After a wild weekend of semifinal action, the North Dakota State Bison and the Sam Houston State Bearkats came out on on top to advance to the 2013 FCS Championship game on Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas.
North Dakota State entered the tournament as the top seed and promptly knocked off their first two opponents to advance to the semifinal matchup against a No. 5 Georgia Southern team fresh off a 14-point win over No. 4 Old Dominion.
Georgia Southern struck first with a 14-play, 79-yard drive that was capped off by a 4-yard J.J. Wilcox touchdown run to put the Eagles ahead, 6-0. North Dakota State answered on the following drive with a score of their own on John Crockett's 1-yard touchdown run to tie the game just before halftime, 6-6. Out of halftime, Georgia Southern received possession and wasted little time regaining the lead, as Jerick McKinnon hooked up with Dominique Swope on a 49-yard touchdown pass to put the Eagles on top, 13-6. North Dakota State slowly crawled back ahead with a field goal just before half and a big 53-yard touchdown run to open the fourth quarter to take a 16-13 lead.
As was the story in Saturday's back-and-forth game, the Eagles answered. McKinnon engineered an 85-yard drive and capped it off with a 25-yard touchdown run to regain the lead with five minutes remaining in third. North Dakota State responded late in the fourth. After downing Georgia Southern at their own 2-yard line, North Dakota State took over on offense with a short field and took advantage, scoring with just over three minutes remaining and eventually winning the game, 23-20.
The game on the other side of the bracket revealed a much different story. Sam Houston State's matchup with No. 2 Eastern Washington was a game of streaks, and Sam Houston State scored first on a Brian Bell 6-yard touchdown run. Then the Bearkats scored again, this time on an 37-yard interception return to extend the lead to 14-0. The second quarter was more of the same, with three more Sam Houston State touchdowns on runs from Brian Bell, Keyshawn Hill and Richard Sincere to take the Bearkats to halftime up, 35-0.
Then second-seeded Eastern Washington answered. First, a touchdown shortly after the start of the second half. Then, two more quick scores to end the third quarter on a Vernon Adams touchdown pass, a recovered onside kick, and another Adams touchdown pass. After another touchdown from Adams with 13 minutes left in the fourth, Eastern Washington had pulled within seven points at 35-28.
However, the lead proved too much to overcome for Eastern Washington, as Sam Houston tallied another 10 points in the final quarter and recovered Eastern Washington's last-ditch onside kick effort to edge out a victory, 45-42.
For a complete FCS Tournament bracket, click here.