No matter the result, the Division I NCAA Football Championship will have a first-time national champion during its spring season.
South Dakota State and Sam Houston State navigated their way through the semifinals Saturday. The Bearkats were runners-up to North Dakota State in 2011 and 2012 and haven't gotten that close to a title since. The Jackrabbits, meanwhile, are in the final for the first time in program history, having reaching the FCS semifinals in 2017 and 2018.
FCS National Championship Viewing Info
When: Sunday, May 16, at 2 p.m. ET
Where: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
Saturday's first semifinal featured little in the way of drama as South Dakota State cruised past Delaware 33-3.
The Jackrabbits rolled up the Blue Hens defense to the tune of 354 yards while holding the Delaware offense to 216 yards. Field position was also a big difference in the game, too, as none of SDSU's four touchdown drives went farther than 64 yards.
Mark Gronkowski finished 10-of-16 for 162 yards and two touchdowns, with Pierre Strong Jr. and Isaiah Davis combining for 143 yards and one score on the ground.
Nolan Henderson was an efficient 18-of-21 for 142 yards despite how the Blue Hens offensive line doing little to get a push on the South Dakota State front seven. Delaware was credited with 45 running plays that averaged 1.5 yards, a number skewed by the pressure Henderson consistently faced in the pocket.
It looked as though the second semifinal was following a similar script as James Madison led 24-3 at halftime. Then Sam Houston State exploded for 28 points in the third quarter, a run that included three touchdowns in the final 2:22.
The most frenetic sequence came as Jequez Ezzard took a punt 80 yards to the house for Sam Houston State before James Madison was unable to field the ensuing kickoff in windy conditions. That set up Eric Schmid's 20-yard go-ahead touchdown run.
Cole Johnson hit Scott Bracey for a 34-yard touchdown pass and ran in the two-point conversion to bring the Dukes to within three points, 38-35.
James Madison got inside Sam Houston State territory, and a pass interference call on the Bearkats set up a fresh set of downs on the SHSU 28-yard line. The Dukes couldn't capitalize, and Ethan Ratke's 51-yard field goal attempt sailed well to the left.
Sam Houston State punted the ball away with 26 seconds remaining, which would've left JMU with a slim hope of at least forcing overtime. But a personal foul on the Dukes allowed the Bearkats to run out the clock.
As he draws up his game plan in the week ahead, South Dakota State head coach John Stiegelmeier will surely make sure to tell his player not to let up if they build a big lead on Sam Houston State.