North Dakota State took a shaky start to their third consecutive semi-final playoff game tonight.
On the first drive for the Bison, senior quarterback Brock Jensen was intercepted by New Hampshire's Steven Thames on the NDSU 38. Thames returned it for six and with the extra point good the Wildcats took a 7-0 lead almost instantly.
The Bison defense came up big but the offense still couldn't get going. Senior running back Sam Ojuri looked for a first down but was stripped by Rashid Amand. Fellow Wildcat Casey DeAndrade recovered the fumble and the ball was right back in New Hampshire's hands.
NDSU also lost senior wide receiver and Wahpeton product Ryan Smith in the second series as he tweaked his hamstring. Redshirt Freshman Eric Perkins has stepped up in his absence.
Senior line backer Grant Olson also made his return to the field in the first quarter. Olson was reported out for the remainder of the season after tearing his ACL earlier this year. Olson has not been cleared by team doctors but was rumored to be working out and looking to make a return to the field.
Olson wasn't the only one to make a comeback tonight as Jensen found his stride late in the first quarter. He'd go deep on first and ten from the 50 yard line to junior wide receiver Zach Vraa. The touchdown catch was a school record 14th scoring reception for Vraa this season.
The second quarter opened with the Bison claiming the lead. Adam Keller lined up from 32 yards on fourth down and sent it right through the up rights for a 10-7 NDSU lead on New Hampshire.
NDSU continues to build from there. They'll line up on the seven yard line and Jensen finds senior Derrick Lang for his first career touchdown. The Bison go up 17-7.
As New Hampshire attempts to get back in this it would seem the Bison Faithful played their part tonight. Wildcat quarterback Sean Goldrich fumbles the ball allowing a rushing Leevon Perry to scoop it up and carry it in for a six yard touchdown to put the Bison ahead 24-7.
Jensen will connect with Kevin Vaadeland for one more touchdown before the half. The reception is Vaadeland's 18th of the season and eighth touchdown of the season.
In the second half the Bison will not let up. Up 31-7 at the top of the third quarter the Bison defense took the field to defend their territory. New Hampshire had the ball on their own 45 and sophomore quarterback Sean Goldrich's pass was intercepted by Christian Dudzik at the NDSU 24. Dudzik returned it 2 yards to the NDSU 22 and set another scoring drive in motion. Running back John Crockett rushed for 77 yards following the lead of left tackle Billy Turner. The huge gain down the right side of the field set up Jensen for the one yard touchdown and a 38-7 lead.
Goldrich looks to regain some confidence through the air and get his team going against this Bison defense but it seems the air attack wasn't the best option. Goldrich dropped back on the UNH 36 and fired. His pass was tipped and then snatched up by Bryan Shepherd on the Wildcat 45. Shepherd returned the interception to just inside the ten.
The offense took the field again and it was Ojuri's turn to rush nine yards for yet another Bison touchdown.
The fourth quarter welcomed the next line of Bison to the field. Moorhead product Chase Morlock capped a nine minute drive by the Bison with a one yard touchdown to make this a 52-7 game.
New Hampshire would push one offensive touchdown tonight late in the fourth quarter but this one was clearly wrapped up by the Bison as they make their third consecutive trip to Frisco, Texas and look to become just the second team in FCS history to win three consecutive National Titles.