No Craig Bohl, no problem. North Dakota State recovered from a late Illinois State rally to win their fourth straight national title (and first under new head coach Chris Klieman), scoring a touchdown with 37 seconds left to beat the Redbirds, 29-27, in Frisco.
The Bison are the first Division I team to win four straight national titles, and the first NCAA team to do so since Division III Augustana College won from 1983-86. With the win, North Dakota State also moves into a tie with Youngstown State for second place on the FCS title leaderboard, with four.
North Dakota State's senior class experienced more national championships (4) than losses (3).— Zach Barnett (@zach_barnett) January 10, 2015
Illinois State took the game's first lead when Tre Roberson found Jon-Marc Anderson for a 13-yard pass into the end zone. Adam Keller's record-breaking 26th field goal of the season brought the game to 7-3, but North Dakota State entered the second quarter trailing for the first time in the playoffs.
The Bison took their first lead of the game midway through the second quarter, finally capitalizing on a long drive. After a turnover and multiple penalties hurt them early, Carson Wentz found Luke Albers on a crossing route in the end zone, making the score 10-7.
Up 13-7 midway through the third, North Dakota State's John Crockett burst through for a 7-yard touchdown run, making it a two-score lead. Illinois State responded a few minutes later when Roberson found James O'Shaughnessy for a 41-yard touchdown pass, but Keller's third field goal of the day made it 23-14 early in the fourth.
The Redbirds pulled it close again later in the fourth with Roberson's second touchdown pass to O'Shaughnessy, and their defense came up with a big sack to give them one last chance with about two minutes left. Roberson came through just like he did in the rest of the game, sprinting 58 yards up the middle for the lead-taking touchdown. Roberson, a transfer from Indiana, finished 11-of-23 for 157 yards and three touchdowns, rushing 11 times for 161 yards and a score.
Down 27-23 with 95 seconds left, North Dakota State started with the ball just inside their own red zone after a penalty. On third and 10, Wentz found RJ Urzendowski in one-on-one coverage near the goal line. The true freshman made the adjustment and brought the ball in, giving the Bison the ball on the Redbirds' 5-yard line. Wentz broke through for the score, giving NDSU the lead and the eventual win.
The Bison picked off a Roberson pass on the final drive, clinching the victory.