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2015-16 FCS National Championship Preview

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2015-16 FCS National Championship Preview

The final game of the 2015-16 FCS Season will be the FCS National Championship game between the North Dakota State Bison and Jacksonville State Gamecocks. The game will be played at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas on Saturday, January 9 at 12 PM Eastern Time. The game can be seen on ESPN2 and the Watch ESPN App.

We have predicted the results for each round of the playoffs. We went 4-4 in the first round, 5-3 in the second round, 3-1 in the Quarterfinals, and 2-0 in the Semifinals. That makes for a total of 14-8 through the first four rounds of the FCS Playoffs.

Below is 2015-16 FCS National Championship Preview along with a prediction.

North Dakota State Bison Road To The National Championship

Round 1: Bye

Round 2: Defeated Montana 37-6 at home

Quarterfinals: Defeated Northern Iowa 23-13 at home

Semifinals: Defeated Richmond 33-7 at home

North Dakota State Bison (12-2) Preview

The biggest question surrounding the North Dakota State offense will be whether quarterback Carson Wentz will be the starter or if the Bison continue to use Easton Stick. At this point, it is not known which of the two will start and it probably will not be known until the first offensive series for the Bison. While Wentz has the big game experience, but Stick has performed admirably in his absence. Stick has thrown only 3 interceptions and can also run the ball. In his short time filling in, Stick has become the second leading rusher on the team with 498 yards and 5 touchdowns.

The main running back is King Frazier with 1,105 yards and 10 touchdowns on 201 carries. Bruce Anderson is third on the team in rushing with 492 yards and 2 touchdowns while it is not out of the question for freshman Lance Dunn (457 yards and 3 touchdowns) to see some action. The Bison as a team rank sixth in the FCS in terms of total rushing yards on the season. This will be key for the Bison to control the clock and limit the number of possessions for the Jacksonville State offense.

The receiving group is led by RJ Urzendowski with 43 catches for 613 yards and 6 touchdowns. Darrius Shepherd is second on the team with 36 catches for 504 yards and 5 touchdowns in what has been a very good freshman season for him. Zach Vraa will also be a target after catching 37 passes for 478 yards and 5 touchdowns. This group will be vital to moving the chains on third down passing situations.

The defense will be led by linebacker Nick DeLuca who easily has the most tackles on the team. DeLuca has 126 total tackles on the season, which is nearly 40 more than MJ Stumpf in second (78). DeLuca has also recorded nine tackles for loss, but trails to several others in that category. Greg Menard has 13.5 tackles for loss while leading the team in sacks with nine. Brian Schaetz has 5.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss. CJ Smith leads the team with 4 interceptions with one apiece coming in the Playoff games against Montana and Richmond.

The defense will be keen on stopping the Jacksonville State running game and they rank 20th in the FCS against the run in terms of total yards allowed. They rank much lower against the pass (71st), but that could be attributed to the fact their run defense is as good as it is. The defense also ranks fifth in points allowed at 15.7 per game while they only allow 276 yards per game (4th best in the FCS). If they can hold Jacksonville State to those averages, they will have a great chance to win their fifth straight FCS Championship.

The special teams unit for North Dakota State is a mixed bag. Eric Perkins averages 11.6 yards per punt return and has a touchdown as well. Bruce Anderson is the man to watch on kickoffs as he averages 38 yards per return and has returned 2 kickoffs for touchdowns. He has the chance to flip the field without the offense touching the ball. The worry for the Bison is Cam Pedersen kicking field goals. He has gone a terrible 9 of 18 on field goals attempts with the Playoffs bring out the worst in him. He has converted only 1 of his 7 field goal tries in the last 3 games.

