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Bison make it six titles, edging James Madison to regain FCS championship

North Dakota State's Caleb Butler snares James Madison's quarterback Bryan Schor during the NCAA FCS championship game at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday, Jan. 6, 2018. David Samson / The Forum

FRISCO, Texas -- Make it 6 for 6 for North Dakota State in Frisco.

North Dakota State, behind its defense, defeated James Madison University 17-13 Saturday afternoon in the Division I FCS title game. It was the sixth crown for the Bison in seven years and restored their status as the dynasty holder in the subdivision.

NDSU tied Georgia Southern for most national titles in the FCS.

It was the defensive battle of the top two scoring defenses in the FCS, with first downs at times a precious commodity by both teams. NDSU took a 17-13 lead into the fourth quarter with the appearance of next score wins.

Starting at the 34-yard line with 8:59 remaining, NDSU marched to the JMU 21 before a third-and-5 pass went incomplete. The Dukes’ Simeyon Robinson blocked Cam Pedersen’s 38-yard field goal attempt and they got the ball at the 27 with 4:37 remaining.

It left the outcome up to the Bison defense.

Quarterback Bryan Schor scrambled for 17 yards to the 46. But the Bison held on the next three plays in the Dukes punted it away with three minutes remaining. At least they appeared to.

But punter Harry O’Kelly took a fake 24 yards to the Bison 29-yard line with 2:41 left.

Schor ran for 10 yards on the next play.

Three plays lost two yards and the Dukes faced fourth-and-16 after an illegal motion penalty with 1:10 remaining.

A scrambling Schor, under heavy pressure and off balance, heaved it in the end zone and the ball fell incomplete.

Turnovers and key mistakes played a factor in the first half, with NDSU getting a pair of touchdowns after a roughing-the-punter penalty and a rare interception by a Bison defensive tackle.

Senior Nate Tanguay picked off a deflected Schor pass with the Dukes in scoring position. On first down from the Bison 15-yard line, Tanguay grabbed the short, wobbly throw and returned it to the NDSU 29.

A personal foul penalty on JMU on the play gave the Bison the ball at the 44. Facing third-and-17, quarterback Easton Stick hit receiver Darrius Shepherd for a 50-yard scoring play, which gave NDSU a 14-3 lead with 4:14 remaining in the second quarter.

The Dukes turned it over again on their next possession when receiver Riley Stapleton, after grabbing a long pass, fumbled and linebacker Jabril Cox returned it to the JMU 41. It led to a 32-yard Pedersen field goal and it was 17-3.

JMU closed the half going 68 yards in four plays that ended in a 21-yard field goal by Ethan Ratke. The Bison took a 17-6 to halftime.

But it was the Dukes who seized momentum in the third quarter. It didn’t help NDSU that JMU held a big advantage in the punting game. D’Angelo Amos’ 33-yard punt return, his second big return of the day, set JMU up nicely at the Bison 33-yard line.

Eight plays later, running back Marcus Marshall scored from the 1 and it was 17-13. JMU was pounding on the door again following a 26-yard punt by backup punter Garret Wegner, who came in the second half after starter Jackson Koonce was presumably injured on a roughing call in the first quarter, a play that led to NDSU’s first touchdown.

But cornerback Marquise Bridges picked off Schorr at the 3-yard line and NDSU still had the lead.

The Bison held it heading into the fourth quarter.

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