The North Dakota State Bison are kings of the FCS once again. North Dakota State avenged its semifinal loss to the James Madison Dukes last season with a 17-13 win over JMU to win its sixth title this decade. The Bison relied on its defense to carry them in this one, as they forced three turnovers in the win.
Both defenses were amazing in this one. Neither side was able to gain more than 270 total yards on the day, and neither team could establish the run like it wanted to.
It was a far cry from what these teams did on their way to Frisco. Both the Bison and the Dukes were able to move the ball with impunity against opposing defenses in the playoffs, with the running games leading the way.
This loss really stings for James Madison, who has to be thinking about how it all went wrong. Mistakes led to all 17 North Dakota State points. The Dukes had forced a three and out from the Bison on their first drive, but a roughing the punter penalty gave NDSU new life. The Bison drove right down the field after that to score the first touchdown of the game.
The next JMU mistake doubled as the play of the game. Down 7-3 midway through the second quarter with the ball at NDSU’s 15, the Dukes looked like they were at least going to get some points. However, a strong pass rush forced QB Bryan Schor to get rid of the ball early. His arm was hit and as the ball looked like it was going to the ground, DT Nate Tanguay made an unbelievable shoestring catch. That set the Bison up for their second touchdown of the game.
On the next possession, the Dukes looked like they were going to have the ball in Bison territory after a big play. However, WR Riley Stapleton was ruled to have fumbled before touching the ground. That led to a nice return and a subsequent field goal for the Bison. It was a dubious call and even the announcers were questioning the referee’s decision.
In the second half, North Dakota State relied on its defense to hold the lead. The Bison were content to grind out the clock with running backs Bruce Anderson and Lance Dunn, with an occasional pass from Easton Stick. Despite not scoring a point over the last 30 minutes of the game, they dominated time of possession and stopped James Madison in the red zone to earn the win.