FARGO, N.D. – Running back Bruce Anderson and #2 seeded North Dakota State advanced to their sixth FCS national championship game in seven years Friday with an imposing 55-13 national semi-final victory over #6 Sam Houston State before 18,279 fans at the Fargodome.
The Bison never looked back after scoring touchdowns on their first three possessions and now have reached the Division I FCS National Championship game for the sixth time in seven seasons.
North Dakota State (13-1) broke postseason school records for points, total offense and rushing in the rout.
NDSU totaled 471 yards rushing, the most for the Bison in an FCS playoff game, and the 642 yards of total offense is an all-time NDSU postseason record topping the mark of 627 against Indiana (Pa.) in the 1990 Division II championship.
Sam Houston State (12-2), however, opened the game with a 13-play, 78-yard drive that ended with a 28-yard field goal by Tre Honshtein.
From that point forward though it was all NDSU.
The Bison scored touchdowns on six of seven possessions in the first half to take a 41-3 lead by halftime.
The Bison defense allowed only one touchdown to a Bearkat team that was averaging 45.6 points per game. NDSU also forced four turnovers.
“We have really good team speed and we are relentless to the football and we don’t give up,” NDSU head coach Chris Klieman said.
Anderson found the end zone two times in the first quarter on a 62-yard run and a 23-yard catch from Bison quarterback Easton Stick. Anderson scored again on a 37-yard run that gave NDSU a 28-3 lead with 8 minutes, 58 seconds to play in the first half. He added a 33-yard touchdown run for a 35-3 run with 6:16 to play in the second quarter.
Stick opened the scoring for NDSU with a six-yard run following the SHSU field goal to give the Bison the lead they would never relinquish.
Bison tight end Jeff Illies capped the first half scoring outburst with a 12-yard TD catch that gave NDSU the halftime lead with 44 seconds to play in the half.
In the second half, Stick threw for two more scores – one to Ben Ellefson and another one to Anderson.
SHSU’s lone touchdown came after this game was already decided when Jeramiah Briscoe hit Nathan Stewart in late in the third quarter that was sandwiched between the two touchdowns throws from Stick.
“To try to go and defend what they do in a week is really hard,” said Sam Houston State head coach K.C. Keeler. “We see a totally different brand of football and we obviously have to get up to speed in terms of how they play. Defensively they don’t miss tackles. They have some great players on defense. They run to the ball and don’t make mistakes.”
Anderson finished with 183 rushing yards on 17 attempts in a backfield that was reduced to two backs after Ty Brooks left the game in the second quarter with a shoulder injury in the first half and didn’t return.
Seth Wilson actually led the Bison with 194 rushing yards.
Anderson added two catches for 54 yards and both went for touchdowns to get to his five total touchdowns.
Briscoe finished 29 of 51 passing for 289 yards with three interceptions and one touchdown in the loss for the Bearkats.
Last year, NDSU’s five straight national championship win streak was snapped in this same semi-final round after James Madison handed what has been the only Division I playoff loss at home for the Bison. JMU would go on to win the national title.
NDSU will play either that same Duke team, who are this year’s top playoff seed or #5 seeded South Dakota State, who handed the Bison its lone loss this season, in the national title game on January 6th in Frisco, Texas. Those two teams meet Saturday in the other national Division I FCS semi-final game.