FRISCO, Texas — That record number of FCS championships now fills an entire hand with celebratory rings.
What better way for North Dakota State’s dynasty to conk an opponent over the head.
The Bison became the first team in NCAA history to win five straight national titles Saturday as they overwhelmed top-seeded Jacksonville State 37-10 before 21,836 at Toyota Stadium.
There was little rust in senior quarterback Carson Wentz’s game as he returned from a midseason wrist injury, and that played right into North Dakota State’s well-oiled machine. The Bison (13-2) improved to an amazing 71-5 since the start of the 2011 season — the first of the championship run — and separated from Augustana’s Division III champions of 1983-86 for the most consecutive titles in NCAA history.
The Missouri Valley Conference power, seeded third in the playoffs, built a 24-0 halftime lead against a Jacksonville State squad that had been No. 1 for most of the season. The Ohio Valley Conference’s Gamecocks (13-2) had their 12-game winning streak snapped.
Their were two big reasons:
• Wentz, the 6-foot-6 NFL prospect, played more like he had been out for 12 days instead of 12 weeks. He rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another one with 276 yards of total offense (197 passing, 79 rushing) while being named the game’s Most Outstanding Player for the second straight year. He completed 16 of 29 passes but had two interceptions
• NDSU’s defense left no doubt. Jacksonville State managed only 204 offensive yards — 325 below its average — as junior Eli Jenkins, the STATS All-America first-team quarterback, was harassed into four turnovers. Incredibly, all four Bison opponents in the postseason were held to a season low in yards, with none scoring more than 13 points.
The Bison controlled the line of scrimmage and the clock in the first half to take command by halftime. The FCS leaders in time of possession held the ball for over 20 minutes and scored on their first four possessions.
The first two went for a combined 27 plays. Cam Pederson ended a game-opening 15-play drive with a 29-yard field goal and a 12-play drive stretched into the second quarter before Wentz connected on an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andrew Bonnet.
NDSU linebacker Nick DeLuca intercepted Jenkins at his team’s 28-yard line on the first play of the ensuing drive. It led to Wentz beating cornerback Jermaine Hough one-on-one on a keeper and diving into the end zone for an 11-yard TD and a 17-0 lead at the 11:13 mark.
Jenkins then fumbled the ball away to Bison linebacker M.J. Stumpf at the Jacksonville State 48. That turnover led to King Frazier’s 1-yard touchdown run, which made it 24-0 with 6:12 left in the first half.
Jacksonville State cut into its deficit to 24-10 in the third quarter. Jenkins broke lose for a 46-yard run to set up a 6-yard scoring keeper, and Brandon Bender intercepted a tipped pass and returned it 54 yards to the Bison 13, which set up Connor Rouleau’s 27-yard field goal with 3:41 left.
But North Dakota State answered with a Pederson 31-yard field goal with 20 seconds left in the third quarter and then won going away.
In fact, the fourth quarter became a nightmare for Jenkins. DeLuca (nine tackles) dislodged the ball on a scramble and Jenkins fumbled the ball away to defensive end Greg Menard. Although NDSU quarterback Easton Stick, who was 8-0 as a starter while Wentz was sidelined, immediately gave the ball back by throwing an interception in the Jacksonville State end zone, Bison cornerback Jordan Champion picked off Jenkins to mark the third straight play with a turnover.
And Wentz was more than happy to score from 1 yard out on NDSU’s next drive, making it 34-10, just as the Bison were happy to have their leader back in the saddle for another win.
Yes, their "Drive for Five" was coasting to another championship finish.