FRISCO, TEXAS – North Dakota State coach Craig Bohl and record-setting senior quarterback Brock Jensen have a chance for a perfect ending and a third consecutive championship.
Before moving to his new job at Wyoming, Bohl has one more game with the top-seeded Bison (14-0). They play in another Championship Subdivision title game, going for the school’s first 15-win season Saturday against championship game first-timer Towson (13-2).
“It is hard to put into words what it would mean,” said Jensen, whose 46 career victories are already the most ever by any FCS starting quarterback. “Greatness is right there ahead of us. We have accomplished greatness twice in a row, but three times in a row would be legendary.”
The Bison are trying to become the first undefeated FCS national champion since Marshall won the title in 1986. Their 23-game winning streak is one short of an FCS record, and only Appalachian State (2005-07) has won three consecutive championships in the classification formerly known as I-AA.
Bohl, with a 103-32 record in 11 seasons at North Dakota State, was chosen as Wyoming’s coach nearly a month ago.
But he took the FBS job knowing he wasn’t going to leave the Bison until they had finished another playoff run.
“What this group and our coaches have been able to do all along, and particularly during this playoff stretch, is be focused at the mission at hand,” Bohl said. “This is about [this] season. My opportunity to reflect on what the next chapter of coaching is has not come about.”
North Dakota State beat Sam Houston State the past two years at the North Texas soccer stadium that each January is transformed for the title game. It has become an annual trek for Bison fans, and an NDSU pep rally Friday night at a 10,000-seat minor league baseball stadium was sold out.
Towson, 9-0 on the road this season as part of its school-record 13 wins overall, is playing for a championship only three years after being 1-10 in coach Rob Ambrose’s second season.
“Big bowl of tricks and a magic hat,” Ambrose joked when asked how the Tigers went from a one-victory season to a championship game that quickly. “No, just a whole lot of hard work by a ton of people inside and outside the program, people that were relentless and believed.”
Tigers running back Terrance West has 2,410 yards rushing this season while setting an FCS record with 41 touchdowns (40 rushing, one receiving) and his 246 points. The junior’s 85 career TDs in 36 games are just four short of the FCS career record.
Towson senior quarterback Peter Athens has thrown for 3,194 yards and 19 TDs, and said he is “feeling good” after missing the semifinal victory over Eastern Washington two weeks ago because of a shoulder injury.
For the third year in a row, North Dakota State has two 1,000-yard rushers — senior Sam Ojuri has surpassed that mark each of those seasons, and junior John Crockett is over 1,000 yards for the second year in a row.
Jensen has thrown for 33 TDs and run for nine.
“They play football the way it is supposed to be played. It’s team football, and it doesn’t matter who they put on the field, everybody knows their role and does it extremely well without fail,” Ambrose said. “They are not a great team, they are a great program.”
Towson and North Dakota State have played once previously. The Bison won 24-17 in the 1983 Division II quarterfinals on way to the first of their five championships over an eight-season period in that division.