Jacksonville State Gamecocks Road To The National Championship

Round 1: Bye

Round 2: Defeated Chattanooga 41-35 in One Overtime at home

Quarterfinals: Defeated Charleston Southern 58-38 at home

Semifinals: Defeated Sam Houston State 62-10 at home

Jacksonville State Gamecocks (13-1) Preview

The Jacksonville State offense will run through two players: quarterback Eli Jenkins and running back Troymaine Pope. The rushing offense is one of the best in the nation with 4,364 yards rushing this year, which translates to 312 yards per game. Pope averages 126 yards a game while Jenkins runs for 77 yards per contest. Pope has 1,757 yards and 19 touchdowns on the season while Jenkins has 1,073 yards and 14 touchdowns for the year. While those 2 will be the main workhorses, Miles Jones can also come in and make an impact. Jones has 689 yards and 9 touchdowns on the ground this year. Expect a lot of zone read plays from Eli Jenkins.

While the rushing attack is a huge part of the Jacksonville State offense, Jenkins can also throw the ball around the field if need be. He has 2,731 yards with 21 touchdowns and 6 interceptions through the air. There is one clear target for Jenkins when he is passing and that is Josh Barge. Barge has 90 catches for 1,113 and 11 touchdowns while the second leading receiver is Ruben Gonzalez with 43 catches for 649 yards and 4 touchdowns. Dalton Screws (33 catches for 374 yards and 3 touchdowns) and Markis Merrill (26 catches for 380 yards and 2 touchdowns) could also have a minor impact on the passing game.

The Jacksonville State defense is similar to North Dakota State’s in the sense that they are better against the run than they are against the pass. The Gamecocks allow about 117 rushing yards per contest compared to 178 through the air. They allow just 18.7 points and 295 yards per game.

The defense has quite a few playmakers led by Brandon Bender, who has amassed 96 tackles including 11.5 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. Dawson Wells has 91 tackles on the season with 10.5 coming for a loss while Joel McCandless has 73 tackles and 10.5 tackles for loss. Chris Landrum leads the team in sack with 8.5 while close in second is Darius Jackson with 7. Unsurprisingly, those two are the leaders on the team in tackles for loss with Landrum at 17.5 and Jackson at 18.5. Jaylen Hill is the co-leader on the team in picks with 3 along with Wells, however, Wells has returned 2 of his interceptions for touchdowns.

Josh Barge is the punt returner with an average of 10 yards per return. Lawon Debardelaben will be returning kickoffs with an average of 23 yards per return. Like North Dakota State, the kicker has accuracy issues. Connor Rouleau has gone 16 of 26 this year, but made all five of his field goal attempts in the Charleston Southern and Sam Houston State contests.

Prediction

This game is a great contrast in styles with the run based offense of Jacksonville State going up against the stingy run defense of North Dakota State. That will be fun and intriguing to watch, but it will probably come down to the other match up of the North Dakota State offense against the Jacksonville State defense. If North Dakota State can control the ball and keep the Jacksonville State offense off the field, they will have a great chance to win this game. The one thing about Jacksonville State is they do not need a lot of time to score points.

This game also features the four time defending FCS Champions in North Dakota State. They have the experience of playing in this game including last year’s contest where they had to rally to score a late touchdown. For the Gamecocks, they can play fast and loose as the underdog (North Dakota State is a 3 point favorite as of this writing). In addition to the fact they do not know the feeling of playing a game of this magnitude, which can be both positive and negative.

The lower scoring this game is, the more it favors North Dakota State and their style of play. If this game comes down to the kickers, it is hard to see either team having a big advantage though the Gamecocks’ recent success gives them the slightest of edges.

We are going to take North Dakota State to do enough to stop the Jacksonville State run game and win their fifth FCS National Championship 28-24.

2015 FCS Playoff Semifinals Predictions

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2015 FCS Playoff Semifinals Predictions

The final four teams remaining in the 2015 FCS Playoffs will be contesting the Semifinals on Friday, December 18 and Saturday, December 19. We went an even 4-4 in the first round, 5-3 in the second round, and 3-1 in the Quarterfinals for a 12-8 record through three rounds. An updated bracket can be found here via the NCAA’s website.

The Richmond at North Dakota State game will be played on Friday evening at 8 PM Eastern Time on ESPN2. Sam Houston State at Jacksonville State will be at 12 PM Eastern Time on Saturday and can be seen on ESPNU. The schedule can be found here.

Below are the 2015 FCS Playoff Semifinals Predictions.

