Bison overpower Sam Houston to advance to FCS championship game
FARGO -- North Dakota State put everything together in the first half Friday night, and the Bison are headed back to Frisco, Texas, for the sixth time in seven years.The fans could have booked their championship-game flights at halftime.
FARGO -- North Dakota State put everything together in the first half Friday night, and the Bison are headed back to Frisco, Texas, for the sixth time in seven years.
The fans could have booked their championship-game flights at halftime.
Junior running back Bruce Anderson scored four touchdowns in the first two quarters and the Bison defense swarmed a high-powered Sam Houston State (Texas) attack. That combination vaulted NDSU to a 55-13 victory over the Bearkats before 18,279 fans at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome in the NCAA Division I FCS football semifinals.
NDSU (13-1) will play the winner of Saturday’s South Dakota State at James Madison semifinal in the FCS championship game, which is scheduled for Jan. 6 at Toyota Stadium.
The offensive explosion set a Bison postseason record for most points in a game. The 642 yards in total offense was also a single-game playoff record, breaking the old mark of 623 set against Coastal Carolina in 2013.
The Bison defense allowed only one touchdown to a Sam Houston State (12-2) team that was averaging 45.6 points per game. NDSU also forced four turnovers.
“We have really good team speed and we are relentless to the football and we don’t give up,” Bison head coach Chris Klieman said.
The Bison figured to score against a Bearkats defense that came in No. 90 in the FCS in scoring defense. It was the NDSU defense, however, that flipped the statistical switch against the top-scoring offense in the FCS.
“I would rate our defense as passionate and never giving up,” Bison safety Tre Dempsey said. “When we do give up those points and those big plays, we’re pretty (upset) about it.”
The Bison held Sam Houston State to three points in the first half, a field goal on the opening drive for the Bearkats. The Bison had a 41-3 lead at halftime.
“That was the whole key, explosive plays,” Klieman said. “We made a bunch of explosive plays.”
Bearkats senior quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe struggled to find a rhythm, completing 29 of 51 passes for 289 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions. Bison cornerback Marquise Bridges had two of those interceptions, tying a team playoff record.
“I can’t turn the ball over three times,” Briscoe said.
The Bearkats didn’t reach the end zone until Briscoe connected with receiver Nathan Stewart from 2 yards out with 7:36 left in the third quarter. That made it 48-13.
It was the first drive all night where Sam Houston State displayed its quick-strike ability, taking just five plays to go 70 yards. Otherwise, the Bison defense was salty enough to give its offense room to grab a big lead.
There was no stopping the Bison on offense. Anderson finished with 183 rushing yards on 17 attempts in a backfield that was reduced to two backs after Ty Brooks left the game with a shoulder injury in the first half and didn’t return. NDSU freshman running back Seth Wilson led the way with 194 rushing yards, as the Bison finished with 471 on the ground.
NDSU also lost starting cornerbacks Jaylaan Wimbush and Jalen Allison to injury in the first half. Both cornerbacks had knee injuries, Klieman said.
“Probably not good on all three,” Klieman said of the Brooks, Wimbush and Allison injuries.
Anderson finished with five touchdowns. He found the end zone two times in the first quarter on a 62-yard run and a 23-yard catch from Bison quarterback Easton Stick. Anderson scored on a 37-yard run that gave NDSU a 28-3 lead with 8 minutes, 58 seconds to play in the first half. He added a 33-yard touchdown run for a 35-3 run with 6:16 to play in the second quarter.
Bison tight end Jeff Illies capped the scoring outburst with a 12-yard TD catch that gave NDSU a 41-3 lead with 44 seconds to play in the half.
“Their men were definitely better than my boys,” Sam Houston State head coach K.C. Keeler said. “I can’t say enough about how good they are.”
The Bison had their string of five consecutive FCS national championships snapped last season when they lost to James Madison in the FCS semifinals. NDSU left no doubt on Friday night. Dempsey said it was important for this team to return to Frisco.
“It defines this team,” Dempsey said. “Everyone thought we lost last year, it was over. It’s not over.”