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Bison rewind: A look back at NDSU's unprecedented consecutive trips to the FCS quarterfinals

North Dakota State is making an FCS record 12th consecutive appearance in the national quarterfinals Saturday when it hosts East Tennessee State at the Fargodome.

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North Dakota State running back John Crockett breaks free on a 70-yard touchdown run against Coastal Carolina on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the FCS quarterfinals at the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum
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FARGO — North Dakota State is playing in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals for a subdivision-record 12th consecutive time this weekend when it hosts East Tennessee State at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 11, at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome. The game is being televised on ESPN.

Multiple other teams are tied for second behind the Bison with six consecutive FCS quarterfinal appearances. NDSU has a 9-2 record in their previous 11 trips to the quarters. The Bison are 9-0 at home during that record-setting run.

Below is a look at NDSU's previous 11 quarterfinal games:

2010 FCS quarterfinals

Eastern Washington 38, North Dakota State 31 (OT)

Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010, Cheney, Wash.

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Attendance: 4,060

In its first trip to the national quarterfinals, North Dakota State lost in an overtime instant classic against Eastern Washington, which went on the win the national championship that season.

“It was a crazy game,” said Bison running back D.J. McNorton. “It was a tough game. Up and down. So close.”

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North Dakota State quarterback Brock Jensen reacts after the Bison lost in overtime against Eastern Washington in the 2010 FCS quarterfinals Saturday, Dec. 11, 2010, in Cheney, Wash. Christopher Anderson / Special to The Forum

Eagles quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Tyler Hart on the first play of overtime that proved to be the difference in a 38-31 victory.

NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen fumbled near the goal line and the Eagles recovered on the game’s final play in overtime. The play went to a booth review and it was ruled there was not enough evidence to overturn the call on the field.

“I thought he was down for sure, but what do I know,” Bison offensive lineman Paul Cornick said after the game.

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The Bison led 31-24 late in the fourth quarter. They punted and pinned Eastern Washington at its own 10-yard line with 2 minutes, 29 seconds to play in the fourth. The Eagles needed two fourth-down conversions on a drive that ended with a touchdown that forced overtime.

“It’s a little shocking,” said Bison defensive end Coulter Boyer. “We’re up a touchdown with two minutes left and end up losing. You go from being happy and ecstatic to being down. A lot of my friends are seniors and it makes us sad we can’t keep playing. They just executed at the right time.”

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North Dakota State linebacker Preston Evans celebrates after intercepting the ball in the end zone in the third quarter of the 2011 quarterfinals against Lehigh. The Bison went to a 24-0 victory. Forum file photo

2011 FCS quarterfinals

North Dakota State 24, Lehigh 0

Saturday, Dec. 10, 2011, Fargodome

Attendance: 18,111

North Dakota State limited Lehigh to 68 yards rushing, while earning the shutout to advance to the NCAA Division I FCS semifinals for the first time in program history. Senior Bison linebacker Preston Evans had five tackles and a key interception in the end zone against the Mountain Hawks.

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“Not in my wildest dreams did I think we were going to shut them out,” said NDSU defensive coordinator Scott Hazelton. “It’s hard to pitch a shutout against anybody, let alone against a team with a quarterback that talented.”

Lehigh quarterback Chris Lum completed 25 of 52 passes for 288 yards with two interceptions.

“They threw everything at us,” Lum said. “They were relentless.”

Lum added the Fargodome noise made it difficult for the Mountain Hawks to operate their offense.

“The communication with the offensive line and receivers was difficult,” Lum said.

“Our crowd is football smart,” added Bison quarterback Brock Jensen. “They know the game very well. That’s the home-field advantage to the max.”

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North Dakota State linebacker Grant Olson, right, tackles Wofford quarterback Brian Kass on Saturday, Dec.8, 2012, at the Fargodome. Olson had a school record 29 tackles in that game. David Samson / The Forum

2012 FCS quarterfinals

North Dakota State 14, Wofford 7

Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012, Fargodome

Attendance: 18,267

North Dakota State linebacker Grant Olson had 29 tackles as the Bison earned a 14-7 victory against a stingy Wofford team. Terriers running back Eric Breitenstein rushed for 135 yards on 24 attempts.

Wofford, however, didn’t score any points on offense. The Terriers seven points came off a Blake Wylie 35-yard interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter.

Olson set a school record for tackles in a single game.

“The defensive line played phenomenal,” Olson said. “They deserve all the credit. They kept the blocks off of us. If it would’ve been the other way around, we wouldn’t have won this game.”

Bison receiver Zach Vraa caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Brock Jensen late in the second quarter to give NDSU a 14-7 lead, which proved to be the difference.

