They saved the best for last in the FCS this season.
North Dakota State won five-straight FCS national titles, until JMU beat them in the semifinals to end the streak last season. "Just happy to get back here". Whether deserved or not, the Dukes will use their experience with being underestimated in the past to attempt to earn their second-straight FCS National Championship.
James Madison would climb no closer, though it wasn't for a lack of chances.
"Most important things to us was don't flinch", said NDSU cornerback Marquise Bridges on the fake punt. "If somebody would've put a mic in front of me at the half I would've told them we were winning the ballgame". "That's what it boils down to".
"It's hard to put into words, but this culture is incredible, the fans, the coaches, the players.it's so special", said Bison wide receiver Darrius Shepherd, who had a 50-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter.
NDSU ends JMU 26-game winning streak for sixth FCS Championship
JMU closed the half going 68 yards in four plays that ended in a 21-yard field goal by Ethan Ratke.
Meanwhile, the Bison have run wild with a deep running back corps that's withstood injuries, led by 1,186-yard rusher Bruce Anderson. Bison kicker Cam Pederson had a 38-yard field goal blocked with 4:37 to play in the fourth quarter.
Defending national champion JMU will be taking on North Dakota State in the FCS Finals this weekend. They needed some points badly before kicking away to NDSU to start the third quarter, and Stapelton's snaring of this one - momentarily pinning it to the helmet of the Bison's Josh Hayes - got them across midfield to at least set up a field goal. I know this: our guys are excited to come back and play in the national championship.
James Madison: This will be a tough one for Houston and company. Entering the championship game, Shepherd had 35 catches for 485 yards-no touchdowns. Schor's second interception came when it looked as if the Dukes were ready to take control with their first lead. In JMU's first drive of the fourth quarter, Alls dropped a wide-open pass downfield which preceded a drive-ending sack of Schor. As soon as the clock hit zero, he slid and waited to get mobbed by teammates, while the yellow-clad fans spilled onto the field for the trophy celebration on a stage behind one of the end zones. Stick took a shotgun snap and faked a handoff right before lofting a pass to Shepherd, who was breaking toward the sideline.
For a game that pitted two of the top three defenses nationally, this one was played as expected. Derrek Tuszka had two sacks for the Bison. NDSU ranks fourth in the nation with 282.1 rushing yards per game. The first four games of 2018 are at home, starting with Cal Poly. Schor threw for a loss of two yards on 2nd-and-9, he was harassed into a hurried incompletion on 3rd-and-11 and, after a false start, could not complete a blind Hail Mary heave on 4th-and-16 with 1:10 to play. DeLuca is second on the team in tackles (70) in his senior season while the freshman Cox leads the way with 72 despite only becoming a starter midseason.
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