Make it three in a row for North Dakota State.
The Bison capped a perfect season by winning their third straight FCS national championship, beating Towson 35-7. From SportsCenter on Twitter:
Behind a strong rushing attack, an excellent defensive effort against a dangerous Towson offense and a timely blocked field goal and interception in the second quarter, the Bison continued their domination of the FCS ranks. They held Towson running back Terrance West—who came into the game with 2,468 rushing yards and 41 total touchdowns—to just 91 yards and a score on 22 carries.
North Dakota State struck first, as you might expect. A 33-yard run from John Crockett brought the ball to Towson's 21-yard line, and five plays later, he plunged two yards into the end zone to give the Bison the lead.
The Tigers had an answer, however. Five plays after converting a 4th-and-1 from their own 32, Peter Athens found Brian Dowling on a 37-yard pass and North Dakota State was called for an unsportsmanlike penalty to set up Towson at the 11-yard line. Two plays later, West burst in the end zone for his 42nd touchdown of the year.
But momentum swung the Bison's way in the second quarter. Kyle Emanuel returned a blocked D.J. Soven field-goal attempt to the Towson 5-yard line, and Ryan Smith rushed for a touchdown on the next play. On the next series, Athens was intercepted by CJ Smith, leading to a five-play, 43-yard drive capped by Brock Jensen's 12-yard touchdown pass to Zach Vraa.
North Dakota State went into the half leading 21-7.
And the Bison started the second half just as strongly. After holding Towson to a three-and-out on the first possession of the second half, North Dakota State marched down the field, going 88 yards in just eight plays, with Jensen running it in from eight yards out to extend the lead to 28-7.
North Dakota State nearly made the game 35-7 on its next drive, but it was stuffed on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Towson couldn't turn that key stop into any type of momentum, however, going three-and-out and punting the ball away. But Connor Frazier shanked the punt, setting up the Bison at the Towson 31-yard-line.
Seven plays later, Sam Ojuri plunged into the end zone from a yard out, and North Dakota State was well on its way to winning a third straight FCS championship.
All in all, it was a pretty clinical performance from North Dakota State, though all wasn't lost for Towson, as West managed to make history in the game. From Towson Athletics on Twitter:
A small consolation for Towson, surely, but a reminder of just how memorable its 2013 season truly was. The Tigers ran into a powerhouse in North Dakota State, but the they had quite the run to get to the FCS championship in the first place.
|FCS National Championship Grades|
|Offensive Line||North Dakota State||OL||A+|
|Defensive Line||North Dakota State||DL||A|
|John Crockett||North Dakota State||RB||A-|
|Sam Ojuri||North Dakota State||RB||A-|
|Zach Vraa||North Dakota State||WR||B+|
Player of the Game: The Entire Bison Team
It may seem like a cop-out, but this was truly a team effort. While no one player stuck out with a particularly huge performance, there wasn't a single player that stood out for playing poorly, either.
The Bison didn't give up a turnover on the game. Their top two running backs eclipsed 80 yards. Six different players caught passes. Five different players were given a carry. They held the best running back in the FCS to 99 rushing yards on 22 carries. They won the special teams battle. They controlled time of possession.
It was the definition of a team victory. Every player executed his role and consistently handled his assignments. Slowly but surely, the Bison took the will to win away from the Tigers with smart, physical football.
It isn't hard to see how this team has now won 24 straight games.