Sam Houston State Bearkats (11-3) at #1 Jacksonville State Gamecocks (12-1) – Saturday at 12 PM ET

Sam Houston State has played in the first three rounds of the FCS Playoffs. The Bearkats defeated Southern Utah 42-39 at home in a wild game in the opening round and then defeated the #4 seed McNeese State on the road in the second round. Last week, the Bearkats routed Colgate 48-21 at home with big games from Jeremiah Briscoe (358 yards and 3 touchdowns passing) and Cory Avery (197 yards and 1 touchdown on 25 carries). Since the 27-10 loss at McNeese State on November 7, the offense has averaged 45 points and 588 yards of offense per game.

Jacksonville State had a bye in the first round before a thrilling 41-35 win in overtime against Chattanooga at home in the second round. The rushing attack was lethal in that game with Eli Jenkins having 195 yards and 3 touchdowns on 24 carries, but he was outdone by teammate Troymaine Pope who had 234 yards and 3 touchdowns on 17 carries. In the Quarterfinal game against Charleston Southern, they put up 506 rushing yards with massive games from those two players again. Jenkins had 250 yards and 3 touchdowns on 16 carries while Jenkins had 195 yards and 2 touchdowns on 21 carries. Even Miles Jones had 67 yards and a touchdown on 13 carries.

This game features two of the best offenses the FCS has to offer. Sam Houston State is ranked number one in total yards (7,716), passing yards (4,018), yards per game (551), and touchdowns (75). The Bearkats are also ranked fifth in rushing yards (3,698) and third in points per game (43.3). Jacksonville State is number two in total yards (6,770) and touchdowns (65) while they are ranked third in rushing yards (4,004) and yards per game (521). They rank seventh in points per game at 39.4 per contest.

This game should be a high scoring, back and forth affair. Jacksonville State will being using their ground game yet again and they face the 115th ranked rush defense in the FCS by total rushing yards allowed (2,618). Sam Houston State will try the passing game and they faced the 58th ranked pass defense in total passing yards allowed (2,354).

Jacksonville State gets the nod at home in what should be an entertaining game at home. We will go with the Gamecocks to win 63-56 and make their first FCS Championship game appearance.

#7 Richmond Spiders (10-3) at #3 North Dakota State Bison (11-2) – Friday at 8 PM ET

Richmond had a bye in the first round before facing William & Mary for the second straight game. They took care of the Tribe again with a more emphatic thumping by a score of 48-13. In the Quarterfinals, they had to travel to face Illinois State where they produced an upset 39-27. The Spiders took a 10-0 lead after the first quarter and never relinquished that lead, but the Redbirds fought valiantly. Kyle Lauletta threw for 369 yards with a touchdown and an interception on 18 of 30 passing. Jacobi Green had 137 yards and 3 touchdowns on 20 carries. The Spiders held the duo of Tre Roberson and Marshaun Coprich to a combined 66 yards and one touchdown on 24 carries.

North Dakota State had a bye as well in the first round. They faced Montana at home in the second round where they crushed the Grizzlies 37-6 behind a rush defense that allowed only 6 yards on 19 carries. The defense also had two interception returns for touchdowns while the special teams returned a kickoff for a touchdown to crush any hope of a Montana comeback midway through the third quarter.

The Bison faced Northern Iowa in the Quarterfinal game for the second time this year. The Bison gave up a touchdown on Northern Iowa’s first drive, but did not allow the Panthers to reach the end zone after that. They held Aaron Bailey to 101 yards and a touchdown through the air as well as 33 yards rushing on 18 carries. They also kept Tyvis Smith in check with 58 yards on 16 carries. The Bison allowed only 221 yards for the entire game. Despite the rumors of Carson Wentz possibly playing, he did not play as Easton Stick had a solid game going 13 of 17 for 116 yards. King Frazier ran for 107 yards and a touchdown while Bruce Anderson’s 97 yard kickoff return to open the second half gave the Bison the lead they did not relinquish.

If it seems like we have seen this before from North Dakota State that is because we have. This will mark their fifth straight year making the Semifinal round with a home game and only one of those games was closer than a touchdown (23-20 win over Georgia Southern in 2012). The Bison are at home and know how to stop potential potent offenses. We like the Bison (yet again) to make their fifth straight National Championship game by a score of 28-17.

