Thomas Campbell-US PRESSWIRE
Bison advance to their second consecutive final with heart-stopping victory over Georgia Southern.
The top-ranked North Dakota State Bison defeated Georgia Southern in Friday's FCS semifinal, and will face Sam Houston State for the National Championship. Sam Houston State reached the final by beating second-seeded Eastern Washington 45-42 Saturday.
The Bison, who also beat Georgia Southern in last season's semifinal round, won 23-20 despite trailing for most of the game. Georgia Southern held a 13-9 halftime lead, but a Sam Ojuri 53-yard touchdown run with 10:42 left in the third quarter gave NDSU a 16-13 advantage. Georgia Southern answered back on the next possession, retaking a 20-16 lead on a nine-play, 85-yard drive capped with a 25-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jerick McKinnon. The teams traded possessions deep into the fourth quarter, but a 5-yard touchdown run on 4th and 3 by Bison quarterback Brock Jensen put NDSU up 23-20 with just 3:05 to play. Georgia Southern advanced to the Bison 29, but a fumble pushed the Eagles back to the 33, and NDSU blocked a 50-yard game-tying field goal attempt.
The Sam Houston State Bearkats jumped out to a 35-0 halftime advantage, but a furious Eastern Washington comeback nearly won the game for the Eagles. Bearkats halfback Tim Flanders ran for 219 yards on 31 carries, and quarterback Brian Bell added 59 rushing yards and two touchdowns for a Sam Houston State offense that needed just 85 rushing yards. Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams was spectacular in relief of the ineffective Kyle Padron, throwing for 364 yards and six scores despite not playing most of the first half. Brandon Kauffman had 215 receiving yards and three touchdowns for the Eagles.
The National Championship game will be played on Jan. 5 at FC Dallas Stadium in Frisco, Texas. The full FCS bracket is available at the NCAA website.