North Dakota State did it again, winning their ninth title match in 11 years, continuing their college football dynasty. The NDSU vs. Montana State FCS National Championship was a one-sided affair, with the final score reading 38-10 in favor of the Bison. Fargo, North Dakota will welcome their hometown team with yet another empty trophy slot to be filled.
NDSU vs. Montana State final score
The score is rather unflattering for Montana State, but it’s worth noting that starting true freshman QB Tommy Mellott left the game after the first drive due to injury. His right ankle was rolled up on during a tackle, and after visiting the medical tent, he was unable to return to the contest. “Touchdown Tommy” was one of the hottest QBs heading into the championship bout, but he was visibly hobbled on the field and walking on the sideline.
Matthew McKay began the year as the starter for the Bobcats, but after Mellott’s ascension, McKay opted to enter the transfer portal before the playoffs. As a result, junior Tucker Rovig entered the game in relief of Mellott. He had experience as the team’s QB1 in 2019, but after a few initial nice plays, there was no stopping the avalanche that was about to ensue.
The Hunter Luepke show
What a time to be alive. A fullback — yes, a fullback — was the FCS National Championship MVP. Hunter Luepke balled out this season but saved one of his best performances for the biggest stage. Although he didn’t record a catch, Luepke generated 3 touchdowns (all in the first half) and 82 yards on 14 carries.
Credit to NDSU’s offensive line as well, as they consistently created rushing lanes for their ball carriers to prance through. While Luepke did nearly all his damage between the A gaps (between the guards and center), Quincy Patterson bounced it to the outside. Patterson began the year as North Dakota State’s starter but was usurped by Cam Miller. Nevertheless, he stayed with the team and gifted them 98 yards on 11 rushing attempts.
Speaking of Miller, after missing Luepke on a wide-open pass over the middle — his first of the game — he played efficient football. He only threw 13 passes, but he completed 9 for 126 yards and a score.
Additionally, WR Christian Watson returned from a hamstring injury that kept him out of the previous postseason games. But upon his return, he caught 4 passes for 61 yards and showcased the talent that will see him drafted in April. Kobe Johnson also got in on the fun, pitching in 106 yards on 4 carries, taking one for a 76-yard scamper into the end zone.
Mellott missing nearly the entire contest obviously benefitted NDSU, but their elite defense did not get complacent. They held the Bobcats to 5-of-15 on third down and allowed their only touchdown with just over five minutes remaining in the contest. Safety Dawson Weber had himself a game, producing 5 total tackles, 1 tackle for loss, 1 PBU, and the only turnover of the day — an impressive diving interception.
Montana State came into the championship bout averaging 225.5 rushing yards per game, seventh-most in the FCS. However, NDSU held them to 156 yards with an average of 4.6 yards per carry. Isaiah Ifanse mustered 84 yards on 18 attempts, though he gave his all, pinballing off defenders and gaining as many yards after contact as he could. WR Lance McCutcheon also deserves his flowers, posting a 5-106-1 receiving line against the Bison.
There is the Patriot way, and then there is the Bison way
In the end, North Dakota State’s discipline, execution, and experience proved too much for Montana State to overcome. With their ninth FCS title under their belt, the Bison continue to expand on their already historic dynasty. Their FBS equivalent, Alabama, has five championships to their name.
Furthermore, the next closest team to NDSU in the FCS is not even in the division anymore — Georgia Southern, now in the FBS, owns six FCS championships. The next closest team still in the FCS is Youngstown State with four titles. What’s more jaw-dropping is the Bison are a perfect 9-for-9 in championship matches in just 11 years. Horns up, Bison faithful, you don’t get to experience this often … well, maybe you do.