By Kent Schmidt
CSN West Columnist
College Sporting News
North Dakota State (14-1) used a Travis Beck interception with just under nine minutes in the game to basically seal the game. On the play, Beck returned the ball to the Bearkat 1 and quarterback Brock Jensen rushed the ball in from there to basically seal the game at 17-6.
“I thought he was going to be a high pass; that I would have to jump for it,” said Beck. “And I don't know if it hit me right in the chest, and I decided I better catch this one or else I'll never hear the end of that.”
The Bison trailed at the halftime break 6-3 in giving up two Bearkat field goals from Craig Alaniz from 24 and 31 yards out in the second quarter.
The Bison opened the game’s scoring in the first quarter with a 19 yard field goal from Ryan Jastram with just three seconds left in the opening quarter.
NDSU received the second half kickoff and while down by three, decided to run a fake field goal that turned the momentum of the game completely. Matt Voigtlander, the NDSU punter who previously was a running back for the Bison, rushed for 27yards to keep the NDSU drive going.
“I looked to the outside. We got out of the box, came down, blocking down like we were expecting, hoping, and good – just good blocking there,” said Voigtlander. “And it was wide open. So my eyes were wide open seeing the open field, and I did what I could.”
Jensen hit running back D.J. McNorton on a 39 yard pass on the game’s next play to put the Bison up for good at the 12:47 mark of the third quarter at 10-6.
“Coach Bohl, fantastic job on the fake punt, said SHSU coach Willie Fritz. “That really was a big, big play in the ballgame, and they came back and hit the very next play, and now it's kind of a momentum changer.”
In a game that was dominated by two strong defenses, turnovers were a key to the game. The Bearkats won the early turnover battle but only converted on offense for the six points. SHSU caused two turnovers in the first half but turned it over twice themselves on interceptions in the second half—the Beck return and another by free safety John Pike that sealed the game in the weighting moments of the game.
NDSU limited SHSU to just 210 yards and only had 235 yards themselves.
NDSU held Bearkats running back Tim Flanders to just 84 yards on 24 carries after he set a school record in the semifinal round of 287 yards.
Sam Houston State (14-1) missed a chance to become the first unbeaten champion since Marshall in 1996.
Fitting of this championship of a defensive struggle, Beck was voted as the MVP of the game.
This was the first championship for NDSU since winning the Division II title in 1990. It is the Bison’s ninth overall title.
“As far as today's game, I thought our guys battled and certainly made big plays when they needed to, said Bohl. “And typically we say we get a 24-hour rule, but we won't have a 24-hour rule on this one. We're going to enjoy this for a while.”