FCS Playoffs: Stick, North Dakota State Beats South Dakota State, 44-21 to Advance to National Title Game

NDSU head coach Chris Klieman makes an emotional exit after his last home game in the Fargodome Friday, Dec. 14 in the FCS playoffs in Fargo. Courtesy of Brianna Sanchez, Sioux Falls Argus Leader

FARGO, N.D.—Quarterback Easton Stick rushed for 147 yards and three touchdowns with another passing touchdown to lead top seeded North Dakota State over fifth seeded South Dakota State 44-21 in the semifinals of the NCAA Division I Football Championship in front of 18,286 was on hand at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.

Playing for outgoing coach Chris Klieman for the last time in Fargo, North Dakota State (14-0) remained unbeaten and advanced to their seventh national championship game in eight years. Klieman this week was named as the head coach of Big 12 Kansas State but will remain with NDSU through the rest of the Bison season.

The win was NDSU’s 20th straight dating back to last year. The Bison’s last loss came to the Jacks in November of 2017 in Brookings.

“I pinch myself. Don’t ever take it for granted. It’s so hard to do,” Bison head coach Chris Klieman said. “Never take it for granted. … I’ve been involved in the most special run in the history of college football.”

Stick scored on runs of 5 and 34 yards in the first half as NDSU took a 14-7 lead by halftime. The Bison rolled for 382 yards of total offense in the second half and scored on all five second-half possessions before running out the clock on their final drive.

“A tough game for us – give credit to them,” said SDSU Coach John Stiegelmeier. “Easton Stick was the big difference in the football game. I thought he played like a champion.”

Sophomore running back Seth Wilson sparked the Bison just after the halftime break. He took a handoff up the middle for 78 yards on the first play of the second half and Bruce Anderson scored from the 1 to give NDSU a two-touchdown lead.

Anderson caught a 14-yard TD pass and scored on a 41-yard run to make it 35-14 late in the third quarter.

After South Dakota State (10-3) struck with a 52-yard TD pass from Taryn Christion to Cade Johnson, the Bison got a Cam Pedersen 32-yard field goal and Stick’s 28-yard TD run for the final margin.

Pedersen, who converted five PAT kicks in the game, finished with 391 career points and broke the NDSU career record of 386 set by quarterback Jeff Bentrim in 1986.

The Bison rushed for 439 yards on 49 attempts, finishing with five rushing touchdowns. Four NDSU players rushed for at least 77 yards. The Bison averaged nearly 9 yards per carry.

Stick finished 12 of 15 passing for 169 yards and Darrius Shepherd caught four passes for 76 yards.

“That was the most fun I’ve ever had playing football,” Stick said. “Guys were focused and ready to play and played so hard.”

Christion finished 10 of 26 passing for 180 yards and running back Pierre Strong, the Missouri Valley Football Conference Freshman of the Year, rushed 20 times for 135 yards including a 30-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

NDSU will play the winner of Maine at Eastern Washington in the national title game in Frisco, Tex. on Jan. 5th.