They did it as they always do — with defense. North Dakota State fended off defending national champion James Madison to claim its sixth FCS crown in seven years, 17-13 in before a sellout crowd in Frisco, Texas.
The win brings revenge to North Dakota State, whose march of five straight titles was ended in a 27-17 FCS semifinal stunner by eventual champion James Madison last season in the Fargodome.
The Bison jumped out to a 17-6 halftime lead and did not score in the second half, but it didn’t matter. North Dakota State forced James Madison into a season-high three turnovers and limited the Dukes to 15 first downs and a paltry 4-of-14 on third down.
Overall, James Madison gained just 241 total yards on 62 plays, good for 3.89 a play. What’s more: despite snapping the ball just eight more times and gaining only 23 more yards, the Bison managed to enjoy a 15-minute time of possession advantage.
Still, James Madison had a chance to win the game at the end. Facing a 4th-and-9 at his own 47, JMU head coach Mike Houston had a decision to make. He could leave his offense on the field and try to win the game on the final drive or, with more than three minutes remaining and all a full compliment of timeouts, he could punt and trust his defense to get the ball back. Instead, he chose neither. Punter Harry O’Kelly executed a perfect fake, scampering 24 yards to the NDSU 29 with 2:58 to play. The Dukes moved the ball to the NDSU 18 but penetrated no further. JMU quarterback Bryan Schor was harassed on his 3rd-and-11 and 4th-and-16 throws, and North Dakota State managed to run the clock out on the defending champions.
— FCS Football (@NCAA_FCS) January 6, 2018
The win pushed North Dakota State into a tie with Georgia Southern for the most FCS national titles. However, Georgia Southern won its six trophies in eight tries and did it over a 16-season span. North Dakota State is a perfect 6-for-6 and has filled its trophy case in just seven years.
Only once in its run of six titles (and counting) this decade has North Dakota State allowed more than 13 points in the championship game.
Overall, North Dakota State claims 14 national championships at all levels.
— NDSU Athletics (@NDSUathletics) January 6, 2018