The FCS National Championship will be played on Saturday, January 9, 2016 in Frisco, Texas. That game will be televised on ESPN2 and the Watch ESPN app at 12 PM Eastern Time.

2015 FCS Playoff Quarterfinals Predictions

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2015 FCS Playoff Quarterfinals Predictions

We are down to the final eight teams in the FCS Playoffs this weekend. After going 4-4 in round one, we improved to 5-3 in the second round to have a playoff total of 9-7 going into the final three rounds. The four games are split evenly with two games played on Friday and two on Saturday. The schedule can be found here and the updated bracket is here via the NCAA website.

#8 Charleston Southern Buccaneers (10-2) at #1 Jacksonville State Gamecocks (11-1) – Friday 8 PM Eastern Time

Charleston Southern had a bye in round one and then had to take on a hot Citadel team at home in the second round. After holding The Citadel to 181 yards in their regular season meeting, they did slightly worse by allowing 199 yards in the Second Round Playoff matchup. The Bucs offense did worse in terms of yardage than The Citadel (267 to 199), but did better when it mattered most. Mike Holloway had touchdown runs of 32 and 41 while finishing with 120 yards on 13 carries.

Jacksonville State also had a bye in the first round as the top seed and they had a great game in round two against Chattanooga at home. The Mocs took a 7-0 lead before Jacksonville State rang up 21 straight points. The Gamecocks held a two touchdown lead on two separate occasions, but their lead evaporated thanks to two fourth quarter touchdowns that gave Chattanooga a 35-28 lead. Troymaine Pope ripped off a 75 yard touchdown run to tie it and the game ended in overtime after an interception by the JSU defense and a touchdown run by Eli Jenkins.

These two teams did not meet in the regular season. The big matchup in this game will be Charleston Southern’s #22 ranked rush defense (and #2 defense as ranked by yards per game) against the Jacksonville State rushing offense. The Gamecocks have the #4 ranked rush offense and #4 ranked offense by yards per game. Against Chattanooga, Troymaine Pope had 17 carries for 234 yards and 3 touchdowns while Eli Jenkins ran for 195 yards and 3 touchdowns on 24 carries.

The matchup of strength on strength will be fun to watch and we are taking the top seeded Jacksonville State Gamecocks to win by a score of 27-20. The winner of this game will play either Sam Houston State or Colgate in the Semifinals.

Colgate Raiders (9-4) at Sam Houston State Bearkats (10-3) – Saturday 8 PM Eastern Time

Colgate opened with a big road win against CAA team New Hampshire, 27-20. The balanced offense (189 yards rushing and 188 yards passing) was able to withstand a 41 of 56 for 309 yards (1 touchdown and 1 interception) performance from Sean Goldrich. In round two, the Raiders had a 17-0 lead against James Madison before blowing that and trailing 28-24 at halftime. The game was close for the rest of the way with Jake Melville’s three yard run giving them the 44-38 lead (and win by that score) in the fourth quarter. James Holland had 165 yards and 2 touchdowns rushing while Melville ran for 163 yards and 2 touchdowns in addition to his 120 yards and 2 touchdowns passing.

Sam Houston State won their opening round game against Southern Utah at home in a thriller 42-39. The 344 yards rushing led the way, but the Bearkats also had 235 yards through the air including the eventual game winning score on a 55 yard touchdown pass from Jeremiah Briscoe to Yedidiah Louis. Round two was on the road against undefeated McNeese State 34-29. Briscoe threw for 313 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception while Cory Avery had 147 yards and a score on 30 rushes. Daniel Sams was held to 225 yards passing (4 touchdowns and a pick) and 57 yards rushing on 19 carries.

Both of these teams are a bit surprising thanks to their upset wins in the second round (and first round for Colgate). This game has a high scoring feel to it especially with Sam Houston State’s #1 ranked offense in yards per game at 543 per game. The defenses are decent at best and that is why this game could have both teams scoring in the 40s. We are going with Sam Houston State to win 52-45 to get back to the FCS Semifinals. The winner of this game will play either Charleston Southern or Jacksonville State in the Semifinals.

