FARGO, N.D. — Seven years ago, Richmond dethroned a three-time national titleist — Appalachian State — on the way to its first and only NCAA Division I Football Championship.
On Friday night, the Spiders couldn’t repeat that feat against a four-time Football Championship powerhouse as North Dakota State advanced to its fifth straight title appearance with a dominating 33-7 semifinal victory at the sold-out Fargodome.
The third-seeded Bison (12-2) limited the potent Richmond offense to 209 yards of total offense and just nine first downs.
Punt returner Eric Perkins ran roughshod over the Spider coverage team with three runbacks for 145 yards and one back-breaking, first-half touchdown.
Perkins dashed down the sideline for 88 yards and a score with 1:31 remaining in the first half to cap off a 26-0 start for NDSU.
No. 6 seeded Richmond (10-4) cut lead to 26-7 early in the third period when quarterback Kyle Laudetta hit tight end Garrett Hudson in the flat and Hudson tightroped the sideline for a 55-yard score.
The Spiders had its chance to cut further into North Dakota State’s lead on the next possession, but Laudetta (12-of-26, 171 yards passing) forced a pass at the goal line into coverage and Tre Dempsey intercepted the ball to kill off Richmond’s last real threat.
The Bison used an 18-play, 87-yard drive that consumed more than 10 minutes off the second-half clock to put the game away.
King Frazier’s two-yard smash gave NDSU its final points. Frazier carried the ball 20 times for 121 yards and two TDs. His two-yard plunge on the Bison’s opening drive started the scoring in the first period.
North Dakota States redshirt freshman quarterback Easton Stick tossed a pair of first-half touchdown passes, a 2-yard scoring strike to Chase Morlock in the first period and a 12-yard TD aerial to Zach Vraa in the second stanza.
Stick, who replaced senior All-American Carson Wentz when Wentz broke a collarbone in the middle of the season, was an efficient 13-of-20 for 136 yards with one interception.
North Dakota State piled up 418 yards, including 282 on the ground. NDSU rolled to a 247-67 total offense advantage in the first half.
As successful as the Bison rushing attack was, the Spiders found their normally powerful running game stymied by NDSU’s defense.
Jacobi Green, who came into the game as the sixth-leading rusher in FCS, was limited to 32 yards on 11 attempts.
Richmond’s defense kept the Spiders in the game for awhile with several key stops in the red zone and NDSU’s place kicking helped UR in that regard.
Cam Peterson missed two easy field goal attempts and the Bison also botched a pair of extra points, with Richmond’s David Jones intercepting one desperation pass after a bad snap on the first PAT.
Richmond was coming off two impressive wins over arch-rival William & Mary — one to clinch the Colonial Athletic Association automatic playoff bid and another in round two of the playoffs — and a quarterfinal victory over No. 2 seed Illinois State heading into Friday’s game.
Illinois State, last year’s FCS national runner-up, had tied North Dakota State for the Missouri Valley Football Conference crown for the second year in a row.
North Dakota State awaits the winner of Saturday’s second semifinal between No. 1 seed Jacksonville State and unseeded Sam Houston State in the national championship game on Jan. 9 in Frisco, Texas.
David Coulson is an executive editor for the College Sports Journal, and has covered college football for over 40 years. Present in the press box during the legendary Appalachian State upset of Michigan, his extensive coverage of Appalachian State allowed him to write about the Mountaineers’ first-ever Division I title in the book
Magic on the Mountain: Appalachian State’s Amazing Journey to the 2005 NCAA I-AA Football Championship.
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