semifinals in 2014, 62-10 to Jacksonville State in the quarterfinals in 2015 and 65-7 to James Madison last season.
"We won 46 games in the last four years and we're the stepchild. We're the ugly ducking," Keeler said, wrapping up his postgame remarks in a lower-level room of the Fargodome as Bison players waited outside. "We aspire to be national champions and we know what they look like—they are right outside that door."
The Bearkats always end up going home to Huntsville, Texas, as big losers.
The Bison are going home to Texas, too. Just with a little different feeling.