FARGO, N.D. – Top-ranked North Dakota State will play for its eighth FCS national championship in nine seasons after a 42-14 victory over Montana State in Saturday’s playoff semifinal at the Fargodome.
The Bison (15-0) won their 36th straight game overall to extend their FCS record and their 28th straight at home, tying the school mark. The two-time defending champions will play James Madison on Jan. 11 in Frisco, Texas. James Madison defeated NDSU in the 2016 semifinals.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” first-year head coach Matt Entz said. “I’m probably afraid to go home and take a nap. I feel I’ll wake up and we’ll be getting ready for Butler [in the season opener] or something like that. It would be a dream. It’s gone unbelievably fast.”
A week after being held to three field goals in a 9-3 quarterfinal win over Illinois State, the Bison piled up 541 yards of offense, including 318 on the ground.
Christian Watson scored long TDs on back-to-back touches in the second quarter.
Trey Lance (Marshall High) found Watson behind the defense along the left sideline for a 75-yard touchdown pass one play after the Bobcats (11-4) tied the game at 7. After a three-and-out by Montana State, Watson went 70 yards on a reverse.
“Explosive,” Lance said of Watson. “Anytime he gets the ball in his hands … I don’t know if a lot of guys are going to catch him.”
Lance completed 15 of 21 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns, including a 73-yard hookup with Dimitri Williams (Rosemount High), and rushed for two scores.
North Dakota State broke its single-season rushing record for the third straight year; the Bison are up to 4,320 yards. It spread the carries around against Montana State. Watson had three for 86 yards, Adam Cofield had nine for 70 and Lance 11 for 64. Kobe Johnson had the longest run of the day, a 44-yarder.
NDSU’s Michael Tutsie had seven tackles and his seventh interception of the season.
James Madison 30, Weber State 14: Ben DiNucci threw for two touchdowns and ran for another for the Dukes (14-1) in Harrisonburg, Va. Riley Stapleton had nine catches for 162 yards for James Madison.