Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The most telling aspect of North Dakota
State's quest for a third straight FCS national championship appeared to show
up in November.
Then December came along. And the Bison truly indicated how much they are
playing on an otherwordly level this season.
North Dakota State hopes to complete its mission on Saturday in Frisco, Texas,
when it takes on Towson in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Game at
Toyota Stadium. The Bison are trying to equal the record three straight FCS
national titles won by Appalachian State from 2005-07 as well as the FCS
record of 24 straight wins, held by Montana and Penn.
This season has been all about the Bison (14-0) gaining the championship
three-peat. Beating Kansas State on national television to open the season and
winning a third straight Missouri Valley Football Conference title were
outstanding, but their season was always going to be judged by how they
finished in the postseason.
As the Bison made their way to the expanded, 24-team playoffs, fifth-year
senior quarterback Brock Jensen said something particularly telling about his
veteran team. As they were increasing their unbeaten record and fending off
being the target on everybody else's schedule, the Bison weren't just going
through the motions in the regular season or playing not to lose.
"The difference in this year than previous years is we haven't peaked at all,
we're continuing to get better and better every week," the winningest
quarterback in FCS history said in November. "I was just thinking about it.
Last year, we were kind of just riding along a little bit - not getting any
better, not getting any worse, just kind of coasting through this part of the
season and just kind of hanging on a little bit, whereas this year we're a
well-oiled machine right now. We're getting better every week. That's really
North Dakota State, built on defense but so much more with a punishing run
game and terrific special teams, shut out three opponents and kept seven to 10
or fewer points during the regular season.
The top-seeded Bison then rested through a bye in the first round of the
playoffs before handling Furman, 38-7, in the second round on Dec. 7. Shortly
after the win, though, it was learned that 11th-year head coach Craig Bohl had
accepted the head coaching position at the University of Wyoming.
That became the new story for the Bison. Or at least it should have become the
Wyoming allowed Bohl to stay on through the playoff run, and 3 1/2 weeks
later, he's still leading the Bison instead of settling in with his new
program. And, most telling about the mindset of the NDSU team, the Bison have
come together with even more focus and played at an even higher level,
dominating Coastal Carolina, 48-14, in the national quarterfinals and New
Hampshire, 52-14, in the semifinals.
"I guess the best thing I know in putting to rest distractions, I think we're
playing the best football we've played all year right now," Bohl said. "That
was even after I made this announcement. So that's a real tribute to those
players and our coaches."
The moment the Bison arrive in Frisco on Wednesday, they'll believe Frisco
still belongs to them. From championship week experience to fan support to
their play on the field.
Towson will only be hoping Frisco belongs to it.
And it won't, as good as the Tigers also have been for the past three seasons
under coach Rob Ambrose.
North Dakota State's destiny is one of an FCS dynasty. The Bison will win their
third straight national championship.
PREDICTION: North Dakota State 31, Towson 17.
The Sports Network