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Numbers Never Lie: FCS title game numbers to keep an eye on

Football is and always will be a team game. There's no denying that.

Good teams aren't just made up of one or two great players, especially when you consider the athletes on North Dakota State and Sam Houston State.

For example, a stud running back is only as good as the guys blocking in front of him; a solid cornerback has success because he can take risks, knowing he has a safety to protect him from behind; and a place-kicker has a greater chance of nailing a game-winner if the snapper and the holder are in synch.

While this is always the case for teams competing for a national championship, like the Bison and the Bearkats, who meet again on Jan. 5 for the FCS title in Frisco, Texas, sometimes the play under center can take an exception to overall team aspect.

Take Sam Houston's Brian Bell and North Dakota State's Brock Jensen. Both starting quarterbacks are juniors and accustomed to the limelight over the last two years.

"He's been a two-year starter, actually a three-year starter," NDSU coach Craig Bohl said about Jensen. "I've been in a lot of big ball games. He always seems to rise to his best when he plays in the biggest games, and a lot of that, I guess, that's his competitive nature because he always prepares very well. He's been a guy that has got the skill to throw the football short and deep and then also the toughness to run the football."

Jensen might not have the biggest arm, averaging 158 passing yards per game, but he's efficient and a proven leader for a team looking to win back-to-back FCS national titles.

In three seasons, Jensen is 31-5 as a starter. And in 14 games this year, he's directed a run-first Bison offense and still managed to throw for 2,216 yards and 17 touchdowns, and rush for nine touchdowns.

Bell took over the reins of the Sam Houston offense in 2010. As a sophomore last season, he helped turn the Bearkats into one of the FCS' most dangerous scoring teams.

This season, he set the school record for wins as a starting quarterback, entering the title game with 30 victories and a senior year still ahead of him.

Even Fritz understands there's room for Bell to grow as a quarterback - a scary thought.

"Well, I think that's also a big part of it as well," Fritz said about Bell improving as a passer. "Each year, you try to add things to your repertoire and Brian is certainly capable of dealing with whatever we throw at him.

"He's a coach's kid and he's raised in a football family. His brother is a very successful high school coach in Texas, dad's a very successful coach. So, you know, like all quarterbacks, I'm sure he welcomes the opportunity to throw the ball a little bit more than what we have done in the past. But he just makes very good decisions for us, we have got total confidence in him running our attack for us."

Bell, like Jensen, doesn't need to beat teams with his arm because that's not the game plan for either team. But, if needed, the junior can throw it around just fine.

In 14 games this year, he's thrown for 2.460 yards and 24 touchdowns versus just seven interceptions.

It's safe to say each coach has little problem with putting the game in the hands of his young gunslinger.

For all the promise in its teams, some things can never be ignored.

Whether it be scores, statistics or standout performances, the numbers never lie.

Here are some important figures leading up to the 2012 FCS national championship game that should not be overlooked:

After Sam Houston State's Sept. 21 loss at Central Arkansas - which dropped the team to 1-2 overall to start the season - the Bearkats won 10 of their next 11 contests, only losing to Johnny Football and FBS Texas A&M. Seven of the wins during that streak came on the road.

Through 14 games this season, SHSU is allowing just 84 rushing yards per game. Only two FCS opponents (Southeastern Louisiana and Cal Poly) have rushed for over 100 yards. In fact, this season, Sam Houston has allowed just seven total rushing touchdowns and only two of those have come versus FCS foes.

North Dakota State ranks first in the FCS in total defense (223 yards per game), passing defense (131 yards per game) and scoring defense (11 points per game).

The Bison also rank third in the FCS in rushing defense (92 yards per game) and second in defensive third-down efficiency at 28.07 percent.

Sam Houston State signal-caller Brian Bell has thrown just one interception and 12 touchdowns in his team's last seven games. In 14 games this season, Bell has completed 61.6 percent of his passes for 2,460 yards and 24 touchdowns.

Bell's primary targets, receivers Trey Diller and Chance Nelson, average 15 and 20 yards per reception, respectively. Nelson only averages 47 receiving yards per game, but he's scored nine touchdowns this season, while Diller has hauled in 58 catches for 881 yards and four touchdowns.

NDSU leads the FCS in time of possession, holding onto the ball for an average of 34 minutes, 39 seconds. SHSU ranks fourth in the FCS with an average of 34:00. Both numbers would rank first in the FBS this season.

NDSU running backs John Crockett and Sam Ojuri have combined for 19 rushing touchdowns this season. Crockett has rushed for 956 yards and nine touchdowns and averages 68 yards per game on the ground, compared to Ojuri's 955 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns and 73 yards per game average.

North Dakota State's leading tacklers on defense are Grant Olson (146), Travis Beck (93), Carlton Littlejohn (75) and Cole Jirik (55). They have combined for 43.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks in 14 games.

Both teams place-kickers have been very reliable through 14 games this year. SHSU's Miguel Antonio has made 18-of-22 field goals and NDSU's Adam Keller has connected on 17-of-22 kicks this year.

Sam Houston State running back Timothy Flanders has rushed for 100 yards or more in 10 games this season. Although he's yet to find the end zone in three playoff games, he's carried the ball 82 times for 438 yards.

Flanders has totaled 1,589 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns in 14 games this season. The junior ranks second in the FCS in active career rushing touchdowns with 52.

The 2011 national title game matchup between the two schools proved to be a defensive struggle. Sam Houston only rushed for 95 yards on 42 carries and did not score a touchdown. The team's only points came off two field goals. Bell completed just 12-of-31 passes and threw two interceptions.

North Dakota State only rushed for 115 yards and passed for 120. Jensen threw and rushed for a touchdown and the Bison left Frisco with a 17-6 victory, and their first-ever FCS national title.