Frisco, Texas — The green and yellow confetti was beginning to thin out when Tre Dempsey met Marcus Williams behind the victory stage of Toyota Stadium. They gave each other the football player bear hug, and in a sense it represented a passing of the dynasty torch.
North Dakota State calls its defense "Code Green" and the code was dialed in all afternoon against James Madison. Just like it was dialed in when Williams was the cornerback during the start of the six straight FCS national titles.
In 2013, Williams left his NDSU career behind with three championships. Dempsey played his last game on Saturday and he's leaving the school with three more rings. That's what dominant programs do: When one dude leaves, another dude takes his place.
NDSU offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham said JMU was the quickest team at all 11 positions his offense has faced all year. Trying to find points against the Dukes was going to be no easy task and it wasn't.
The newspaper headline from the first title in 2011 was "Golden Boys." Give props to this trophy to the Code Green Boys after the 17-13 win over the Dukes on Saturday afternoon.
"I love what players pass down to us, it's been like this for years," Dempsey said.
If the rest of the FCS needs more evidence that defense wins championships, look no farther than this clash of stoppers. JMU came in No. 1 in scoring defense and the Bison came in No. 2.
NDSU was tested, certainly, especially with the Dukes repeatedly having great field position. In one stretch of the third quarter, JMU started consecutive possessions at the Bison 33- and 48-yard lines and its own 45-yard line.
The only thing the Dukes got out of it was their only touchdown of the game, a one-yard touchdown run when they only had to go 33 yards to get it.
"One thing that was frustrating was the short field," said defensive coordinator Matt Entz. "Our guys felt comfortable they were not going to drive 70 or 80 yards against us."
Especially with NDSU winning the turnover margin. That's usually the trick in winning these things ... get more takeaways than the other team. The Bison even resorted to their ace pickoff artist in defensive tackle Nate Tanguay, who for a 6-foot-4, 300-pound guy looked rather athletic in nabbing a deflected Bryan Schor pass.
Then Tanguay did what all defensive backs/tackles do when they pick one off: go the other way. The odds of the big fella scoring were not good, but at least he gave it a shot.
"The next thing I know Tanguay is trying to stiff-arm somebody," said cornerback Marquise Bridges.
"Anytime you see a 300-pound guy running with the ball, you want to get out of his way," said linebacker Nick DeLuca.
Tanguay reached his own 29-yard line, but a personal foul on JMU after the play gave the Bison the ball at the 44. They promptly scored in five plays, thanks to a 50-yard bomb to receiver Darrius Shepherd and it was 14-3 in the second quarter.
"Code Green, they're an amazing bunch of dudes and we know that we can always rely on them, the best defense in the country," Shepherd said. "Whenever they are on the field, we have belief in them."
Belief was getting challenged in the fourth quarter when JMU was driving for a potential winning touchdown. It came after the Dukes blocked Cam Pedersen's 38-yard field goal and they got the ball at their own 27 with 4:37 left.
Schor, the veteran senior, was in his element since he's led his team to clutch wins over the last couple of years. He got help this time with a fake punt that punter Harry O'Kelly took for 24 yards to the Bison 29.
Ironically, Matt Voigtlander's fake punt in 2011 was a big play in the first Bison title. It was looking like fate on the fake punt was going to even out.
Dempsey said he wanted to call time out before the ball was snapped to change the NDSU defensive call.
"I put the blame on myself, I thought we should have gone safe on that," he said.
Kelly, by the way, was his team's second-leading rusher with the 24 yards. Code Green was tough on the JMU rushing attack.
Schor ran 10 yards to the 19, which anything inside the 20 is commonly called the red zone. But on this day, NDSU put up a virtual wall.
JMU faced fourth-and-16 when Schor was scrambling to avoid a sack. Off balance, he heaved a high lofting pass toward the end zone, kind of a mini-Hail Mary. DeLuca said it seemed like the ball stayed in the air forever.
"I saw the quarterback scrambling like he did the whole game," Dempsey said, "and he did a great job extending plays. And then there were two people open, I took one and Nick took the other. He was going to get sacked and then he just threw it up. When he threw it up, I said in my head it's over."
It was. The Bison players and their throng of fans started to make plans to crash the field again.
Code Green can make another set of title T-shirts.