It's 2017 FCS title or bust for Bison dynasty
(STATS) - North Dakota State's streak of consecutive FCS national titles is over, but the Bison probably don't feel their dynasty has necessarily ended.
James Madison's 27-17 victory in the national semifinals Friday night has prevented the Bison from adding to their record of five straight titles - a modern record for all NCAA divisions. But the Bison, 12-2 this season and an unmatched 83-7 over the last six seasons, are expected to be right back in the national title mix next year.
"I'm so proud of them. I'm proud to be the head football coach here," third-year coach Chris Klieman said after the loss. "I told the seniors, 'You're not defined by a moment, you're defined by a body of work,' and that's the best body of work you'll ever see in college football history."
The Missouri Valley Football Conference power's high standard of success surely means the Bison would have to win the 2017 national title or their dynasty would be considered completely over.
While playing the strongest schedule in the FCS this season, the Bison survived some close games, including two in overtime, so the aura surrounding their program has been knocked down a peg. Their two losses even took place inside the Fargodome, where they have an outstanding home-field advantage.
The defense will be a strength of next year's team. They can return eight starters from Friday night's loss plus two standouts who were lost to injuries during the season: middle linebacker Nick DeLuca, who is expected to receive a medical redshirt, and defensive tackle Nate Tanguay. All-America defensive end Greg Menard and all four starters in the secondary, led by safety Tre Dempsey, are among the returning group.
The offense will return six starters, but the team's biggest concern will be on the offensive line, as they have to replace three starters: Landon Lechler, Jack Plankers and All-America left guard Zack Johnson. Quarterback Easton Stick, who's 20-2 as a starter, has two more seasons, and the losses of running back King Frazier and fullback Chase Morlock are tempered in the offensive backfield by the return of Lance Dunn and Bruce Anderson. All of the leading receivers also will be back.
Klieman talked after the James Madison loss about his program having "resolve and character unmatched in college football." While the Bison have new motivation for the offseason, there can only be one result next season for their FCS dynasty to continue.