North Dakota St., James Madi­son back in FCS ti­tle game

Antelope Valley Press - - SPORTS - By STEPHEN HAWKINS

North Dakota State and James Madi­son are both fin­ish­ing up their first sea­son with new head coaches. The Bi­son even have a fresh­man quar­ter­back. Yet here they both are again. The teams that have com­bined for the last eight FCS cham­pi­onships are back in Frisco play­ing for another ti­tle Satur­day. Topranked North Dakota State (15-0) has gone from Fargo to Frisco to win seven of the last eight na­tional ti­tles.

FRISCO, Texas — North Dakota State and James Madi­son are both fin­ish­ing up their first sea­son with new head coaches. The Bi­son even have a fresh­man quar­ter­back.

Yet here they both are again. The teams that have com­bined for the last eight FCS cham­pi­onships are back in Frisco play­ing for another ti­tle Satur­day.

While top-ranked North Dakota State (15-0) has gone from Fargo to Frisco to win seven of the last eight na­tional ti­tles, this will be the third cham­pi­onship game in four sea­sons for James Madi­son. The Dukes (14-1) won the ti­tle three years ago af­ter ad­vanc­ing with a semi­fi­nal win at the Far­godome, but lost to the Bi­son in the cham­pi­onship game the fol­low­ing sea­son.

“Once the play­offs were set and we had seen what kind of roll they were on, and what kind of roll we were on, we fig­ured that we might have been play­ing them,” JMU All-Amer­i­can de­fen­sive end Ron’Dell Carter said.

The Dukes have won their last 14 games by an av­er­age mar­gin of nearly 30 points. Their only loss came in coach Curt Cignetti’s de­but, a 20-13 loss in the opener at Big 12 team West Vir­ginia.

North Dakota State has an FCS-record 36-game win­ning streak, in­clud­ing the last two na­tional ti­tles. The Bi­son have a chance to become the first col­lege foot­ball team in any di­vi­sion since Yale in 1894 to have a 16win sea­son.

“I think both pro­grams are unique and po­si­tioned to be successful. And when you look at the Di­vi­sion I level, there’s not many schools that can say that, even at the FBS level,” said Cignetti, who was on Nick Sa­ban’s orig­i­nal staff at Alabama long af­ter his fa­ther was coach at West Vir­ginia with Sa­ban as one of his young as­sis­tants. “There’s very few schools re­ally po­si­tioned to be successful year in, year out.”

New Bi­son coach Matt Entz was the team’s de­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor the past five sea­sons for coach Chris Klie­man, who went to Kansas State af­ter last year’s ti­tle run. Entz said about half the coach­ing staff changed.

“So those coaches were try­ing to fit in as well. And our se­niors did an out­stand­ing job. Our re­turn­ers did an out­stand­ing job,” Entz said. “I think it speaks vol­umes to the tra­di­tion at North Dakota State when you’re able to con­tin­u­ally have suc­cess on the foot­ball field when you do have ma­jor turnover in the coach­ing of­fice.”

This is rel­a­tively young Bi­son team, with only three se­nior starters on of­fense.

Red­shirt fresh­man quar­ter­back Trey Lance has at­tempted 278 passes with­out an in­ter­cep­tion. He has thrown for 2,714 yards with 28 touch­downs, and run for 934 yards and 13 more TDs. True fresh­man Kobe John­son is one of three run­ning backs with at least 600 yards rush­ing for the Bi­son, who run for 288 a game.

“Know­ing what North Dakota State does ... just stop­ping the run, that’s the main thing,” said Dukes linebacker Dim­itri Hol­loway, a sec­ond-team All-Amer­i­can for the nation’s top rush­ing de­fense (61.1 yards per game). DE­FENSE DOM­I­NATES

North Dakota State and James Madi­son have two of the nation’s top of­fenses. The Bi­son av­er­age 473 to­tal yards and more than 41 points a game, while the Dukes gain 477 yards and score 38 points a game.

As­so­ci­ated Press

SCORE North Dakota State wide re­ceiver Jimmy Ke­pouros (19) cel­e­brates with team­mates af­ter scor­ing a touch­down dur­ing the FCS play­off game against Mon­tana State on Dec. 21 in Fargo, N.D.

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