The storylines leading up to the FCS national championship game between No. 1 James Madison and No. 2 North Dakota State were endless. The big one, though, was this: were the Dukes starting their own dynasty? Or was the Bison dynasty still alive and as strong as ever?
NDSU won five titles in a row from 2011-2015 before the Dukes went to the Fargodome and won in the semifinals, followed by a dominant win in the championship game. They didn't lose a game all of this season and were the unanimous No. 1 team. Meanwhile, the Bison heard, saw or read all the national love they once got. Leading up to today's game, the Dukes were the kings of the FCS. There's no denying that. The throne was theirs.
There's also no denying this after what transpired in Frisco, Texas, on Saturday: the Dakota Dynasty didn't come to an end last season. NDSU used a big first half to outlast the Dukes in a 17-13 win at Toyota Stadium in front of more than 19,000 fans. That's six national championships in seven years. Thirty years from now when this run is looked back on, the 2016 season will just be a chink in the armor.
The Bison remain the class of the subdivision.
"Bison pride and NDSU, we always talk about it, we're different," NDSU head coach Chris Klieman said after the game. "If I could tell you why, I would retire and make a million dollars selling it. I can't tell you. It's hard, but it's just different. And I'm fortunate to coach these guys and have the opportunity to lead this program. I pinch myself every day."
When you win as much as the Bison have since 2011, 97-8 to be exact, your players just know how to win. Not many programs would have won that game with how the second half was unfolding. The offense struggled to move the chains, the defense was given short fields to stop a JMU offense gaining steam, a field goal was blocked and JMU ran a fake punt for a first down to extend their potentially game-winning drive in the final minutes.
All that, and the Bison still found a way to win.
"We talk about it all the time about leaving a legacy," Klieman said. "How will you be remembered? And the 2017 Bison will be remembered as a group of guys that had great resolve and smacked adversity right in the face when Murphy hit us. Lo and behold, we became national champions for the sixth time in seven years."
The Bison have now won 14 national championships since 1965. The last six are at the FCS level, which is tied for the most in subdivision history with Georgia Southern. And NDSU did it in seven years.
"To be out there yesterday at our walkthrough and seeing 200-300 former players around us, that's what makes this place so special," junior quarterback Easton Stick said. "It's not just the past 6-7 years, it's been going on for a long time. We're all fortunate to be at this place."