College football: Bison three-peat as national champs
FRISCO, Texas — The stage on the north side of Toyota Stadium has become home for North Dakota State. For the third straight year, that is where the Bison finished the afternoon with a trophy in their hands.
The top-ranked Bison scored 28 unanswered points to power to a historic 35-7 victory against Towson University for a third consecutive Division I FCS national championship at Toyota Stadium before an announced attendance of 19,802. An estimated 17,000 were Bison fans.
“We’ve got a special group of guys, a special group of men,” said Bison senior defensive tackle Ryan Drevlow, who is from Gwinner, N.D.
“You don’t do the things that we’ve done the past few years without sacrifice,” added Bison senior quarterback Brock Jensen, who was named the game’s Most Valuable Player. “It’s a team effort.”
The numbers are impressive.
NDSU (15-0) capped a perfect season, becoming only the third FCS team to go undefeated en route to a national title. The Bison are just the second FCS team to three-peat, and also tied the division’s record with 24 consecutive wins. The 15 wins in a season are a school record.
NDSU has a 43-2 record over the past three seasons, including three wins over Division I FBS teams.
“I think we stamped our mark in history,” said Bison junior safety Colten Heagle. “Our goals this year were very simple. We were going to go undefeated and win it all again and win three in row.”
Saturday capped a stellar playoff run. The Bison outscored their opponents 173-42 in their four postseason games. In the title game, they held Towson to its lowest point total since 2011. The Tigers (13-3) lowest point total in a game this season was 15 before Saturday.
“They are undefeated for a reason,” Towson head coach Rob Ambrose said. “They are one, and they are perfect.”
The Bison seized control in the final five minutes of the second quarter with the game tied at 7-7.
Towson kicker D.J. Soven lined up for a 41-yard field-goal attempt with a chance to give the Tigers their first lead. However, Heagle sliced through the line of scrimmage and blocked the kick. Bison junior defensive end Kyle Emanuel scooped up the loose ball and returned it 59 yard to the Towson 5-yard line.
On the next play, senior wide receiver Ryan Smith scored on a jet sweep, giving the Bison a 14-7 lead with 4 minutes, 43 seconds to play in the half.
“It was a legitimate 10-point swing,” Ambrose said. “We made a mistake and they made us pay for it.”
The momentum swing continued on the next possession. After Towson had again driven into NDSU territory, Bison cornerback C.J. Smith intercepted Tigers quarterback Peter Athens and Smith returned the ball 32 yards to the Towson 43. Five plays later, the Bison were in the end zone. Jensen zipped a 12-yard touchdown pass to junior wide receiver Zach Vraa that gave NDSU a 21-7 lead with 1:05 to play in the second quarter.
“I thought those were two key plays in the game,” Bison head coach Bohl said of the blocked field goal and interception. “I think that created a ton of energy and momentum.”
That energy carried into the second half with the Bison scoring a touchdown in the third and fourth quarters, while holding Towson scoreless. The Tigers didn’t score a point after the first quarter.
“They play 11-man defense as good if not better than anyone in the country,” Ambrose said. “They do not make mistakes. That’s it.”
Jensen completed 13 of 18 passes for 135 yards and a touchdown to earn MVP honors. He also rushed for 20 yards and a touchdown on three carries in his final college game. Jensen’s 9-yard touchdown run gave NDSU a 28-7 lead with 9:09 remaining in the third quarter.
“That is something I will remember my whole life,” said Jensen, who finished his career with an FCS record 48 wins. “We got something special here at NDSU. It gets better every time I think you win it.”