FRISCO, Texas — Redshirt freshman quarterback Trey Lance ran for 166 yards, and James Hendricks had an interception at the goal line in the final seconds as North Dakota State held on to claim its eighth FCS national championship with a 28-20 win over James Madison on Saturday.
The Bison (16-0) stretched their FCS-record winning streak to 37 in a row — with three consecutive national titles — and completed the first 16-win season in any division since Yale in 1894.
After stopping Lance short on a fourth-and-2 at its 36 with 2:51 remaining, James Madison (14-2) drove to the 3. Hendricks, who earlier had a 20-yard touchdown run on a fake field goal, then picked off the pass by Ben DiNucci.
“I just left my guy and knew that they were going to throw it, and trusted that he was going to throw to the flat, and not the guy that I’m supposed to cover,” said Hendricks, who was a third-string quarterback before moving to defense a sophomore in 2017.
“To go out on top as a senior is an incredible feeling. That’s what I’ll remember. … I just feel so fortunate.
Lance, on a third-and-23 play to open the fourth quarter, had a clutch 44-yard touchdown run to put the Bison up 28-13. He dropped back to pass, found no one open and when “the Red Sea just kind of parted,” he took off running to the end zone.
“He’s very dynamic. For him to be that young, that calm in the pocket is pretty crazy,” All-America defensive end Ron’Dell Carter said.
The Bison won their eighth FCS championship in nine years, after five NCAA Division II national titles between 1983-90.
The Dukes, after beating the Bison on the road in the semifinals, won the 2016 title — the only team other than North Dakota State to have won it since North Dakota State started its run to cap the 2011 season.
James Madison’s Riley Stapleton had two touchdown catches, with his 5-yard reception from DiNucci pulling the Dukes within 28-20 with 7 minutes remaining. Stapleton also had two TD catches in the national title game two years ago in a loss to North Dakota State.
DiNucci finished 22-of-33 passing for 204 yards.
“Honestly, I don’t really think they won that game. Honestly, I think we lost it,” DiNucci said. “Trick plays; they’ll probably tell you we out-physicaled them.”
Lance was only 6-of-10 passing for 72 yards and carried the ball a season-high 30 times for the Bison. He has now attempted 289 passes without ever throwing an interception.
Stapleton had a 5-yard TD on the opening drive of the game for James Madison, but the Bison quickly got even on Adam Cofield‘s 1-yard TD run.
North Dakota State used some trickery to score twice in the second quarter. Receiver Phoenix Sproles swept around and faked a reverse handoff before running 38 yards for a touchdown, and Hendricks lined up for an apparent field goal when he took the snap, then got up and ran to the end zone.
James Madison: The Dukes, with first-year coach Curt Cignetti, got off to an impressive start, going 86 yards on 17 plays and taking half of the first quarter for their opening drive. Stapleton’s 5-yard TD catch gave them their only lead before NDSU also scored on its first possession.
North Dakota State: Make it 8-for-8 for the Bison for championships won when making it from Fargo to Frisco. Their eighth appearance in the FCS championship matched the most with Georgia Southern, which won six of their title games. … The only two Division I winning streaks longer than NDSU are Washington (40, from 1908-14) and Oklahoma’s record 48 in a row was 1953-57.
James Madison opens the 2020 season at home Sept. 5 in a CAA game against Delaware with holes to fill. The Dukes will have a new quarterback, and the Stapleton brothers — receiver Riley and tight end Dylan — played their last game, as did All-American defensive end Ron’Dell Carter.
North Dakota State will go for its fourth win over a Power Five team in eight seasons in a Sept. 5 season opener at Oregon. The Bison have wins over Kansas State, Iowa State and No. 13 Iowa since 2013.