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Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome, Fargo, North Dakota Attendance: 18,286
Stick powers Bison back to FCS title game
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - A record seventh FCS national championship is within reach of the North Dakota State dynasty.
The defending champion and top-seeded Bison rode senior quarterback Easton Stick's huge performance - 316 yards of total offense and four total touchdowns - to roll past fifth-seeded South Dakota State 44-21 in a semifinal Friday night at the Fargodome.
With a seventh appearance in the title game in eight years, the Bison (14-0) will try to sever their tie with Georgia Southern as six-time FCS champions. They'll face Saturday's Maine-Eastern Washington winner on Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas.
It will be the final game for Bison fifth-year coach Chris Klieman, who is departing after the playoffs to take over at Kansas State. He's been head coach for three of the titles and could tie former Youngstown State coach Jim Tressel, the only four-time winner.
"Those guys, they battled for me, they battled for Coach Entz - so excited for Matt (the defensive coordinator who has been named the next Bison coach) - and they battled for each other," Klieman told ESPN. "We were going to be a tough team to beat today."
"Captain Clutch" was at the controls of the Bison win. Stick, their three-time team captain, completed 12 of 15 passes for 169 yards and rushed for 147 yards on 16 carries. He scored on 5- and 34-yard runs in the first half, threw a 14-yard touchdown to running back Bruce Anderson in the third quarter and added a 28-yard TD run with 4:05 remaining.
Stick improved to 48-3 as a starter, tying former NDSU QB Brock Jensen for the most wins by an FCS quarterback. He passed Missouri State's DeAndre Smith for the most rushing yards in a career by a Missouri Valley Football Conference quarterback, finishing the game at 2,402.
Anderson, also part of NDSU's school-record 24-member senior class, scored three touchdowns in the third quarter when NDSU extended a 14-7 halftime lead to 35-14. He scored on a 1-yard dive and from 41 yards out in addition to his TD catch.
The senior class graduated earlier in the day.
"I've poured everything I have into this program for eight years," Klieman said. "I was a senior today. I had a blast out there with those guys."
NDSU never trailed against archrival SDSU (10-3) in their 109th all-time meeting, improving its series lead to 62-42-5. The Bison, who also eliminated the Jackrabbits from the playoffs in 2012, '14 and '16, racked up 608 offensive yards.
SDSU senior quarterback Taryn Christion was roughed up in the first half by the Bison's physical defense, prompting the Jackrabbits' training staff to attend to him three times. But Christion came back to throw touchdown passes to tight end Blake Kunz (7 yards) and wide receiver Cade Johnson (52) in the second half. He had 180 passing yards and ended his career as the MVFC's all-time leader in total offense (13,050), passing yards (11,535) and touchdown passes (104).
Jackrabbits freshman running back Pierre Strong Jr. had 20 carries for 135 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
NDSU has won 20 straight games. Since the start of the Bison's first FCS title season in 2011, they're 111-8.
Updated December 15, 2018