The defending FCS Champion North Dakota State Bison beat the Georgia Southern Eagles in the FCS Championship semifinal for the second year in a row, following up 2011's 35-7 victory with a much tighter 23-20 win on Friday night.
The North Dakota State defense had a lot of trouble with Georgia Southern quarterback Jerick McKinnon, but key stops and capitalizing on mistakes by the Eagles gave the Bison their second straight trip to the FCS title game.
The Bison are the top-ranked defense in the FCS, giving up only 207.4 yards per game. McKinnon gained more than that on his own, and fullback Dominique Swope gained an additional 77 yards rushing. It looked to be Georgia Southern's game to lose until early in the second quarter, when the defense forced a McKinnon fumble and the offense capitalized with a go-ahead touchdown.
Up 16-13, the Bison defense forced a three-and-out, but a roughing the kicker penalty bailed out Southern. They drove the length of the field and took regained the lead on a 25 yard McKinnon run, but the Bison offense got the ball back with five minutes left to play and started putting together a drive. A roughing the passer penalty by the Eagles put the Bison within striking distance of the end zone, and on fourth-and-three the Bison had a final shot at advancing to defend their title. They ran a Brock Jensen keeper, and he broke through for the game winning touchdown.
The defense came through at the very end when Georgia Southern drove to within field goal distance, but the Bison blocked the kick and stopped the resulting scramble to seal the win.
Box Score Hero: Jensen came through for the Bison offense when they needed it most, and he finished the night 9-for-19 for 76 yards and with 88 yards rushing. Sam Ojuri had a strong night with 11.8 yards per carry, including a 53 yard touchdown run, finishing with 71 yards.
But Did They Cover? Favored by nine points, North Dakota State failed to cover..
Next Week's Schedule: North Dakota State now faces either Eastern Washington or Sam Houston State, depending on the outcome of the second semifinal game, which will be held 4 p.m. ET Saturday.