FRISCO, Texas (AP) – Quarterback Brock Jensen ran for three touchdowns, Sam Ojuri scored twice and North Dakota State beat Sam Houston State 39-13 Jan. 5 in a title game rematch for its second straight FCS championship.
Jensen, a Waupaca High School graduate, scored the go-ahead touchdown on a 1-yard sneak in the third quarter and Ojuri had a 2-yard TD run on fourth-and-1 after the Bison (14-1) got the ball with a fourth-down stop.
The Bearkats (11-4) had a 40-yard touchdown run by Tim Flanders brought back by a holding penalty on the first possession of the second half and Brian Bell’s second interception on the next play led to Jensen’s go-ahead score.
The Bison won 17-6 a year ago and improved to 10-1 in the FCS playoffs with their eighth straight postseason win.
Jensen isn’t the only local connection to the Bison. Iola-Scandinavia High School graduate Luke Albers is a redshirt freshman tight end, while two former I-S football coaches, Tim Polasek and Nick Goeser, are assistant coaches. Polasek coaches the special teams, tight ends and fullbacks, while Goeser coaches the defensive tackles.
Ojuri had 92 yards rushing and Jensen added 44 to go with 115 passing yards.
Bell threw for 255 yards against the nation’s best pass defense, but had three of Sam Houston’s four interceptions. Flanders, the school’s career rushing leader, was held to 53 yards on 19 carries, a 2.8 average.
With the score tied at 10-10, Flanders broke loose on an apparent touchdown on the first possession of the second half. Instead, Sam Houston had a third long run deep into Bison territory wiped out by a holding penalty. None of the drives ended in points.
After the holding call on Flanders’ run, Carlton Littlejohn intercepted Bell’s pass while falling to his knees and the turnover was upheld on review. Ojuri had 25 yards rushing on a drive that ended with Jensen’s score for a 17-10 lead.
The Bearkats were driving again when Bell had to throw the ball away before getting slammed to the turf on fourth-and-1. He stayed flat on his back and sat out parts of the fourth quarter.
Jensen’s 31-yard pass to Zach Vraa set up Ojuri’s fourth-down run and the Bison further deflated the Bearkats when they turned a botched snap on the extra point into a 2-point conversion and a 25-10 lead on a desperation pass from kicker Adam Keller to Mike Hardie.
North Dakota State scored the first touchdown in the second quarter by covering 65 yards on three running plays. Jensen gained 21 yards on third down after the field opened when Sam Houston State’s leading tackler, Darnell Taylor, crumpled to the ground in front of him with an apparently leg injury. Ryan Smith ran 24 yards and Jensen, who accounted for both touchdowns in last year’s game, scored from the 20.
The 72-yard drive came after Marcus Williams set a North Dakota State record with his 17th career interception. Williams later added his 18th.
Sam Houston State ended a championship game touchdown drought just before it reached six quarters and tied the score at 10 when Bell threw a 1-yard pass to K.J. Williams with 33 seconds left in the first half. A 30-yard toss to Richard Sincere put the ball on the 1 three plays after an interception by Andre Martin Jr. was wiped out when he was called for defensive holding.
Crockett’s career-long 57-yard run set up a 32-yard field goal by Keller to give North Dakota State a first-quarter lead. Miguel Antonio kicked a tying 38-yarder in the second quarter after missing from 32 yards in the first.
“Well, it’s got to be the hardest thing to do in sports is repeat a championship, go back to back, especially a national championship,” Jensen said. “It’s hard enough to repeat a conference championship, especially when you’re playing in the MVFC, but it takes a great deal of resiliency from a group of young men like us and also our coaching staff. I can’t say enough about them putting us in the right position, keeping us focused all year long, putting goals out there for us to be able to reach and just driving us as hard as they can to just motivate us to reach those goals.
“They knew that coming into the year, there’s a lot of potential for this team,” he added. “Just goes without saying how great these coaches are to really just motivate this team and make sure that we captured the goals that we had coming into the year.”