By Kent Schmidt
CSN West Columnist
College Sporting News
NCAA Division I Football Championship Game
#1 seed North Dakota State (14-0) vs. #7 seed Towson (13-2), January 4, 2014, 1:05 p.m. Central, Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas
After two straight championship games for NDSU against Sam Houston State, the Bison see a new team in their attempt to win a record tying third straight national championship in the CAA’s Towson Tigers.
HOW HAVE EACH OF THESE TEAMS GOT TO FRISCO?
Top seeded North Dakota State, from the Missouri Valley Football Conference, brings a 14-0 record into the game and 23 straight victories. Towson, from the Colonial Athletic Conference, enters with a record of 13-2.
North Dakota State hopes to complete its undefeated season on Saturday. The Bison are trying to equal the record three straight FCS national titles won by Appalachian State from 2005-07 as well as the FCS record of 24 straight wins, held by Montana and Penn.
NDSU got to the championship game in similar fashion as last year when the Bison were also the top seed—by playing all playoff contests at the friendly confines of the Fargodome.
Towson, however, had a much different path to Frisco—having to play two higher seeded teams on the road to get into this game. The Tigers were in their second NCAA Division I playoff this season after losing in the second round two years ago to Lehigh.
NDSU defeated Furman, Coastal Carolina, and New Hampshire by a combined score of 138-35 to get to Frisco for a third straight trip.
Towson had one home game against Fordham but then had to travel to Eastern Illinois and Eastern Washington, the #2 and #3 seeded teams respectively in this year’s playoffs. The Tigers won their first game handily 48-28 but had their hands full on the road in two snowy games against the Eastern two schools. Against EIU, the Tigers won 49-39 and then came from behind to win at EWU 35-31.
The Tigers like to run the ball and play strong, physical defense much like what NDSU does. They are also a physical defense.
THIS YEAR’S TEAMS HAVE ALSO WON A LITTLE DIFFERENTLY, ESPECIALLY IN THE PLAYOFFS.
NDSU has found their offense and have scored their second and fourth most outputs in their last two playoff games of 48 and 52 points in what should have been two of the top eight schools left playing.
Towson has used their running game of Terrance West the full season. West has rushed for an astounding 2,410 yards and 40 touchdowns.
He will be the center point for the Bison defense to stop the Towson offense. The quarterback situation for Towson is a little in question but it appears senior Peter Athens will start. Athens has been bothered by a sprained right (throwing) shoulder and sat out the second half of the semi-final win over EWU. If he is slowed, his backup of sophomore Connor Frazier will play. Frazier led the Tigers throughout the second half of the win in the semi-finals and led the team on a last minute drive for the win in that game.
The Tiger defense will try to stop senior quarterback Brock Jensen and a two headed running back duo of senior Sam Ojuri and junior John Crockett.
HAVE THESE TWO SCHOOLS MET BEFORE IN THE PLAYOFFS?
Yes, these two teams played in 1983 in what was then Towson’s first Division II playoff appearance. The Tigers played in Fargo in the quarterfinals that year.
NDSU recorded a 24-17 victory over the Tigers. The Bison led 14-0 in the opening quarter of play as running back Jeff Willis and freshman quarterback Jeff Bentrim collected short scoring runs. Willis' touchdown was set up by Jeff Willer's fumble recovery on the Towson 40-yard line. Bentrim's 13-yard run in the third quarter and Ken Kubisz' 24-yard field goal in the fourth quarter upped the Bison margin to 24-10.
The Tigers tried to rally from behind but they fell short in the final minutes. A 94-yard drive for a touchdown with 1:10 left pulled the Tigers to within 24-17 on a 12 yard touchdown throw by Bret Rogers but the Bison recovered the ensuing on-sides kick to melt away the time and secure the victory.
Freshman running back Chad Stark did not score a touchdown, but his 164 yards rushing in 26 carries was nearly an NCAA single-game playoff record.
NDSU would go on to play and win the Division II title that year over Central State of Ohio that 1983 season in what would be a start of five titles in nine seasons for the Bison from 1983 to 1990.
THE PREDICTION HERE IS...
Like last year’s game, I think this contest will likely be a run-away by NDSU and about the same amount of scoring, as well as a similar margin of victory for the winner.
The two teams actually have two common opponents in Delaware State and New Hampshire. Towson defeated these two opponents by scores of 49-7 and 44-28, whereas NDSU defeated these two opponents by scores of 51-0 and 52-14.
With history of the past two championship games and their experienced squad this year, I think NDSU is on that mission to tie Appalachian State with three straight titles and their defense is just a little stronger than Towson’s so I think NDSU will be able to score some on the Tigers like the past two opponents have been able to.
I like the Bison to pull out the rather easily with Towson likely scoring late to make it closer than the game might be as NDSU will make it three in a row and it will be four in a row for the West overall (Eastern Washington champions in 2010). But while on paper it appears an NDSU win, that is why we play the game and we should find out who will be the top team this year this upcoming Saturday.
North Dakota State 34, Towson 20