FCS championship game review: Bison are best

BY AP • January 6, 2018

(STATS) - Chris Klieman was a first-year assistant in 2011 when North Dakota State coach Craig Bohl brought his staff together for a meeting - and a message - prior to their first FCS championship game this decade.

Bohl, having won two national titles as an assistant at Nebraska, told the Bison coaches that a team doesn't go to a title game to compete in it, it goes to win the championship.

That determination helps sum up the driving force in the Bison. They've won six FCS championships in seven years following Saturday's 17-13 win over defending champ James Madison.

"Resolve and character is hard to beat," Klieman said after the Bison, who've only been in the FCS since 2004, tied Georgia Southern for the most all-time titles with six.

Here's a quick review surrounding Saturday's epic matchup:

STORYLINE: The atmosphere and intensity of the 40th FCS championship game matched every bit of what people wanted it to be as North Dakota State (14-1) held off a late drive by James Madison (14-1) in a meeting between the nation's two preeminent powers

GAME BALLS: Bison quarterback Easton Stick (165 total yards, 50-yard touchdown pass) deserves one as winner of the game's most outstanding player award. The defense also gets a nod for limiting James Madison to 241 yards, forcing three turnovers in NDSU territory and sacking Dukes QB Bryan Schor four times. For the Dukes, defensive tackle Simeyon Robinson had a monster game with two sacks, a forced fumble and a blocked field goal.

KEY STAT: The Dukes offense, which possessed the ball for only 22 minutes, 19 seconds, scored on only three of its six chances in the NDSU red zone. They had converted points 86 percent of the time in their first 14 games.

THE TAKEAWAY: North Dakota State's run to the title basically started the night of Dec. 16, 2016, the first moments after the Bison's five-year run as FCS champion was ended in the semifinals by James Madison. To say, the Bison became a motivated team is an understatement.

UP NEXT: No kidding, North Dakota State is a prohibitive favorite to win the national title again next season. The Bison will return a ton of talent and James Madison, though second-best on paper, will lose more key players. NDSU will host Cal Poly in its season opener on Sept. 1, while James Madison travels to North Carolina State. The drop-off to the next-best teams in the FCS appears decisive.

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