Northern Iowa Panthers (9-4) at #3 North Dakota State Bison (10-2) – Saturday 12 PM ET

Northern Iowa has played two games in the FCS Playoffs. The first was at home where they thrashed Eastern Illinois 53-17 with three touchdown passes from Aaron Bailey (on just 11 attempts) and 147 yards rushing and a touchdown from Tyvis Smith. The second round saw UNI travel to Portland State for a late kickoff, but once again the Panthers did not yield more than 17 points in a 29-17 win. Aaron Bailey had just 31 yards passing on 7 of 14, but he ran wild to the tune of 200 yards and 2 touchdowns. His backfield mate Tyvis Smith also had 207 yards and 2 touchdowns as Portland State could not overcome the UNI running game.

The North Dakota State Bison had a bye in round one before playing round two at home against Montana. The Bison dismantled the Grizzlies 37-6 thanks to a dominant defensive performance particularly against the run. Montana was only able to rush for 6 yards on the day with 19 carries. The defense also picked off Brady Gustafson four times with two of those returned for touchdowns. When Montana did score their lone touchdown, it was automatically canceled out by Bruce Anderson’s 100 yard kickoff return for a touchdown to end the slight hope of a comeback.

These two teams did meet in the regular season here at the FargoDome. Carson Wentz threw for 335 yards with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions that day, but a broken wrist has sidelined him since mid-October. Whether Wentz plays against UNI is unknown, but what is known is that Northern Iowa will try to establish the run with Bailey and Smith while NDSU will try and stop it. If the Bison have another defensive performance like last week, it does not matter who is at quarterback.

We will go with North Dakota State at home in this one to keep their drive for five straight National Championships alive 31-20. The winner of this game will play the winner of the Richmond at Illinois State game in the Semifinals.

#7 Richmond Spiders (9-3) at #2 Illinois State Redbirds (10-2) – Friday 7:30 PM ET

The Richmond Spiders faced a familiar foe in round two after an opening round by. They crushed William & Mary 48-13 in the opening round just two weeks after defeating them 20-9 in the regular season finale. The game really turned when William & Mary was trying to cut the 14-3 deficit to 14-10, but a 100 yard interception return by David Jones made the score 21-3 and the Tribe never recovered. Richmond had 302 yards rushing and 146 passing. All six of their offensive touchdowns came on the ground with three from Jacobi Green, two from quarterback Kyle Lauletta, and one from David Broadus.

Illinois State also faced a conference opponent in the second round after a bye. They played Western Illinois at home and just like the regular season matchup, the Redbirds did not put them away until late. The game was 22-19 Illinois State with less than 10 minutes to play before two touchdowns in the final six minutes ended the Western Illinois season. Tre Roberson had another bad day passing (10 of 23 for 132 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions), but he made up for that with 111 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. As expected, Marshaun Coprich had a heavy dose of running and he was nearly unstoppable going for 217 yards and 2 touchdowns on 31 carries. Anthony Warrum was a bright spot in the passing game for ISU with 6 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown.

Both of these teams have good offenses with each favoring one type of attack. On the season, Richmond has favored the passing game while Illinois State prefers to run the ball, but both offenses can use the pass or run. The defenses are far from spectacular, which means a lot of points could be in the forecast. We will take the Illinois State Redbirds to win after making the FCS Championship game last year in a 41-38 thriller. The winner of this game will face off against Northern Iowa or North Dakota State in the Semifinals.

2015 FCS National Championship Preview And Prediction

John Crockett will be instrumental in the Bison's offensive attack (Tim Heitman / USA TODAY Sports Images)
John Crockett will be instrumental in the Bison’s offensive attack (Tim Heitman / USA TODAY Sports Images)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is for the FCS National Championship Game following the 2014 FCS Season. If you are looking for the 2015-16 FCS Championship Preview, it can be found here.

2015 FCS National Championship Preview And Prediction

 Saturday, January 10 will see the crowning of the FCS National Champion for the 2014 season. The #5 Illinois State Redbirds (13-1) will face the #2 North Dakota State Bison (14-1) in Frisco, Texas. Game time is set for 1 PM Eastern Time. Let’s start by taking a look at each team’s road to the Championship.

