January 8, 2012 in Sports

North Dakota State defeats Sam Houston State for FCS crown

Stephen Hawkins Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

Chad Willson, left, and Warren Holloway celebrate with teammates after North Dakota State won its first FCS national championship in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday.
(Full-size photo)

FRISCO, Texas – North Dakota State quarterback Brock Jensen made the most of the big plays by special teams and defense, and the Bison are finally champions again.

This title comes at a higher level.

Jensen threw a touchdown pass right after a fake punt, then had a 1-yard keeper for another score after a long interception return and the Bison beat top-seeded Sam Houston State 17-6 in their first Football Championship Subdivision title game Saturday.

“There was a real resolve and determination, especially by our seniors. We had a couple of tough years here,” coach Craig Bohl said. “Our guys wanted to make sure we returned Bison football to national prominence. It’s not easy to do. I want to thank them because today we returned Bison football to national prominence.”

The Bison (14-1) got the last of their five NCAA Division II national championship game victories in 1990, and claimed three other titles before the first championship game was played in 1973. This was their first title game since moving to the higher division in 2004.

“To come in and hold a team like Sam Houston to six points is a big deal,” linebacker Chad Wilson said. “This is the best defensive game we’ve played this year.”

Sam Houston (14-1) had its lowest-scoring game of the season, 33 points below its FCS-best average, and was denied an undefeated season and its first FCS title. The Bearkats had only 210 total yards.

North Dakota State wasn’t much better on offense, with only nine first downs and 235 total yards. The Bison didn’t have a first down on their last four possessions before halftime and soon faced another fourth down early in the second half.

That’s when punter Matt Voigtlander, who also is listed as a running back, took off and ran 27 yards on fourth-and-4.

“We had not run a fake all year. It was something we kept in our hip pocket,” Bohl said. “We needed to establish some momentum. We were disappointed we couldn’t get a first down in a normal way. Things were right and our players executed a right idea.”

Voigtlander made the call for the fake when he looked outside and saw a wide-open lane.

“As open as it was, just about anyone could have done what I did,” he said.

On the next play, Jensen threw a screen pass to D.J. McNorton, who then ran straight up to the field for a 39-yard touchdown play and a 10-6 lead.

“It was a momentum changer,” Bearkats coach Willie Fritz said. “We’re not a team that’s used to playing from behind.”

North Dakota State had only one more first down after that until starting at the 1 following linebacker Travis Beck’s interception and 63-yard return. Beck picked off the underthrown pass by Brian Bell, who managed to keep Beck out of the end zone despite his desperate leap trying to score.

On the next play, Jensen plunged in for the touchdown with 8:45 left.

Jensen finished 10 of 20 for 120 yards passing with an interception. Bell completed 12 of 31 passes for 115 yards.

It is the fourth consecutive year with a first-time FBS champion. Eastern Washington won last year.

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