FARGO, N.D. – North Dakota State and its raucous Fargodome crowd on Friday night overwhelmed yet another FCS opponent.
Eric Perkins returned a punt 88 yards for a touchdown to finish off a dominating first half and the four-time defending champion Bison rolled to a 33-7 victory over Richmond in a national semifinal game before more than 18,000 roaring fans. North Dakota State is 16-0 at home in the FCS playoffs.
The Bison (12-2) advanced to the Jan. 9 championship game in Frisco, Texas, against the winner of Saturday’s semifinal between Sam Houston State and Jacksonville State.
“That is the best team I’ve seen in quite a while,” Richmond coach Danny Rocco said. “You had the feeling they were going to control the tempo of the game.”
The Bison won their first two FCS titles in 2011 and ’12 by beating Sam Houston State in the championship, then beat Towson State in 2013 and Illinois State last season. North Dakota State was the third seed this year but received a bonus home game for the semifinals when Richmond upset No. 2 seed Illinois State last week.
“They always feel they have a chance to win,” Bison coach Chris Klieman said about his players. “I’m so proud of these guys. They’re going back to Frisco. I’m along for the ride.”
King Frazier rushed for 121 yards and two short touchdowns and redshirt freshman quarterback Easton Stick threw for two touchdowns to lead the Bison. Perkins was the special teams star with three punt returns for 145 yards.
Rocco said the return by Perkins with 1 minute, 31 seconds left in the first half was a key play.
“Unbelievable,” the coach said. “In an environment like this and a game like this when you are already playing uphill, you can’t put yourself in a deeper hole.”
Perkins said he broke one tackle and had only the punter to get by at the Richmond 25. “I was hoping I wouldn’t get tackled by him,” Perkins said.
The Bison rolled up 418 yards of total offense, to 209 for Richmond (10-4).