 

Illinois State Redbirds (13-1) Road To The FCS National Championship

First Round – Bye

Second Round – 41-21 over Northern Iowa at home

Quarterfinals – 59-46 win over Eastern Washington on the road

Semifinals – 21-18 win over New Hampshire on the road

The Redbirds had an average score of 40 to 28 in their three playoff games.

 

North Dakota State Bison (13-1) Road To The FCS National Championship

First Round – Bye

Second Round – 27-24 win over South Dakota State at home

Quarterfinals – 39-32 win over Coastal Carolina at home

Semifinals – 35-3 win over Sam Houston State at home

The Bison had an average score of 34 to 20 in their three playoff games.

Below is the 2015 FCS National Championship Preview And Prediction.

 

FCS National Championship Preview

North Dakota State is favored by 6 points with the Over/Under at 53 points.

For those who have not followed the FCS season, North Dakota State is the three-time defending FCS Champions. They won in 2011, 2012, and 2013 by an average score of 30 to 9 and have not yielded higher than 13 points in any game (2012). Plus, in the 2014 they have done all of this with a new coach in Chris Klieman. Klieman was on the staff since 2011 first as the defensive backs coach before being elevated to defensive coordinator in 2012 and 2013. He was tabbed to replace former head coach Craig Bohl last year.

The Bison will be led on offense by their running back John Crockett. He has run for 1,920 yards and 20 touchdowns (128 yards a game). In the three playoff games he has rushed for 495 yards and 5 touchdowns. In addition, he has caught 4 passes for 82 yards.

Handing the ball of to Crockett will be Carson Wentz. Wentz has not put up gaudy numbers, but he is clearly excellent at leading the offense. He has 2,874 yards passing with 24 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. During the playoffs he has gone 38 of 61 for 587 yards with 5 touchdowns passes and only 1 interception.

Wentz’s top target for 2014 has been Zach Vraa but he was injured against South Dakota State in the second round and has not played since. His status is questionable for Saturday’s tilt. In his absence, RJ Urzendowski has filled in well with 7 catches for 171 yards and 3 touchdowns.

2014’s playoff run has not been easy for the Bison. They needed a last minute comeback against South Dakota State to move on while also needing a fourth quarter score to get past Coastal Carolina in the quarterfinals. Against Sam Houston State, the score was 7-3 before routing the Bearkats 28-0 in the final 30 minutes. With all that said, a win is a win no matter how small the margin.

The other team playing the National Championship game has a great story behind them as well. They are led by former Indiana Hoosiers quarterback Tre Roberson. Roberson played at Indiana from 2011 through 2013 compiling 2,433 yards passing and 20 touchdowns compared to 11 interceptions. He also ran for 982 yards and 10 touchdowns. In June of 2014 Roberson decided to leave Indiana and headed to Illinois State.

That turned out to be great for both Roberson and the Redbirds. This year, Roberson has thrown for 3,064 yards with 27 touchdowns and 9 interceptions. On the ground Roberson has 868 yards and 10 touchdowns, which makes him dangerous regardless of the play call. In the three playoff games Roberson has gone 59 of 88 for 866 yards with 6 touchdowns and no interceptions through the air. Roberson has also rushed for 194 yards and 2 touchdowns.

As excellent as Roberson has been this season, he had a great boost from Marshaun Coprich. For the season, Coprich has 2,168 yards and 27 touchdowns on the ground. During the playoffs Coprich has run for 485 yards and 6 touchdowns. His 258 yards and 4 touchdowns performance against Eastern Washington on the road in the quarterfinals is the game that stood out the most.

At wide receiver will be the duo of Cameron Meredith and Lechein Neblett. Meredith has 65 catches for 1,047 yards and 9 touchdowns while Neblett has 52 catches for 995 yards and 8 touchdowns. James O’Shaughnessy has been an excellent third option overall, but is deadly near the red zone. He has 27 catches for 500 yards and 7 touchdowns. Those three have accounted for 81.5% of all the passing yards for the Redbirds.

