By Kent Schmidt
CSN West Columnist
College Sporting News
MISSOURI VALLEY FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
Bison Struggle Early, Use a Solid Second Half to Advance over James Madison
D.J. McNorton rushed for 154 yards, including a game clinching 60 yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter, to propel #2 seeded North Dakota State (11-1) over James Madison (8-5) by a score of 26-14 before 17,432 in the Fargodome in their second-round Division I Championships matchup.
Fellow Bison running back Sam Ojuri added 61 yards and two scores.
James Madison had won their opening playoff round game against Eastern Kentucky last week.
Justin Thorpe threw for 182 yards with a touchdown and also caught a touchdown pass to lead the Duke offensive attack.
After a scoreless first quarter, NDSU opened the scoring on the first of Ojuri’s touchdowns from a yard out on a long, 10 play drive at the 9:12 mark of the second period.
Thorpe hit DeAndre' Smith for a 20 yard score in the late in the second quarter to tie the game at 7-7 with just 22 seconds left.
Ryan Jastram kicked a 53 yard field goal to put the Bison up 10-7 at halftime following a botched kickoff that went out of bounds at the JMU 49 yard line. The kick was a career long for Jastram with his prior long coming in last year’s playoff first round game against Robert Morris—a 51 yard boot.
After both teams stalled on their initial second half drives, Ojuri found the end zone for the second time on the day on a 6-yard scoring run after a 10 play, 61 yard drive. Jastram’s extra point attempt, however, was blocked, leaving the margin at 16-7 with 5:13 to go in the third quarter.
After JMU was unable to convert a fourth-down attempt at the NDSU 40, NDSU got the ball back late in the fourth quarter and worked to eat up some clock.
The Dukes' defense held the Bison to a field goal attempt but Jastram hit his second of the day from 44 yards out, and the Bison led 19-7 with 9:31 to play in the game.
In the next drive, Thorpe caught a 35-yard touchdown pass from wide receiver Kerby Long on a trick play to pull the Dukes within 19-14 at the 7:26 mark of the final frame.
McNorton's touchdown run came on the Bison’s next play from scrimmage, after the Dukes botched another kickoff out-of-bounds allowing an NDSU start from their own 40 in what would be the final scoring of the game.
NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen completed 11 of 18 passes for 110 yards and Bison wide receiver Warren Holloway caught seven passes for 78 yards.
Thorpe finished 21 of 38 passing for 182 yards and the one score.
NDSU advances to host Lehigh next week. The Mountain Hawks were 40-38 winners over Towson in their second round playoff matchup.
Bizarre Kickoff Fumble Propels #5 Seed Northern Iowa over Wofford
Fifth seeded Northern Iowa won a tough 28-21 game against Wofford in their second round game. The margin of victory and the Panthers’ final touchdown was on a bizarre play.
The Panthers had just scored to take a 21-14 lead on a David Johnson one yard scoring run at the 14:56 mark of the fourth quarter. Place kicker Tyler Sievertsen’s ensuing kickoff was sent into the end zone that was fielded by the Terriers’ Stephon Shelton but he dropped the ball in what he apparently thought would be ruled for the touchback.
The Panthers’ Phil Wright picked up the ball after he dropped it and it was ruled a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
UNI (10-2) received the game’s opening kickoff and drove 72 yards on six plays to score first. Quarterback Tirrell Rennie found receiver Jarred Herring on a 23 yard scoring pass to give UNI the lead 7-0 with 12:09 left in the first quarter.
Wofford (8-4) responded with a 16-play, 81 yard drive that ended in a three yard touchdown run by Eric Breitenstein to tie the contest at 7-7 with 3:30 left in the first quarter.
Breitenstein later broke loose for a 46-yard touchdown run with 5:45 left in the second quarter that gave the Terriers a 14-7 lead.
Wofford had a chance to increase their lead just before the halftime break but place kicker Christian Reed 35 yard attempt missed wide right to leave the margin at seven at the break.
Wofford began the second half driving into deep UNI territory but Panther linebacker James Conley forced a fumble by Terrier wide receiver Brenton Bersin, and Wilmot Wellington recovered it to end the Wofford threat on this drive.
On the ensuing possession, Rennie drove the Panthers down field and hit Herring once again for a seven-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 14-14 with 10:21 left in the third quarter.
Wofford would score after a 15-play, 88-yard drive on a three-yard touchdown run by Breitenstein to cut the lead to 28-21 with 2:00 remaining in the game.
UNI's Brett LeMaster recovered the Terriers' onside kick, but Sievertsen missed a 47 yard field goal attempt to give Wofford a last chance to try to tie the score at with 53 second left in the contest.
The UNI defense, however, stopped Wofford from even gaining a first down on the next four plays, with defensive tackle August Hadenfeldt sacking Terrier quarterback Mitch Allen on fourth down to cement the win for the Panthers.
Rennie rushed for 95 yards on 19 carries and was 7-of-12 passing for 67 yards with the two touchdown passes. Herring caught four passes for 54 yards on the night. Junior running back Carlos Anderson gained 52 yards on 11 carries.
Allen had 162 yards rushing to lead Wofford.
