No. 1 North Dakota State 38
No. 3 Eastern Washington 24
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Easton Stick, QB, NDSU: 13/19, 198 yards, 2 TDs, 18 carries, 121 yards, 3 TDs
OTHER STAT STANDOUTS:
Darrius Shepherd, WR, NDSU – 5 catches, 125 yards, 2 TDs
Sam McPherson, RB, EWU – 18 carries, 158 yards, 1 TD
Levi Jordheim, LB, NDSU – 4 tackles, 1 tackle for a lost, 1 INT
Calin Criner, DB, EWU – 7 tackles, 3 solo tackles, 1 INT
Jayce Gilder, TE, EWU – 3 catches, 37 yards, 1 TD
Ty Brooks, RB, NDSU – 9 carries, 82 yards
THE TURNING POINT
After a 75-yard burst up the gut by Eagles' running back Sam McPherson cut the lead to 24-17 early in the third quarter, NDSU countered two plays later when Stick connected with Shepherd from 78 yards away to go up by 14.
It appeared as if the Bison would run away with the title after jumping all over the Eagles midway through the second quarter. Up until that point, it was the Easton Stick show as the QB accounted for two rushing scores from ten and four yards away. Stick's second rushing TD pushed the score to 17-3, and with eight minutes left in the first half the Bison held a 193-88-yard advantage and owned time of possession 15:51 to 6:09.
Facing a 14-point deficit and a crowd that appeared to be 80 percent Bison fans, the next two Eagles' possessions ended in a punt and ill-advised interception by Eric Barriere into double coverage, but the defense came up huge with a pair of three-and-outs in NDSU territory.
The stops helped swing the momentum, and EWU closed out the half with a nine-play, 59-yard drive buoyed by a key third-and-8 conversion to tight end Jayce Gilder down to the 24-yard line. After getting stuffed on back-to-back runs inside the Bison five-yard line, EWU faked a chip-shot field goal as backup QB Gunner Talkington shoveled a pass to Gilder coming across the line, and the tight end stretched into the end zone to cut the lead to seven before halftime.
The second half began with a flurry of turnovers and long touchdown strikes.
The Eastern Washington momentum was short-lived. With Barriere on the sideline having his hand looked at, Stanley Jones sacked backup QB Gunner Talkington who fumbled. Stick immediately found Darrius Sheppard to go up 24-10.
Not to be outdone, Sam McPherson took the next offensive snap 75 yards up the gut to get the Eagles within seven again.
The offensive madness wasn't over.
One the second play of the following possession, Stick found Shepherd again — this time from 78 yards out.
Then the Bison defense took over in holding the opposition to just 15 yards on the next three possessions.
With 13:05 remaining and NDSU in the shadow of its goal line, the offense methodically chugged down the field on an epic 18-play, 88-yard drive that took 10:06 off the clock. The drive ended with a missed 24-yard chip shot by Cam Pedersen, but the possession left Barriere and company with only 3:21 to work with.
The Eagles' fed off the missed kick and found themselves in the end zone 1:02 later on just four plays. Barriere connected with Talolo Limu-Jones for 34 yards and Nsimba Webster for 23 yards. After McPherson ripped off 18 yards, Barriere capped the 80-yard drive with a 5-yard TD scamper.
Down 31-24, the Eagles went for the onside kick and were unsuccessful. With the ball-in-hand, Stick scored his fifth touchdown of the day on a 46-yard run with 1:16 left to seal his FCS-leading 49th win and his school's seventh national title.