It's probably not surprising to see that the North Dakota State Bison secured their fifth consecutive Football Championship Subdivision title this afternoon, nor that they did it in rather resounding fashion. It was still pretty darned impressive, though.
Carson Wentz, believed by many to be one of the top quarterbacks available in the upcoming 2016 NFL Draft, returned from a lengthy injury absence and threw a pretty fantastic ball all game, no doubt solidifying his skills in the eyes of whatever scouts watched him play today. His final line - 16 of 29 for 197 yards, with 1 touchdown and two interceptions - belies the success of his work today and the skill he showed off. That said, he definitely got some help from his teammates.
Zach Vraa and Darrius Shepherd made as many good catches (seven for 103 yards) as Wentz did throws, and Jacksonville State's inability to solve the NDSU front seven did them no favors, either. While the Bison pieced together 24 points and 219 yards of offense on their first four offensive drives, it took the Gamecocks until their third drive and 13th play just to cross midfield.
They also fumbled on that play for what was already their second turnover of the game at that point. The best play JSU made all game was on their first interception of the game though that was a moral victory as much as anything. The pick came on a deep pass in the last minute of the first half, and mostly made sure the score stayed 24-0 headed into halftime.
It looked like some true momentum may have been gained when Jacksonville State's Eli Jenkins (the quarterback responsible for that fumble) cracked off a 46-yard run that led to a touchdown, and the defense followed up with their second interception of the game. Suddenly the Gamecocks were 13 yards away from a 24-14 deficit and practically a new ballgame. But the NDSU defense did it's job, and JSU had to settle for trading field goals again.
It would never get any closer either, as the Gamecocks followed a three-and-out with turnovers on two of their next four offensive plays. Jacksonville State finished the game with only 204 total yards of offense, and fully a third of that yardage came on Jenkins' two long runs of the day.
The Bison put together an imperfect but consistent production today, as their defensive prowess turned what was actually a +1 turnover ration into what felt like a +4. As head coach Chris Klieman said of their season, which was also applicable to today's game, "we never flinched. We never, ever flinched."
Now, Klieman winds up becoming "just another multiple-championship-winning NDSU football coach." Which I guess is a decent accomplishment.