NDSU dynasty puts away the opposition
The four-time reigning national champion takes a lead and leaves no doubt to the outcome.
The Bison offense lauds the defense for it and the defense lauds the offense for it.
In truth, it's dominance on both sides of the ball.
"When we do get up, unfortunately for the other team, we like to run the football," cornerback Jordan Champion said Thursday. "So the other team takes a beating when we do that."
"I think a lot of it is really good defensive play that we've had," quarterback Easton Stick said, "that (past) group and especially this year has really grown and come into their own and they're playing at a really high level."
North Dakota State (12-2), which faces top-ranked Jacksonville State (13-1) on Saturday in a fascinating championship game at Toyota Stadium, has surrendered one lead during its eight-game winning streak - in the second quarter against Southern Illinois on Halloween.
It's been like that throughout the decade, but not so much early this season. The Bison needed to replace seven starters on defense and struggled to put away some opponents - they lost to Montana and South Dakota on the final offensive play of those games and had to rally past rival Northern Iowa in a back-and-forth game.
But they say they are a different team from earlier this season. They continued to have offensive rhythm with Stick even after NFL-bound quarterback Carson Wentz was lost to a wrist injury, and the new-look defense took on an old look again. The unit has peaked in the postseason, holding three straight opponents to a season low in yards.
"We talk about owning the second half and the fourth quarter," defensive end Greg Menard said. "We take pride in that."
"Our recipe for success is running the football and being able to stop the run," coach Chris Klieman said. "If you do that, you kind of tilt that time of possession and you can wear some teams down. It's a different outfit we're playing on Saturday. I think Jacksonville State is extremely good up front on defense and it will be hard to run the football on those guys."
The Gamecocks, though, would be wise not to fall behind North Dakota State.
Notes - Third-seeded North Dakota State will be the home team and top-seeded Jacksonville State the visitor at Toyota Stadium. ... Wentz has been slowed by a head and chest cold in the days leading up to his possible return. Last year's Most Outstanding Player of the championship game is hoping to play for the first time since getting injured Oct. 17 against South Dakota. ... As if NDSU isn't usually dressed for success, the Bison will wear their alternate gold jersey, a look that is 21-0 since its debut in 2011. It includes championship game wins over Sam Houston State (2011) and Towson (2013). ... Is lucky 13 ahead? In addition to winning the last four FCS national titles, NDSU won three College Division national championships in 1965, 1968 and 1969, and five Division II titles in 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988 and 1990.