North Dakota State wins 3rd FCS title in row, 35-7 over Towson
Frisco, Texas • Brock Jensen and North Dakota State got their perfect ending, capping a 15-0 season with a 35-7 victory over Towson on Saturday as the Bison claimed their straight FCS championship in coach Craig Bohl's final game at the school.
Jensen, who has an FCS quarterback-record 48 victories, threw a touchdown pass and was one of four North Dakota State players who ran for scores.
The Bison joined Appalachian State (2005-07) as the only FCS teams to win three consecutive championships. They are the first undefeated champs at that level since Marshall in 1996, the year before the Thundering Herd moved to Division I.
Bohl last month accepted the job as Wyoming's coach, but stayed with the Bison for their playoff run. He finished 104-32 in 11 seasons at North Dakota State, which has won 24 consecutive games to match the FCS record.
The Bison went ahead to stay on Ryan Smith's 5-yard TD run in the second quarter that snapped a 7-7 tie. That came one play after Colten Heagle blocked a field goal try that was scooped up by defensive end Kyle Emanuel and returned 59 yards. It was the first of three consecutive possessions when North Dakota State scored touchdowns.
Towson (13-3), the first school to play in championship games at the FCS and NCAA Division III levels, was 1-10 only three years ago in coach Rob Ambrose's second season.
This was the fourth consecutive year the title game was played in the professional soccer stadium in North Texas, but this game was plagued by problems with the grass turf.
During each timeout, groups of workers and volunteers had to pat down chunks of turf that were coming up during play. Stadium officials said Mother Nature was to blame for the divots on the field.
Nick Shafer, the stadium's vice president of operations, said in a statement that the turf between the hash marks was replaced Nov. 18. Soon after that, the area was hit by an extended stretch of unusual freezing weather and ice sat on the field for a week. Shafer says that "prevented the grass from taking root underneath the turf."
Players from both teams clearly were having problems at times with footing. The most obvious was Towson running back Darius Victor falling down behind the line for a 3-yard loss after stepping into one of the divots, two plays before the blocked field goal.
Terrance West ran 3 yards on the final play of the first quarter for Towson's only touchdown, his 41st TD rushing and 42nd overall this season. The junior finished with 22 carries for 99 yards, pushing his season total to 2,509 the most ever by an FCS player.
John Crockett had put the Bison up 7-0 with his 2-yard run in the first quarter.
Jensen threw a 12-yard TD just before halftime to Zach Vraa, his school-record 15th scoring catch this season, for a 21-7 lead. Jensen ran 9 yards for a score on the Bison's possession after halftime, and Sam Ojuri added a 1-yard TD in the fourth quarter.
There was a sellout crowd of 19,802, most of them dressed in Bison colors in what has becoming an annual January trek.
N. Dakota St. 35, Towson 7
Towson 7 0 0 0 7
N. Dakota St. 7 14 7 7 35
NDSt • Crockett 2 run (Keller kick), 5:34.
Tow • West 3 run (Evangelista kick), :00.
NDSt • R.Smith 5 run (Keller kick), 4:43.
NDSt • Vraa 12 pass from Jensen (Keller kick), 1:05.
NDSt • Jensen 9 run (Keller kick), 9:09.
NDSt • Ojuri 1 run (Keller kick), 13:09.
Attendance • 19,802.
First downs 21 16
Rushes-yards 35-106 30-210
Passing 267 135
Comp-Att-Int 28-44-1 13-18-0
Return Yards 12 42
Punts-Avg. 6-40.8 4-50.5
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-yards 10-63 6-39
Time of Possession 33:38 26:22
Rushing • Towson, West 22-99, Victor 5-11, Frazier 1-3, Athens 7-(-7). N. Dakota St., Crockett 9-86, Ojuri 15-84, R.Smith 2-21, Jensen 3-20, Vraa 1-(-1).
Passing • Towson, Athens 28-44-1-267. N. Dakota St., Jensen 13-18-0-135.
Receiving • Towson, Frazier 7-54, Dessenberg 6-49, Joseph 5-61, West 5-39, Dowling 3-48, Holder 1-12, Mooney 1-4. N. Dakota St., Vraa 3-51, R.Smith 3-33, Bonnet 3-12, Ojuri 2-22, Vaadeland 1-9, Crockett 1-8.