FRISCO, TX — It was always about more than going back-to-back and winning the FCS national championship for a record seventh time this season.
From the start, the 2018 edition of the North Dakota State dynasty sought nothing less than a perfect season.
In completing that mission Saturday with a 38-24 victory over Eastern Washington in the championship game at Toyota Stadium, the Bison staked their claim to being one of the best teams in FCS history.
NDSU (15-0) was ranked No. 1 since the preseason and never relented behind a 24-member senior class that was the largest in program history. One of the veteran leaders, fifth-year senior Easton Stick, accounted for 319 total yards and five touchdowns to help the Bison break what had been a tie with Georgia Southern for the most titles in FCS history.
“This has been an absolute dynasty. No ifs, ands or buts, I think this has been the greatest run in college football,” coach Chris Klieman said.
Added Stick: “There’s some crazy expectations at this program. We wouldn’t want it any other way.”
One of the best visuals was captured midway through the second quarter. Stick raced around the left end and inside the pylon for his second of three touchdown runs. Not far behind and making his way along the sideline, Klieman channeled Tiger Woods with an underarm first pump into the air.
Stick, in completing his career with a 49-3 record as a starter, set the FCS record for wins by a quarterback. He had been tied with former NDSU great Brock Jensen, whose 48th and final victory capped the 2013 title season, when the Bison also went 15-0 as one of now five unbeaten, untied teams to claim FCS national titles.
Klieman, coaching in his final game before heading off to Kansas State, won his fourth national title in five seasons to tie Youngstown State’s Jim Tressel for the most in FCS history.
“We wanted to be perfect this year,” Klieman said. “We knew it was going to be hard, but if we attacked every day and held each other to a high standard, we could do that.”
North Dakota State never trailed while clinching its 15th all-time national title (three College Division and five Division II crowns preceded FCS seventh heaven). The Missouri Valley Conference champ had to hold on late, though, after Eastern Washington pulled to 31-24 on a quick-strike drive capped by quarterback Eric Barriere‘s 5-yard touchdown run with 2:19 left.
But after NDSU recovered an onside kick and with the Eagles (12-3) seeking to force a punt on third-and-7, Stick faked a handoff and went off right tackle when the defense anticipated the other way, sprinting off to a 46-yard touchdown and glory with 1:16 to go.
NDSU led 17-10 at halftime before the game briefly turned wild in the third quarter. In the first 4 minutes, 12 seconds, there were three turnovers and three touchdowns. Stick sandwiched 23- and 78-yard touchdown passes to Darrius Shepherd around Eastern Washington running back Sam McPherson‘s 75-yard scoring run to push the advantage to 31-17. Sheppard, the game’s most outstanding player, finished with five receptions for 125 yards.
In the first half, North Dakota State scored on its first three possessions, including Stick on 10- and 4-yard runs. But Eastern Washington, the No. 3 seed from the Big Sky Conference, pulled within 17-10 shortly before halftime. Holder Gunner Talklington sold a fake field goal before flipping the ball to tight end Jayce Gilder for a 2-yard touchdown with just 27 seconds left.
NDSU held the ball for 40 minutes, 5 seconds, but even more like Bison clockwork, they knew how to put away another win — and another national championship.
“You say 112-8,” in the past eight seasons, Klieman said, “I mean, ‘Holy cow.’ That’s something that movies are made out of, dreams are made out of, books are written on.”
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