North Dakota State (15-0) is polished off an undefeated season by claiming a second-straight national championship. The Bison topped Eastern Washington (12-3) in the FCS National Championship Game by a score of 38-24 in Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas on Saturday afternoon to clinch back-to-back national championship seasons. It is the seventh FCS national title won by the program in the past eight seasons.
The second half of the game got off to a wild start with both teams combining for three turnovers and three touchdowns in the first five minutes of the half. North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick tossed touchdown passes of 23 yards and 78 yards to Darrius Shepherd. Eastern Washington running back Sam McPherson took off for a 75-yard run up the middle for a touchdown as part of the flurry to the start of the second half.
But from that point on, North Dakota State managed to calm things down and keep things mostly under control the rest of the afternoon.
Taking over the football at their six-yard line early in the fourth quarter with a 31-17 lead, North Dakota State methodically marched their way down the field on a 19-play drive that traveled 88 yards and took 10:10 off the clock. Unfortunately, the drive ended with a missed field goal, but that was precious minutes that melted off the clock with a 14-point lead. But Eastern Washington took just four plays to move right down the field and score a touchdown with quarterback Eric Barriere capping the quick-moving drive with a five-yard touchdown run. North Dakota State recovered an onside kick, and Easton Stick put the game out of reach with a 46-yard touchdown run on 3rd and 7 with just over a minute to play.
North Dakota State head coach Chris Klieman, who was recently hired to be the new head coach at Kansas State, will go out a winner. Klieman tied former Youngstown State head coach Jim Tressel with his fourth FCS national championship. No other FCS coach has as many national titles as Klieman or Tressel.
Stick completed 13 of 19 passes for 198 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for a team-high 121 yards and three touchdowns in the game. Stick closed out his collegiate career as the winningest quarterback in FCS history with a record of 49-3.
Former North Dakota State quarterback Carson Wentz was happy to see his Bison win, of course.
North Dakota State’s 21-game winning streak is the longest active winning streak among all Division 1 programs, regardless of what Alabama or Clemson do Monday night.
North Dakota State had won five straight games against FBS opponents. On Saturday, that streak extended to six as a last-secodn field goal by Cam Pedersen snuck just inside the right upright to clip No. 13 Iowa (2-1) for a 22-20 victory.
North Dakota State orchestrated a gut-wrenching 15-play touchdown drive in the fourth quarter that resulted in a touchdown to cut Iowa’s 21-14 lead down to 21-20. Then came decision time for Bison head coach Chris Kileman. Go for the extra point attempt to tie the game at 21-21, or attempt a two-point conversion and hope the defense can hang on for a wild 22-21 victory against the defending Big Ten West champions with 3:41 to play? The two-point conversion attempt failed, but the Bison defense forced a masterful and well-timed three-and-out that forced a punt, which set North Dakota State up at their own 34-yard line with 1:44 to play.
Iowa’s defense came up incredibly small on the first play, giving North Dakota State quarterback Easton Stick far too much open field to run 29 yards. That was followed by a 10-yard pass to RJ Urzendowski and a couple short runs to set the field goal unit at the 20-yard line for a 37-yard try.
North Dakota State out-gained Iowa in total offense, 363-231, including an astounding 239 rushing yards to Iowa’s 34 rushing yards on 25 attempts. Each team had an intercepted pass, but North Dakota State was the only team to create points off the turnover with a pick-six in the first half. Iowa’s defense came up with an interception in the first half, but the offense was left to a three-and-out with no yards picked up.
North Dakota State’s Six-Game FBS Winning Streak
- 2010: Kansas
- 2011: Minnesota
- 2012: Colorado State
- 2013: Kansas State
- 2014: Iowa State
- 2016: Iowa
Iowa quarterback C.J. Beathard was hit or miss for most of the afternoon, but he did toss three touchdowns, including a pair to Matt VandeBerg.
Unless a game is added to the schedule in the next few years, which undoubtedly it may despite the evidence suggesting FBS schools should be taking a pass on the Bison, North Dakota State’s next scheduled game against an FBS opponent is not until 2020. North Dakota State makes a trip to Oregon that season, and a future game at Colorado comes up in 2024. The five-time defending FCS champions have answered every challenge so far with a pair of overtime victories against high-quality FCS opponents and today’s win at Iowa. From here, it should be smooth sailing, right? Next up is a Missouri Vallet Football Conference opener with Illinois State. The two faced off for the FCS championship last season, and Illinois State also has a win against a Big Ten team this season. Illinois State edged Northwestern last week.
Iowa will get away next week to play Rutgers in a Big Ten opener.