NDSU Advances to FCS Championship With 42-14 Win Over Montana State
Top-ranked North Dakota State advanced to the NCAA Division I Football Championship Game for the eighth time in nine seasons with a 42-14 victory over fifth-ranked Montana State in the FCS semifinals on Saturday, Dec. 21.
North Dakota State improved to 15-0 overall extending its FCS record to 36 consecutive wins. NDSU tied a school record with its 28th straight home victory at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome before a crowd of 18,077.
Bison quarterback Trey Lance went 15 of 21 passing for 223 yards and three touchdowns, and sophomore wide receiver Christian Watson accounted for 174 all-purpose yards - 145 of them on two game-changing scores early in the second quarter.
Montana State tied the game 7-7 on Travis Jonsen's 1-yard run on fourth-and-goal, but the Bison went ahead for good on their next play from scrimmage when Lance hit Watson in stride for a 75-yard touchdown pass. It was the longest reception of Watson's career.
NDSU got a three-and-out on the next defensive series before Watson took a handoff and went 70 yards for his first career rushing touchdown. A two-point conversion pass from James Hendricks to tight end Cody Mauch made it 22-7.
Jimmy Kepouros caught a 6-yard touchdown pass to put the Bison ahead 29-7 before halftime.
Montana State threatened one more time in the third quarter when the Bobcats forced and recovered a Dimitri Williams fumble that led to a 41-yard touchdown pass two plays later from Tucker Rovig to Kevin Kassis to make it a two-score game at 29-14.
Williams got his chance again, however. Facing third-and-five on the next possession, Lance scrambled out of pressure and hit Williams wide-open down the right sideline for a 73-yard touchdown that extended the NDSU lead to 36-14.
North Dakota State rushed for 318 yards, setting a new school single-season record for the third straight year with 4,320 yards. The Bison outgained Montana State 541 to 298 in total offense.
NDSU linebacker Jackson Hankey made nine tackles, James Kaczor had seven tackles, and Michael Tutsie had seven tackles and his seventh interception of the season.
North Dakota State will face either second-ranked James Madison or third-seeded Weber State in the FCS national championship game, which is scheduled for 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 11, at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. The game will be televised on ABC.