Bison stampede into FCS championship game with 55-13 victory

FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Bruce Anderson scored five touchdowns — four in the first half — and North Dakota State rolled up 642 yards offense in crushing Sam Houston State 55-13 on Friday night to advance to the FCS championship game.
The second-seeded Bison will face the winner of Saturday’s game between defending champion James Madison and NDSU’s Missouri Valley Football Conference rival South Dakota State on Jan. 6 in Frisco, Texas. James Madison ended the Bison’s run of five straight national championships with a semifinal victory last season and the Jackrabbits, second to the Bison in the MVFC, beat North Dakota State 33-21 at home on Nov. 4.
Friday night’s game was essentially over at halftime after North Dakota State scored touchdowns on six of its seven offensive possessions. The half ended on the Bearkats’ third turnover, an interception by Tre Dempsey, who also made a fumble recovery.
Sixth-seeded Sam Houston State (12-2) came in with the leading offense in the FCS, averaging over 45 points and 552 yards offense. But the Bearkats were squelched by the Bison, finishing with 352 yards but only 176 in the pivotal first half.
The Bearkats drove down the field on their first drive, but couldn’t get into the end zone on first-and-goal from the Bison 10, settling for Tre Honshtein’s 28-yard field goal.
The Bison replied with a 75-yard drive with Easton Stick scoring on a 6-yard run to start the run of 41 first-half points.
Marquise Bridges stepped in front of a Bearkats receiver to make the first of his two interceptions in the game and on the next play Anderson went around the left end for a 62-yard score while surpassing 1,000 yards rushing this season.
Ty Brooks had a career-long run of 55 yards to set up the next score: Stick’s 23-yard pass to Anderson, who was alone in the right corner of the end zone.
Anderson added a 37-yard touchdown run to make it 28-3. On the ensuing kickoff, Dimitri Williams forced a fumble that was recovered by Dempsey and five plays later Anderson was in the end zone again on a 33-yard run.
A one-handed catch by Jeff Illies was good for a 12-yard touchdown and the 38-point halftime lead. The Bison outgained the Bearkats 419-176 while on the way to scoring their most points and gaining their most yards ever in a FCS playoff game
The Bison added second-half touchdowns on Stick passes of 17 yards to Ben Ellefson and 31 yards to Anderson.
Anderson finished with 183 yards rushing on 17 carries and 54 yards receiving on his two TD catches. Wilson, a freshman who had 213 yards rushing coming in, finished with for 194 yards on 24 carries. Stick was 10 of 17 for 160 yards passing with four TD throws and an interception plus his rushing touchdown.
Sam Houston was seeking to advance to its third FCS title game with hopes of winning its first championship, and the first for the Southland Conference. Instead, NDSU increased its series lead to 5-1, including four straight wins in playoff meetings.
The Bearkats’ lone touchdown came on a 2-yard pass from Jeremi Briscoe to Nathan Stewart in the third quarter. Briscoe finished 29 of 51 for 289 yards, going over 5,000 this season, and one touchdown with three interceptions.