“When people say it’s a difficult place to play, they’re not kidding,” Wofford head coach Mike Ayers said. “I was honored to be in this game.”

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North Dakota State running back Sam Ojuri watches a video monitor for his progress toward an early touchdown against Coastal Carolina on Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, at the Fargodome. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

2013 FCS quarterfinals

North Dakota State 48, Coastal Carolina 14

Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, Fargodome

Attendance: 18,219

North Dakota State erupted for 34 points in the first half and cruised to victory against the Chanticleers. Bison running back Sam Ojuri rushed for 162 yards and two touchdowns on 20 attempts to help pace the offense.

“We’re a focused group of guys that are trying to accomplish greatness,” Bison quarterback Brock Jensen said. “The world would have to come to an end to distract this group. We’re fortunate we get to play another 60 minutes.”

Jensen completed 14 of 21 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 75 yards and two touchdowns on 10 attempts.

“There was something in the air that got everybody going,” Ojuri said. “It was important to start strong and finish stronger.”

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North Dakota State running back John Crockett breaks free on a 70-yard touchdown run against Coastal Carolina on Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, during the FCS quarterfinals at the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum

2014 FCS quarterfinals

North Dakota State 39, Coastal Carolina 32

Saturday, Dec. 13, 2014, Fargodome

Attendance: 18,049

North Dakota State running back John Crockett capped a monster performance with a game-winning touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Crockett rushed for 227 yards and two touchdowns on 26 attempts to help the Bison finish with 327 rushing yards.

“It’s time,” Crockett said. “You have to be ready to go. Win or shut up.”

The Bison trailed 32-31 after Chanticleers running back De’Angelo Henderson scored on a 2-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Henderson rushed for 143 yards and a score on 24 attempts.

Moments later, Crockett countered with his 45-yard scoring burst that gave the Bison a 39-32 lead with 9 minutes, 28 seconds to play in the fourth. Bison quarterback Carson Wentz completed 11 of 17 passes for 173 yards and two touchdowns.

“I think it’s more rewarding for the guys to win the way we’re winning,” said Bison head coach Chris Klieman, whose team also had to rally for a home victory against rival South Dakota State in the second round of the playoffs.

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North Dakota State fans erupt after Bruce Anderson (42) returns the third-quarter kickoff for a 97-yard touchdown against Northern Iowa on Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, during the FCS quarterfinals at the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum

2015 FCS quarterfinals

North Dakota State 23, Northern Iowa 13

Saturday, Dec. 12, 2015, Fargodome

Attendance: 18,041

North Dakota State freshman running back Bruce Anderson returned the second-half opening kickoff 97 yards to give the Bison the lead for good in a defensive slugfest between two Missouri Valley Football Conference rivals. Neither team reached 300 yards in total offense.

“That was another great football game. It comes down to that kickoff return,” Northern Iowa head coach Mark Farley said. “We fought until the bitter end to try to win that football game.”

The Bison limited Northern Iowa to 221 yards, and also scored two points late in the fourth quarter when defensive tackle Brian Schaetz tackled UNI quarterback Aaron Bailey in the end zone to seal the victory.

“I know that is our expectation to be here, but doggone it, it is hard,” Bison head coach Chris Kieman said. “It is unbelievably hard to do this for five years.”

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North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick carries the ball against South Dakota State on Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, during the FCS quarterfinals at the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum

2016 FCS quarterfinals

North Dakota State 36, South Dakota State 10

Saturday, Dec. 10, 2016, Fargodome

Attendance: 18,285

North Dakota State rushed for more than 300 yards to overpower rival South Dakota State and cruise into the FCS semifinals. Bison running back King Frazier led the way, rushing for 101 yards on 15 attempts.

NDSU owned time of possession, having the ball for more than 40 minutes.

“They did a great job of controlling the clock,” said SDSU tight end Dallas Goedert, who had six catches for 55 yards. “We’ve got to execute a little bit better.”

Bison quarterback Easton Stick completed 12 of 21 passes for 188 yards and a touchdown. Stick also rushed for 83 yards and two scores on 16 attempts. NDSU gained nearly 300 yards and scored 22 points after halftime.

“That’s as dominant a second-half performance as I’ve seen here,” Bison head coach Chris Klieman said.

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North Dakota State linebacker Chris Board and teammates celebrate a fumble recovery against Wofford during the FCS quarterfinals at the Fargodome on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. David Samson / The Forum

2017 FCS quarterfinals

North Dakota State 42, Wofford 10

Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017, Fargodome

Attendance: 17,008

North Dakota State scored 35 points in the first half and glided to victory against Wofford. The Bison scored 21 points in the final five minutes of the second quarter to put away the Terriers.

