Friday, January 13, 2012
Now I know that according to the national media and most college fans, that the Crimson Tide from Alabama are the National Champions in college football. And I will concur with that. However, take another look at the title of this post. I used the word undisputed. There is dispute in the Division I FBS ranks about whether Alabama deserved to be in the National Championship game and there is still dispute about whether or not they are the best team. After all, there were people that gave first place votes to Oklahoma State and LSU after all the bowl games were played. Well, in the Division I FCS ranks, there are no disputes about which team is the best in the land. That distinction goes to the North Dakota State Bison. Pronounced Bizon. After a Championship game victory in Frisco, TX 17-6 over the previously unbeaten and #1 Ranked Sam Houston State Bearkats.
The Bison have been in the FCS ranks of Division I since 2004. The first 4 seasons, the Bison were not eligable for postseason play. For the past 2, the Bison have been in the playoffs. In 2010, the bison and their fans were not happy about the way that their season ended. Around these parts, it is known as being jobbed in Washington, amongst other names. We believed that the officials caused the Bison to lose their Quarterfinal game against Eastern Washington. And for the 2011 season, the Bison had the focus to right what they believe was the wrong perpetrated on them the year before.
In the first half of the title game, the Bison offense was sputtering against the Bearkats defense. It looked like the offense we had against Youngstown State, which was the Bison's only loss of the season. However, the defense was playing the best game of the season for them. The Bearkats which were averaging over 500 yards per game for the season had only 52 yards of total offense in the first quarter. The Breakats had 210 total yards this game. Sam Houston State averaged 39 points per game. In the first half, they were held to 6 points. The Bison fumbled the ball once and also had an interception the first half. Down 6-3 at half, the Bison needed a spark and would get it from the Running Back turned punter.
Early in the third quarter, the Bison offense went 3 and out yet again. However the Bison coaching staff had seen something earlier on a partially blocked punt. The Bearkats weren't protecting the outside of the punt formation. So the Bison called a fake punt for Matt Voigtlander to run around the left side of the formation. He carried the ball 27 yards for a first down. With a new set of downs, the Bison called a middle screen pass on the next play to D.J. McNorton from the Bearkats 39. It was a beautiful call. McNorton got into the endzone for a 10-6 lead and the defense continued to play their best game of the year. Voighlander was a big difference in this game. He punted 10 times and had a net average of 44.2 yards. He pinned the Bearkats inside their 20 yard line 4 times.
In the middle of the 4th quarter, the game was still 10-6 until the Bison defense rose up one more time this season and freshman linebacker Travis Beck dropped back into coverage, intercepted a pass and ran 63 yards to the Sam Houston State 1 yard line. Beck won MVP for the game. Brock Jensen, ND State QB, ran the ball in for a 1 yard touchdown and gave the Bison a 17-6 lead. The Bison defense came up with another interception and ended the dreams of the Bearkats ending up National Champions in their backyard.
The title game was a defensive struggle, which Sam Houston State was not used to this year. The Bison were 1 of 13 on third down. The Bearkats weren't much better going 4 for 18 on third down. Sam Houston State was 1 of 4 on fourth down. The Bison who averaged 177 yards rushing and 176 yards passing this year per game ended the game with balance as well. 115 yards rushing and 120 yards passing.
This is North Dakota State's 9th National Championship in Football. The previous 8 have been in Division II or below. Here is the understatement of the year from coach Craig Bohl: “We had a couple of tough years there, and our guys wanted to make sure they returned Bison football back to national prominence. It’s not easy to do.” Coach Bohl, it might not be an easy thing to do, but you have done it. Bison football is back to national prominence.