Meredith has 21 catches for 255 yards and 3 touchdowns in the playoffs. Neblett has caught 15 passes for 241 yards and 1 touchdown. O’Shaughnessy has 8 catches for 158 yards and 2 touchdowns.

 

Prediction

Now we reach the prediction part of the article. These two teams did not meet during the regular season despite both playing in the Missouri Valley Football Conference. Still, there is plenty of familiarity with North Dakota State playing the Redbirds in 2011, 2012, and 2013. The Bison won in 2012 and 2013, but fell in 2011. Those teams, however, are not the 2014 versions for both schools.

What we do know is that both teams can win a close ball game or a shootout. However, this game does not seem like it will be a shootout given how strong of a defense the Bison boast. The Bison have given up an average of 13 points per game and have given up 20 points or more only three times. The first game was their 23-3 loss at Northern Iowa. The other two games were in the playoffs against South Dakota State (27-24) and Coastal Carolina (39-32). Of course, the Bison won those games so they can hang with anyone.

Illinois State showed excellent resolve coming back in the semifinals at New Hampshire in the fourth quarter. They trailed 18-6 before scoring the last 15 points and getting the birth to this game. However, another deficit like that would be extremely difficult to overcome.

North Dakota State wins 20-17 to capture their fourth straight FCS Championship.

2014 FCS Playoffs Semifinals Wrap Up

Illinois State and New Hampshire were battling for their first appearance in the FCS Championship game (Jim Cole / AP Photo)
Illinois State and New Hampshire were battling for their first appearance in the FCS Championship game (Jim Cole / AP Photo)

 

2014 FCS Playoffs Semifinals Wrap Up

The FCS National Championship for the 2014 season is now set. One game was exciting while the other was a second-half blowout. The two games were played over two days with Sam Houston State at North Dakota State on Friday evening and Illinois State at New Hampshire on Saturday afternoon. Be sure to check out the predictions made here as you read through the two recaps! Here is the 2014 FCS Playoffs Semifinals Wrap Up.

 

Sam Houston State Bearkats (11-4) at #2 North Dakota State Bison (13-1)

A big second half from North Dakota State allowed them to pull away from Sam Houston State and win 35-3. The game was 7-3 at the halftime interval in favor of the Bison while John Crockett accounted for 232 yards and 3 touchdowns on offense.

The first 5 drives of the game all resulted in three-and-outs with 3 from SHSU and 2 from NDSU. The third drive of the game for the Bison appeared to be headed the same way until Crockett broke a screen pass for 31 yards. 5 plays later, Crockett did the honors of scoring the first points of the game on a 3 yard run to make it 7-0. The Bearkats ended the first quarter with a drive going at midfield after starting at their own 13 yard line.

The first play of the second quarter was Jared Johnson throwing a beautiful strike to Gerald Thomas in stride to get them down to the NDSU 11 yard line. The Bearkats would settle for a 22 yard field goal from Luc Swimberghe to make it 7-3. The Bearkats’ next drive ended with a missed 46 to the left. Neither team threatened for the rest of the half with the Bison holding a 7-3 lead at halftime.

The third quarter began with the Bison getting the ball first. On third and four from their own 49 yard line, Carson Wentz threw a pass that was picked off by Mikell Everette at the SHSU 39 yard line. The Bearkats were unable to do anything after going three-and-out.

The next drive for North Dakota State would give them a double-digit cushion in a hurry. The third play of the drive was Wentz to Crockett on a wheel route out of the backfield for a 35 yard gain. The following play, King Frazier made one defender miss and was off to the end zone for a 33 yard touchdown run. That made it 14-3. The lead became 21-3 on the first play of the next drive. Crockett took a simple handoff to the right, broke a tackle, and sprint to the end zone for a 55 yard score. The third quarter ended with the Bison leading 21-3 and at the Bearkats’ 29 yard line.

Six plays into the fourth quarter was Crockett’s third touchdown run of the game from 10 yards out. The Bearkats’ tried to respond on the next drive, but on first and 10 from the Bison’s 33 yard line, Jared Johnson was picked off by Nick DeLuca undercutting the route. That led to a 14 yard touchdown pass from Wentz to RJ Urzendowski to cap the scoring.

