It's a fabulous fifth for the North Dakota State Bison, who won their fifth consecutive FCS national championship Saturday with a 37-10 win over No. 1 Jacksonville State.
The Bison are the first football team in NCAA history to win five consecutive titles, breaking a tie with Division III Augustana, who won four straight from 1983-1986.
ESPN captured the final play and celebration, via Alex Nguyen:
North Dakota State seals their 5th-straight FCS Title https://t.co/GeuPWoXVKy -via ESPN— Alex Nguyen (@apg1112) January 9, 2016
North Dakota State head coach Chris Klieman had to make the tough decision to start quarterback Carson Wentz for the championship game. The senior, who began the season as the starter, missed the past eight games due to a wrist injury and was replaced by redshirt freshman Easton Stick. Stick performed well in his absence, winning every game he started.
But as an NFL prospect, Wentz was given one more opportunity to wow scouts, compiling 276 total yards and three touchdowns.
He outdueled a Jacksonville State offense that was ranked second in the nation thanks to a trio of weapons in quarterback Eli Jenkins, running back Troymaine Pope and wide receiver Josh Barge.
ESPN College Football took a look at just how potent the Jacksonville State playmakers were entering Saturday:
If you want to stop Jacksonville State, then you have to stop these guys. pic.twitter.com/rdAxLGXVI5— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) January 9, 2016
An offense that averaged 529 yards per game heading into the championship was completely stifled by the North Dakota State defense. The Gamecocks were outgained 379-204. Barge had just two catches, while Pope rushed for 31 yards. Jenkins could muster only 145 total yards and turned the ball over four times.
While the defense was stout, the Bison offense was just as impressive in its efforts to slow down Jacksonville State, holding the ball for 40 out of 60 minutes.
ABC's Joe Whelan noted the trend early:
Time of possession in the 1st quarter was about 11 minutes to 4 in favor of North Dakota State. Jax State needs to get stops.— Joe Whelan (@WhelanABC3340) January 9, 2016
North Dakota State kicker Cam Pedersen put the team up three in its opening drive. And while a 29-yard field goal isn't anything to blink at, Pedersen needed it, as he'd hit just one of his first seven field-goal attempts in the postseason.
He would hit two more on the day and go 3-of-3.
After quickly stopping Jacksonville State, Wentz picked apart the Gamecocks defense, embarking on a 12-play, 80-yard drive that took almost seven minutes to complete. Wentz capped it off by hitting fullback Andrew Bonnet for an eight-yard touchdown.
That gave the Gamecocks the ball for the second time on the day with 12:33 left in the second quarter, but it didn't last long. Nick DeLuca picked Jenkins off on the first play of the drive and the Bison domination continued.
Their play even had fans of FBS sides shaking in their boots, like Hammer & Rails of SB Nation:
There is never a valid excuse to lose to an FCS team, but i would be terrified if North Dakota State came to Purdue.— Hammer & Rails (@HammerAndRails) January 9, 2016
Wentz showed off his legs after the interception, putting the Bison up 17-0 after an 11-yard touchdown run. As ESPN College Football showed, the one-sided score was perfectly indicative of the day's events up to that point:
ESPN's Dustin Fox wanted to make sure the next level was keeping an eye on the impressive quarterback:
Carson Wentz looks really good today folks. I hope the @browns are watching.— Dustin Fox (@DustinFox37) January 9, 2016
The Philadelphia Daily News' Les Bowen found who the Eagles should pick in the first round of the upcoming draft:
OK, I've changed my mind. Draft Carson Wentz 13th overall.— Les Bowen (@LesBowen) January 9, 2016
The Jacksonville State offense continued to falter when a bad exchange between Jenkins and Pope hit the turf and was recovered by the Bison. North Dakota State easily made it 24-0 with a King Frazier one-yard touchdown run with 6:12 to go in the first half.
Jenkins was finally able to put something together in the second half, using a 46-yard run to get into the red zone. He finished off the drive with a six-yard touchdown rush to get the Gamecocks within 17.
ESPN had the replay:
Jacksonville State is on the board. Can they rally or will NDSU win a 5th straight FCS title? Watch on ESPN2: https://t.co/OpY2dF0q0K— ESPN (@espn) January 9, 2016
When it looked like NDSU was going to get points off of another long drive, Brandon Bender picked Wentz off, returning the interception inside the North Dakota State 15-yard-line. It was Wentz's second pick of the day. However, the Gamecocks could settle for only a 27-yard field goal to draw within two touchdowns.
After a Pedersen field goal to go up 17, the game transformed into a turnover parade. Jenkins lost a fumble for the second time, this time inside the Jacksonville State 25. Instead of eating up the clock, North Dakota State went for a reverse-pass trick play, but it was intercepted in the end zone.
Jenkins gave the ball right back to the Bison, though, throwing his second interception of the game on the very next play, which infuriated former ESPN writer Jeff Nusser:
For crap’s sake Jacksonville State. They’re trying to let you stay in it.— Jeff Nusser (@NussCoug) January 9, 2016
North Dakota State calmed things down after the interception and Wentz tacked on his third touchdown of the game with a one-yard rush to go up 34-10 with 7:45 left in the game.
It was the exclamation point on the greatest dynasty college football has ever seen. It would be quite a tilt to see this team take on some of the top talent in Division I, but there is no taking away the achievements that this program has put together over the past half-decade.
For Klieman, there was little doubt that Wentz was going to deliver a solid performance for North Dakota State, per Scout.com:
"Some people thought (Carson) would be rusty. I didn't even question it." -Klieman— NDSU on Scout (@NDSUonScout) January 9, 2016
With such a good performance on Saturday, Klieman knows that it will do wonders for his future around April of 2016, per Valley News Live's Alex Egan:
Best line on radio post game from Chris Klieman "I think Carson made a lot of money today." Preach coach! Preach!— Alex Egan (@AlexEganTV) January 9, 2016
But it wasn't just the offense that delivered North Dakota State's fifth-straight title, per Scout:
"We had the best defense in FCS football, especially as the season went on." -Klieman— NDSU on Scout (@NDSUonScout) January 9, 2016
Klieman was sure to remind everyone of the unit's abilities to shut down even the most explosive offenses, per Sam Herder of the Devils Lake Journal:
"I don't think our defense gets enough credit for being athletic and fast." - Klieman— Sam Herder (@TheHerd215) January 9, 2016
This team is set up for success even after Wentz's name is called in the NFL draft. Giving a redshirt freshman like Stick more than half a season of starting time due to Wentz's injury, there's a good chance he already knows the ins and outs of this offense.
So don't be surprised if North Dakota State are back for an unprecedented sixth time with another very solid quarterback.
Stats courtesy of ESPN.com