COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NDSU advances in FCS playoffs
FARGO -- The North Dakota State football team answered emphatically when questions still remained Saturday. D.J McNorton's 60-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter came immediately after James Madison pulled to within five points of the lead, ...
FARGO -- The North Dakota State football team answered emphatically when questions still remained Saturday.
D.J McNorton's 60-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter came immediately after James Madison pulled to within five points of the lead, and a swarming defense helped the Bison hold on for a 26-14 victory against the Dukes during the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs before 18,020 fans at the Fargodome.
"They are a very athletic, fast team," McNorton said of the Dukes. "You have to go. You can't do a lot of tipping or make many moves. You have to hit (the hole)."
James Madison (8-4) cut the NDSU lead to 19-14 on a 35-yard pass by receiver Kelby Long to quarterback Justin Thorpe.
The play appeared to be a reverse to Long, which suckered in all Bison defenders for run support.
Thorpe, one of the Dukes' top running threats, was able to sneak unchecked downfield for a wide open catch in the end zone.
It was a tense moment for a raucous Bison crowd. NDSU didn't roll up many big plays through the opening three quarters due to James Madison stingy pass defense.
And the running game couldn't break loose.
NDSU (11-1) needed a big drive to calm the nerves and get momentum back.
McNorton provided everything the Bison needed one the first play of the drive.
James Madison had already set the Bison up at their own 40-yard line with a kickoff out of bounds.
Then McNorton pounded through the line with authority, broke a couple of tackles and raced in for the score to put NDSU ahead 26-14 with 7 minutes, 13 seconds remaining in the game.
"He got to the edge, and he is a great running back," James Madison linebacker Vidal Nelson said of McNorton. "He made a great play."
The Bison defense, which had the Dukes on their heels much of the game, came up with a sack of Thorpe on fourth down as James Madison drove deep in NDSU territory with about 5 minutes on the clock.
Later, John Pike's interception of Thorpe as time expired set off a celebration in the stands.
The Bison are in the FCS quarterfinals for the second-consecutive season.
James Madison, which entered the game 10th in the nation with 234.1 rushing yards per game, was limited to 84 yards on 34 carries.
NDSU ran 37 times for 219 yards. The team ran well with McNorton and Sam Ojuri much of the game. However, drives stalled with penalties or incomplete passes.
The defense, senior kicker Ryan Jastram and McNorton provided more than enough to capture the win.
NDSU quarterback Brock Jensen finished 11 of 18 for 110 yards. His longest throw was 21 yards.
Jastram drilled field goals of 53 and 44 yards.
His 53-yard bomb as time expired gave the Bison a 10-7 halftime lead.
Jastram booted a 44-yarder to make the NDSU lead 19-7 with 9:31 remaining in the fourth quarter.
The Bison will host Lehigh (11-1) in the quarterfinals next Friday or Saturday at the Fargodome. The date and time will be determined today.
"It was a hard fought win," NDSU coach Craig Bohl said. "We are encouraged (about) where we are at as a football team."