Ten thousand North Dakota State fans made the long trip to Frisco, Texas to watch their Bison face Sam Houston State in Saturday's Football Championship Subdivision title game and the team rewarded their loyalty with a special performance.
Behind 300 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns, the Bison ran their way to a second straight FCS championship in a dominant 39-13 victory over the Bearkats in a rematch of last year's title game tilt.
Paving the way for quarterback Brock Jensen, who rushed for three touchdowns, and the Bison backs was Marshall native Tyler Gimmestad and the big NDSU offensive line. Gimmestad, a junior guard, will now have two championship rings to show off when he comes back to Marshall to visit friends and family. Last year he helped NDSU win its first national title since making the jump from Division II to Division I athletics in 2004. This year's title makes a total of 10 national championships for the Bison program, including five D-II titles and three via wire service polls in the 1960s.
North Dakota State celebrates with the trophy following their 39-13 win in the FCS championship game against Sam Houston State, Saturday in Frisco, Texas.
"It feels great to just keep adding to the great tradition the program has had and the long line of championships we've won," Gimmestad said Sunday afternoon. "It's good for the community, the fans and all the former players."
The first quarter ended with NDSU leading 3-0. The Bison sport one of the best defenses in the nation, and even going up against the high-powered offense of the Bearkats, Gimmestad thought the game could play out like last year's 17-6 win. That wasn't the case, however, as the Bison defense forced four turnovers and NDSU outscored Sam Houston State 29-3 in the second half on its way to the blowout win.
Gimmestad said the team gained confidence it could move the ball when the Bison went on a five-play, 72-yard scoring drive with 5 minutes, 28 seconds left in the first half. The two teams went into halftime tied at 10, and in the second half NDSU went on to score touchdowns on four straight possessions to break open the game.
"We thought it might be a little more like last year's game and then in the second quarter, our scoring drive that we had, we had some good plays that were working for us and got up at halftime and kind of figured we were going to wear them down and put some points on the board," Gimmestad said. "The coaches had a great game plan and we stuck to it the whole way and eventually pulled away from them."
Jensen threw for 115 yards and rushed for 44 yards and three scores. Junior running back Sam Ojuri added two rushing touchdowns among his 14 carries for 92 yards.
Encouraging the Bison every step of the way was their rowdy fans, who didn't travel over 1,000 miles to sit on their hands.
"We definitely feed off that energy," Gimmestad said. "They're the best fans in the country. They're loud and it's tough to hear when the opposing offense is on the field. They definitely make an impact."
The team made it back home Saturday night and received a champion's welcome at the Fargodome. Gimmestad said Sunday afternoon that he was running on about two hours of sleep after celebrating through the night.