Key holding call costs Sam Houston in FCS rematch

Sam Houston State running back Tim Flanders ran free for what

looked like the go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter of the FCS

championship rematch with North Dakota State on Saturday.

A yellow flag resting at the line of scrimmage behind the

school’s career rushing leader changed everything.

Flanders’ 41-yard run was wiped out by a holding penalty, and

Brian Bell’s interception on the next play led to the Bison taking

the lead instead and going on to their second straight FCS title

with a 39-13 victory. The Bearkats (11-4) had two other holding

calls that scratched long runs deep in Bison territory on drives

that ended without points.

”I was more disappointed in some of our penalties that we had

that were pre-snap penalties,” Sam Houston coach Willie Fritz

said. ”I tell the guys all the time once the ball is snapped all

the decisions made out there are subjective decisions and there’s

not a whole lot you can do about it.”

North Dakota State quarterback Brock Jensen ran for three

touchdowns, including the go-ahead score on a 1-yard sneak not long

after the Flanders TD run that wasn’t. Sam Ojuri scored twice for

the Bison, whose fans turned the field into a pep rally after the

game by joining a trophy presentation on a stage that makes up one

end of FC Dallas Stadium.

”Let’s go Bison!” coach Craig Bohl shouted while holding up a

Bison hand signal that could be mistaken for the Texas Longhorns’

”Hook `Em Horns” sign in the Lone Star State. ”Best fans in

America!”

The Bison, who won 17-6 a year ago, improved to 10-1 in the FCS

playoffs with their eighth straight postseason win.

After Jensen’s go-ahead score, Ojuri had a 2-yard TD run on

fourth-and-1 after the Bison (14-1) got the ball with a fourth-down

stop.

Ojuri had 92 yards rushing, and Jensen added 44 to go with 115

passing yards. The Bison rushed for 300 yards.

John Crockett had 80 yards rushing, 24 receiving and a 26-yard

pass to set up a score on a trick play after taking a

straight-ahead handoff.

Bell threw for 255 yards against the nation’s best pass defense,

but had three of Sam Houston’s four interceptions. Flanders, who

had 231 yards rushing in the semifinals and more than 4,100 for his

three-year career, was held to 53 yards on 19 carries, a 2.8

average.

After the holding call on Flanders’ run, Carlton Littlejohn

intercepted Bell’s pass while falling to his knees, and the

turnover was upheld on review. Ojuri had 25 yards rushing on a

drive that ended with Jensen’s score for a 17-10 lead.

”That’s a big turning point,” said North Dakota State

cornerback Marcus Williams, who had two interceptions to set the

school career record with 18. ”Whenever a team scores a TD and it

gets taken off the board, it gives you momentum. In this game, you

needed as much momentum as we could get.”

The Bearkats were driving again when Bell had to throw the ball

away before getting slammed to the turf on fourth-and-1. He stayed

flat on his back and sat out parts of the fourth quarter.

”There were some opportunities there that could have gotten us

back in the game, an answer or two to a score they had,” Fritz

said. ”But it didn’t bounce that way.”

Jensen’s 31-yard pass to Zach Vraa set up Ojuri’s fourth-down

run, and the Bison further deflated the Bearkats when they turned a

botched snap on the extra point into a 2-point conversion and a

25-10 lead on a desperation pass from kicker Adam Keller to Mike

Hardie.

”Sometimes there’s plays that happen in the game when you

think, `You know what, this is probably going to be our day,”’

Bohl said. ”A play that we had never planned or designed turned

out to work extremely well.”

North Dakota State scored the first touchdown in the second

quarter by covering 65 yards on three running plays. Jensen ran 21

yards on third down after the field opened when Sam Houston State’s

leading tackler, Darnell Taylor, crumpled to the ground in front of

him with an apparently leg injury. Ryan Smith ran 24 yards, and

Jensen, who accounted for both touchdowns in last year’s game,

scored from the 20.

Sam Houston ended a championship game touchdown drought just

before it reached six quarters and tied the score at 10 when Bell

threw a 1-yard pass to K.J. Williams with 33 seconds left in the

first half. A 30-yard toss to Richard Sincere put the ball on the 1

three plays after an interception by Andre Martin Jr. was wiped out

when he was called for defensive holding.

Crockett’s career-long 57-yard run set up a 32-yard field goal

by Keller to give North Dakota State a first-quarter lead. Miguel

Antonio kicked a tying 38-yarder in the second quarter after

missing from 32 yards in the first.