FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Easton Stick threw a 50-yard touchdown pass to Darrius Shepherd and North Dakota State took back the Football Championship Subdivision title, beating James Madison 17-13 on Saturday a year after the Bison’s five-year run atop the FCS ended against the Dukes in the semifinals.
The Bison (14-1) also preserved their division-record 33-game winning streak from three years ago, ending James Madison’s run at 26 straight, denying the Dukes a second straight title and spoiling what would have been their first undefeated, untied season.
The Dukes (14-1), who trailed 17-3 late in the first half, had a chance to win after punter Harry O’Kelly ran 24 yards on a fake. But Bryan Schor’s desperation throw to the end zone on fourth-and-16 with 58 seconds left fell incomplete.
James Madison couldn’t overcome the deficit because the mistakes that helped put it behind kept happening.
Schor had two interceptions, including one at the NDSU 3 late in the third quarter. Two possessions later, Terrence Alls dropped a pass while running behind the defense, and Schor was sacked for the fourth time on the next play, forcing a punt.
Bruce Anderson ran for a game-high 63 yards and the first touchdown. Shepherd’s first touchdown of the season came when Stick hit him in stride at the 15 for a 14-3 lead in the second quarter.
James Madison’s Simeyon Robinson, who had two sacks, blocked a field goal to keep the deficit at four before O’Kelly’s run on the fake punt.
Marcus Marshall had a 1-yard run for the only touchdown for the Dukes, who lost the turnover battle 3-1 after getting 10 takeaways in the semifinals. Ethan Ratke had two field goals but missed one in the first half.
North Dakota State: Fargo to Frisco is a thing again with the Bison winning their fifth title in six years in the suburb north of Dallas. They gave away the momentum by letting the Dukes drive to a field goal in the last 39 seconds of the first half. But they never gave up the lead.
James Madison: This will be a tough one for coach Mike Houston and company. Among the mistakes was Riley Stapleton’s fumble at the end of a 27-yard catch on a jump ball. Schor’s second interception came when it looked as if the Dukes were ready to take control with their first lead.
North Dakota State: Stick will have 10 career playoff starts going into his final year, with fellow seniors in his top two running backs, Anderson and Lance Dunn. The Bison will have to replace LB Nick DeLuca, the spiritual and statistical leader of the defense and a possible NFL pick. The first four games of 2018 are at home, starting with Cal Poly.
James Madison: The Dukes have to replace Schor, two receivers and a tight end. Seven senior starters are listed on defense. The 2018 opener is against FBS North Carolina State, which is coming off a nine-win season plus a Sun Bowl victory.