“We knew we had to turn it on,” Bison running back Bruce Anderson said. “We have a point to prove every week. We just have to go out there and execute.”

Bison quarterback Easton Stick completed 11 of 16 passes for 184 yards and three touchdowns. Stick also rushed for 49 yards and a score on eight attempts to help the Bison make the FCS semifinals for a seventh consecutive season.

“It’s pretty special,” Bison head coach Chris Klieman said. “Since I came here in 2011, we’ve been in the semifinals every year. … There’s a great tradition long before I got here and there will be a great tradition long after I leave here.”

The Bison limited Wofford to 177 yards.

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North Dakota State safety James Hendricks (6) signals for possession after an interception against Colgate during the FCS quarterfinals Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, in Fargo. The pass was ruled incomplete. Michael Vosburg / Forum Photo Editor

2018 FCS quarterfinals

North Dakota State 35, Colgate 0

Saturday, Dec. 8, 2018, Fargodome

Attendance: 16,404

North Dakota State limited Colgate to 157 yards and powered its way to the FCS semifinals for an eighth consecutive season. Bison defensive end Derrek Tuszka had 2.5 sacks to lead a stifling defensive effort.

“Never take it for granted," Bison head coach Chris Klieman said of the program’s semifinal-game streak. “It’s really hard to do.”

The Bison scored 35 points on a Colgate defense that was the top scoring defense in the FCS, limiting opponents to 7.0 points per game entering the quarterfinals.

“Our kids were confident, but I think they had the utmost respect for this team,” Colgate head coach Dan Hunt said of the Bison. “They knew what they were facing. … They’re as good as advertised.”

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North Dakota State linebacker Jabril Cox snags Illinois State running back James Robinson during the FCS quarterfinals at the Fargodome on Saturday, Dec. 14. David Samson / Forum News Service

2019 FCS quarterfinals

North Dakota State 9, Illinois State 3

Saturday, Dec. 14, 2019, Fargodome

Attendance: 14,132

NDSU kicker Griffin Crosa made three first-half field, all under 40 yards, and that proved to be enough for a stingy Bison defense that limited the Redbirds to one field goal.

"We almost felt to the point that we let them down a little bit," Bison quarterback Trey Lance said, referring to the NDSU defense. "I didn't execute. I can do better. I have to give them credit. They are a really good team."

NDSU limited Illinois State to 194 yards on 48 plays. Redbirds running back James Robinson accounted for more than half of those yards, rushing for 94 yards on 24 attempts and also caught one pass for 16 yards.

The Bison advanced to the FCS semifinals for a ninth consecutive season with the victory.

"I think everybody in that locker room knows how much work it takes to get to this point," said Bison senior safety James Hendricks. "We've come a long way. To make it back, it's pretty incredible."

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Sam Houston State quarterback Eric Schmid breaks free as he crosses the goal line with the game-winning touchdown on Sunday, May 2, 2021, during the FCS quarterfinals at the Bowers Stadium in Huntsville, Texas. David Samson / The Forum

2020-21 FCS quarterfinals

Sam Houston 24, North Dakota State 20

Sunday, May 2, 2021, Huntsville, Texas

Attendance: 4,984

Sam Houston quarterback Eric Schmid scored on a 6-yard touchdown run with less than four minutes to play in the fourth quarter for the game-winning points. NDSU drove inside the Bearkats 20-yard line in the final minute, but eventually turned the ball over on downs after quarterback Cam Miller couldn't connect with tight end Noah Gindorff on a fourth-and-6 play with 29 seconds remaining,

“We had a lot of belief up until the very end," said Bison defensive end Logan McCormick. "It was very shocking.”

The Bison had their string of nine consecutive trips the FCS semifinals snapped. NDSU also had its bid for a fourth consecutive national championship derailed.

“It’s something that we don’t experience a lot here at NDSU," said Bison wide receiver Christian Watson. "We pride ourselves on winning, we pride ourselves on being the best.”

The Bison trailed 17-2 in the third quarter, but rallied to take a 20-17 lead after Jake Reinholz kicked a 33-yard field goal with 8 minutes, 17 seconds to play in the fourth quarter. Sam Houston countered with a 72-yard scoring drive, which Schmid capped with the game-winning TD run with 3:39 remaining.

"When you have an Eric Schmid, you have a chance against anyone you play," said Sam Houston head coach K.C. Keeler.

Peterson covers college athletics for The Forum, including Concordia College and Minnesota State Moorhead. He also covers the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks independent baseball team and helps out with North Dakota State football coverage. Peterson has been working at the newspaper since 1996.
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