Northern Iowa advances to play at #4 seeded Montana next week. The Grizzlies were 41-14 winners over Central Arkansas in their playoff matchup.
BIG SKY CONFERENCE
Montana Blows Out Central Arkansas in the Grizzlies Playoff Opener
Wide Receiver Jabin Sambrano caught two touchdown passes from quarterback Jordan Johnson and running back Jordan Canada scampered in for two more scores to help Montana blow out Central Arkansas 41-14 in front of 22,005 at home.
The 4th playoff seeded Grizzlies (10-2), who led 31-0 at halftime, have now won eight straight games.
Sambrano caught touchdown passes of 8 and 22 yards from Jordan who finished completing 16 of 25 passes for 135 yards.
Canada had TD runs of 11 and 12 yards as the Grizzlies totaled 229 yards rushing.
The Bears (9-4), in the postseason in just their second year of playoff eligibility, had their eight-game winning streak snapped after winning their first ever playoff game last week at Tennessee Tech.
Central Arkansas, which had been +13 in turnover margin on the season, lost three of five fumbles and committed four turnovers in total in this game.
The Grizzlies used three of those Central Arkansas turnovers in the first quarter in building a 17-0 lead.
Montana took advantage of a muffed punt by Central Arkansas to start the scoring on a 31-yard field goal by McKnight with 10:46 left in the first quarter.
They stretched their lead to 10-0 on an 8-yard touchdown pass from Johnson to Sambrano with 6:40 left and Peter Nguyen scored on a 2-yard run with 1:10 left in the period to make it 17-0. His run capped a 10 play, 93-yard march that began when Trumaine Johnson intercepted a Central Arkansas pass at his own 7-yard line.
The Griz piled up 277 total yards in the first half to Central Arkansas' 73.
Central Arkansas' scored on a 44-yard pass from Nathan Dick to Jesse Grandy and an 8-yarder to Al Lasker.
Montana will host #5 Northern Iowa next week in Washington-Grizzly Stadium.
Montana State Wins in a Game of Blocked Kicks & Miscues
It looked like a game eventually won by Montana State 26-25 that would see overtime in front of 11,367 at Bobcat Stadium. New Hampshire (8-4) scored a touchdown when Wildcat quarterback Kevin Decker threw a 29 yard touchdown pass to receiver Justin Mello with six seconds remaining in the fourth quarter to bring UNH within a point of tying Montana State (10-2).
All it would have taken was the extra point to seal the extra frame.
But MSU safety Steven Bethley came off the edge to tip UNH placekicker Mike MacArthur's game-tying extra point attempt with the few seconds remaining and the ball deflected wide off the right upright to give the Bobcats the 26-25 lead and ultimately the victory.
New Hampshire received the opening kickoff and moved the ball well but had to settle for a MacArthur's 36-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead at the 10:10 mark in the first quarter.
Montana State's initial possession ended with an interception from quarterback DeNarius McGee by Rod Walker. The Wildcats advanced into the red zone before coming up short on a 4th-and-2 play and turned the ball over on downs inside the 20 yard line.
The next Bobcats' drive also ended with a McGee's interception, again by Evans. He took the turnover all the back 58 yards for a touchdown to increase the Wildcat lead to 10-0 with 32 seconds remaining in the opening quarter.
MSU got on the scoreboard with 12:43 left in the second on a 41 yard field goal by Jason Cunningham that trimmed the deficit to 10-3.
The Bobcats looked as if they would tie the game after an 11 yard scoring pass from McGee to Tray Robinson with 5:44 left in the half, but New Hampshire's Steven Thames blocked the extra point and was scooped up by Anthony Gorrell, who returned it 86 yards for a two-point conversion to keep UNH in the lead at 12-9.
UNH was forced to punt on the ensuing drive but was aided by a Montana State special teams fumble by Shawn Johnson on the punt return at the MSU 18 yard line.
On the first play of this drive, Decker rolled out to find Mello on a short pass and he did the rest for the 18 yard touchdown that built the Wildcat lead to 19-9 with 3:04 remaining in the second quarter.
The Bobcats ended the first half scoring with just 25 second left, when McGee ran in a two-yard touchdown on a 3rd-and goal play with 25 seconds left to make the halftime score 19-16 in favor of UNH.
Montana State claimed its first lead, 23-19, with 10:52 left in the third quarter when McGee called his own number again—this time from 37 yards out.
The Bobcats increased their lead to 26-19 with 9:38 left in the game when Jason Cunningham hit a 26-yard field goal.
New Hampshire trailed 26-19 with 4:08 remaining in the fourth quarter, but Decker completed all six pass attempts in advancing the ball to the Bobcat 19-yard line. On second down, however, Decker was intercepted by Darius Jones at the MSU five yard line with 1:16 on the clock.
UNH's defense forced a three-and-out and MSU's punt went out of bounds at the Bobcats' 29 yard line with 17 seconds to play.
On the second play after the punt, Decker found Mello and he ran past the defender for the apparent game tying touchdown.
McGhee ended the game throwing 14-of-21 for just 167 yards and three interceptions.
Montana State advances to play at top seeded Sam Houston State in the quarterfinals next week for another FCS West faceoff. SHSU was a 34-27 victor over Stony Brook in its second round game.