The North Dakota State Bison have a second straight FCS championship in what’s becoming their second home.
Backed by more than 10,000 fans wearing green and gold in the same suburban Dallas stadium where they beat Sam Houston State a year ago, the Bison outnumbered their Texas counterparts in the stands and outplayed them on the field — again.
Quarterback Brock Jensen ran for three touchdowns, including the go-ahead score in the third quarter not long after a holding penalty wiped out a touchdown that would have given Sam Houston the lead, and Sam Ojuri scored twice in a 39-13 victory Saturday.
The field turned into a Bison pep rally after the game as thousands of fans joined a trophy presentation on a stage that makes up one end of FC Dallas Stadium in Fresno, Texas.
“Let’s go Bison!” coach Craig Bohl shouted while holding up a Bison hand signal that could be mistaken for the Texas Longhorns’ “Hook ‘Em Horns” sign. “Best fans in America!”
The Bison, who won 17-6 a year ago, improved to 10-1 in the FCS playoffs with their eighth straight postseason win.
Jensen put North Dakota State (14-1) in front for good on a 1-yard sneak in the third quarter, and Ojuri had a 2-yard TD run on fourth-and-1 after the Bison got the ball with a fourth-down stop.
Ojuri had 92 yards rushing, and Jensen added 44 to go with 115 passing yards. The Bison rushed for 300 yards.
John Crockett had 80 yards rushing, 24 receiving and a threw a 26-yard pass to set up a score on a trick play after taking a handoff.
Bell threw for 255 yards against the nation’s best pass defense, but threw three of Sam Houston’s four interceptions. Flanders, the school’s career rushing leader, was held to 53 yards on 19 carries, a 2.8 average.
OLE MISS WINS BOWL
Hugh Freeze needed only one year to make a winner out of a Mississippi team that was woeful in 2011.
The coach noted with satisfaction that most experts didn’t predict such dramatic improvement in his first season.
Bo Wallace threw three touchdown passes and Ole Miss beat Pittsburgh, 38-17, in the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., to complete an impressive turnaround. Ole Miss (7-6) finished five wins over its 2-10 season record in 2011.
“I’ve tried to learn not to make too much out of a single game either way, but no question this advances our journey a bit,” Freeze said. “To be where we’re sitting here Year One far surpasses certainly the prognosticators and whatever they had for us. Our guys really chose to buy in and determine we could be who we want to be. We don’t have to have someone else determine that.”
The bowl win was especially satisfying for veteran players who had no postseason a year ago.
“The best thing is our program is moving in the right direction,” said junior linebacker Mike Marry, who had four of the Rebels’ 11 tackles for losses. “We’re not where we want to be right now but we’re moving there.”
Wallace, chosen the game’s MVP, completed 22 of 32 passes for 151 yards.
No. 25 Kent State (11-2) vs. Arkansas St. (9-3), 6 p.m. (ESPN), Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Ala.
What’s at stake: Kent State wants to finish its breakout season in style. This is the first time the Golden Flashes have been to a bowl game in 40 years and they’ve already set a school record for wins in a season. Arkansas State — which has won back-to-back Sun Belt Conference titles — gets a second chance after losing last season to Northern Illinois.
Key matchup: Arkansas State QB Ryan Aplin against the Kent State defense: Aplin owns nearly every passing record in Red Wolves’ history after throwing for 10,545 yards and 66 touchdowns in his four seasons. His final game will be against a Kent State defense that has forced 38 turnovers this season, which is the most in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Golden Flashes also are first in the country with a plus-21 turnover margin.
Players to watch: For Kent State – Junior running back Dri Archer has been the Golden Flashes’ primary playmaker, rushing for a team-high 1,352 yards and 15 touchdowns this season. The 5-foot-8, 175-pounder also leads team with 35 catches for 539 yards and four touchdowns. For Arkansas State – Junior running back David Oku has had a productive season after transferring from Tennessee, rushing for 1,054 yards and 15 touchdowns.
The pick: Arkansas State 34, Kent State 31.McClatchy news services