Jared Johnson went 20 of 31 for 227 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. He was also the leading rusher with 66 yards on 25 carries. Keshawn Hill had 12 carries for 26 yards. Yedidah Louis finished as the top receiver for SHSU by catching 6 passes for 62 yards. Gerald Thomas had 2 catches for 60 yards while Hill finished with 7 catches for 50 yards.

Carson Wentz finished 13 of 19 for 179 yards with a touchdown and an interception. John Crockett was the start for the Bison by running 26 times for 166 yards and 3 touchdowns. He also was the leading receiver with 2 catches for 66 yards. King Frazier had 3 carries for 41 yards and a touchdown. Andrew Bonnet had 4 catches for 44 yards.

 

#5 Illinois State Redbirds (12-1) at #1 New Hampshire Wildcats (12-1)

Both teams were searching for their first appearance in the FCS National Championship. For three quarters it appeared that New Hampshire was going to be the team, but a stunning fourth quarter rally by Illinois State allowed them to win 21-18.

The Redbirds scored first with a 33 yard field goal from Nick Aussieker to lead 3-0. The Wildcats had an excellent opportunity on the next drive. A short kick and personal foul penalty put them at the Illinois State 42. That led to a 4 yard touchdown run from quarterback Sean Goldrich to put them in the lead 7-3. Tre Roberson and the Redbirds responded well by moving inside the New Hampshire 10 yard line. On first and goal from the nine, Roberson scrambled for 4 yards but lost the ball and the Wildcats ended the scoring threat by recovering the ball.

The first play of the second quarter was Goldrich’s 47 yard pass to Harold Spears to the ISU 44 yard line. Six plays later was Nico Steriti’s 6 yard touchdown run and a two point conversion made it 15-3. The Redbirds missed a 40 yard field goal on the ensuing drive but did get a 23 yarder with under 2 minutes to play. A big return by Dalton Crossnan gave New Hampshire the ball at midfield, but Goldrich was intercepted three plays later. The first half ended with New Hampshire leading 15-6.

The Wildcats started with the ball to start the second half and extended their lead to 18-6 after settling for a 25 yard field goal from Brad Prasky. The remainder of the quarter was a struggle for both offenses until Illinois State ended the quarter with Roberson hitting Anthony Warrum for a 36 yard gain to the New Hampshire 19 yard line.

The fourth play of the final quarter was Marshaun Coprich getting to the edge and scoring from 2 yards out to make it 18-13 with over 14 minutes to play. The Redbirds forced a punt on the next drive to set up the eventual game-winning score. On second and two from the New Hampshire 47, Roberson kept the ball and ran it to the house after his line opened up a hole for him. They went for two and converted it via Jon-Marc Anderson’s run to lead 21-18.

The Wildcats still had a chance to score. They moved it into Illinois State territory before being faced with a fourth and 3 at their 46. On the fourth down play Goldrich found Kyon Taylor, but for no gain. The Redbirds got the ball back and eventually ran out the clock for the victory.

Tre Roberson went 18 of 31 for 278 yards through the air with no touchdowns or picks. He had 95 yards and a touchdown rushing on 12 carries. Marshaun Coprich had 24 carries for 79 yards and a touchdown. Lechein Neblett led the game with 8 catches for 147 yards. Cameron Meredith had 5 catches for 67 yards.

Sean Goldrich went 19 of 33 for 214 yards with no touchdowns and an interception while also having a rushing touchdown. Nico Steriti finished wtih 100 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. R.J. Harris had 6 catches for 68 yards, but was injured with a concussion early in the fourth quarter. Harold Spears had 2 catches for 61 yards.

 

2014 FCS National Championship

The FCS National Championship game for the 2014 season will be played on Saturday, January 10, 2015. The game will be played in Frisco, Texas at FC Dallas Stadium. Game time is 1 PM Eastern Time with the #5 Illinois State Redbirds (13-1) taking on the #2 North Dakota State Bison.

Be sure to check back to see the preview and prediction for the FCS National Championship.