Second-half surge sends Bison to fourth straight trip to Frisco

FARGO - After struggling in the first half, the North Dakota State offense sucked the drama out of the Fargodome in the second half Friday night. The Bison erupted for 28 points after halftime, powering to a 35-3 victory against Sam Houston State...

North Dakota State’s King Frazier looks back as he crosses the goal line for a 33-yard touchdown against Sam Houston State during the semifinals of the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs on Friday at the Fargodome. David Samson / The Forum

FARGO – After struggling in the first half, the North Dakota State offense sucked the drama out of the Fargodome in the second half Friday night.

The Bison erupted for 28 points after halftime, powering to a 35-3 victory against Sam Houston State in the NCAA Division I FCS semifinals at Gate City Bank Field before 18,025 fans.

“What a dominating second-half performance,” Bison head coach Chris Klieman said.

“You can see what a championship team looks like,” Sam Houston State had coach K.C. Keeler said of the Bison. “We’re not there yet.”

That big offensive second half, coupled with swarming defense, helped NDSU (14-1) earn a fourth consecutive trip to the FCS title game in Frisco, Texas. The three-time defending national champion Bison have a chance to become the first team in the division to win four consecutive national crowns.


“We’re really excited, but ready to go back to work,” said Bison running back John Crockett, who rushed for 166 yards and three touchdowns on 26 attempts. “We’re hungry, ready to go.”

The Bison needed two dramatic wins in their first two playoff games to make it to the semifinals, a 27-24 victory against South Dakota State and a 39-32 victory against Coastal Carolina. NDSU trailed in the fourth quarter of both those games. There was no nail-biting Friday night.

The Bison gained 99 yards in the first half against Sam Houston before exploding for 299 yards after halftime. That included 217 yards on 19 plays in the third quarter.

NDSU sophomore running back King Frazier started the scoring frenzy with a 33-yard touchdown run. On the play, which was his first carry of the game, Frazier made a slick jump cut in the hole before racing into the end zone for a 14-3 Bison lead with 7 minutes, 34 seconds to play in the third quarter.

“We talked about if we could get up two scores, we could really tee off on them on defense,” Klieman said.

Less than a minute later, the Bison found the end zone again after a Sam Houston State three-and-out. On the first play of the ensuing drive, Crockett ripped off a 55-yard touchdown run. That gave NDSU a 21-3 lead with 6:32 remaining in the third.

The Bison put their stamp on the game with their final drive of the third quarter, which spilled into the fourth quarter. NDSU drove 87 yards on 14 plays. The final 12 plays of the drive were running plays, with most of those runs between the tackles with NDSU using a no-huddle offense.

“I didn’t know we were going to do it that many times in a row,” Crockett said with a smile, referring to NDSU essentially using the same running play over and over. “At the end of the day, it’s the will to want to win and I think that came out.”


Crockett capped the drive with a 10-yard touchdown run, driving through a number of Sam Houston defenders for the final few yards. That gave the Bison a 28-3 lead with 11:37 remaining in the fourth quarter.

Bison quarterback Carson Wentz added a late 14-yard touchdown pass to freshman R.J. Urzendowski for a 35-3 lead with 3:38 to play.

After the final play, many of the Bison players, rushed to the student section and climbed into the crowd. NDSU senior defensive end Kyle Emanuel was in that group.

“You can’t really put that into words,” Emanuel said. “I immediately ran into the student section.”

The Bison scored the game’s first points after Crockett sliced into the end zone from 3 yards out. That gave NSDU a 7-0 lead with 3 minutes, 52 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

Sam Houston countered with a 22-yard field goal from Luc Swimberghe in that second quarter, cutting the Bison lead to 7-3 with 13:37 to play in the half. NDSU carried that lead into halftime, despite gaining 99 yards in the first two quarters.

The Bearkats had 164 yards in the opening half, but were unable to find the end zone.

“It came down to we didn’t make enough plays in the first half, and they eventually wore us down,” Keeler said. “NDSU wins by design. They are very methodical.”

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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