FCS Semifinal Round Playoffs: Lance, Watson Key Top Seeded North Dakota State to a 42-14 Win over Montana State

NDSU QB Celebrates after scoring one of his two rushing touchdowns in the Bison 42-14 win over Montana State. Courtesy of Richie Melby

FARGO, N.D.—WR Christian Watson scored touchdowns on back-to-back touches early in the second quarter and top playoff seeded North Dakota State defeated fifth seeded Montana State 42-14 in a Division I FCS semifinal matchup for its 36th straight victory in front of 18,077 in attendance inside the Fargodome.

QB Trey Lance found Watson behind the defense along the left sideline for a 75-yard touchdown one play after the Bobcats tied the game at 7-7. Following a three-and-out by Montana State, Watson went 70 yards on a reverse run.

North Dakota State (15-0) was in the semifinals for the ninth straight year. The Bison have won eight semifinal games and won the national championship each time.

“It’s everything,” Lance said of leading the team to the title game. “Everything we’ve dreamed of, expected of ourselves since spring ball last year. … We wanted to prove people wrong this year and I think we’re doing that right now.”

Montana State (11-4) had its season end for the second straight season. The Bobcats lost to NDSU 52-10 in the second-round last year.

After winning a narrow, field goal only scoring battle 9-3 over Illinois State in the quarterfinals, the Bison erupted for 541 yards and six touchdowns in this game.

NDSU started the scoring right away on its first offensive possession in going 73 yards in 12 plays. Lance capped the drive with a 8-yard keeper.

The Bobcats tied the game an eight-play, 8-yard drive with RB Travis Jonsen covering the final yard on a Wildcat formation play.

Following Watson’s two scores, NDSU finished the first half scoring following a long 76 yard drive on 15 plays that used over eight minutes of the clock. Lance hit WR Jimmy Kepouros for a 6-yard touchdown to put the Bison up 29-7 at the halftime break.

Montana State scored on a 41-yard pass from QB Tucker Rovig to WR Kevin Kassis two plays following a Bison fumble to trim the deficit to 29-14 with with 6:27 to play in the third quarter.

NDSU, however, answered quickly on the next possession as Lance found RB Dimitri Williams on a 73-yard touchdown pass to up the Bison lead to 36-14 with 4:46 left in the third quarter.

Lance finished the scoring in the fourth quarter with a six-yard touchdown to give the final of 42-14 with 13:23 left in the game.

North Dakota State rushed for 318 yards, setting a new school single-season record for the third straight year with 4,320 yards. The Bison outgained Montana State 541 to 298 in total offense.

Lance completed 15 of 21 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns. The redshirt freshman also rushed for 64 yards and two more scores.

“That’s a different level play,” NDSU Coach Matt Entz said . “That’s not a freshman play. That’s an advanced play right there.”

NDSU moves on the national championship game in Frisco, Texas and will play the winner of #2 James Madison and #3 Weber State on January 11th.