Fargo, ND - Whew! – Fargo, ND (SportsNetwork.com) - Whew!
North Dakota State's reign as the three-time FCS national champion was pushed to the limit by South Dakota State on Saturday, but freshman R.J. Urzendowski's second touchdown reception of the game with 54 seconds left lifted the second- seeded Bison to a 27-24 win in the second round of the playoffs Saturday.
Urzendowski caught a 12-yard fade pattern from quarterback Carson Wentz to erase South Dakota State's go-ahead touchdown just minutes earlier and send North Dakota State (12-1) to next weekend's national quarterfinals, where they will host seventh-seeded Coastal Carolina (12-1).
"Young kids made a few plays at the end," NDSU coach Chris Klieman said after the win. "That's why this league is this league. Every week, week in and week out. I knew this game was going to come down to the fourth quarter."
Before South Dakota State fell for the seventh straight time to Missouri Valley Football Conference rival North Dakota State, the Jackrabbits (9-5) thought they might have a stunning upset. Quarterback Austin Sumner's 3-yard touchdown pass to freshman Jake Wieneke with 3:18 left put the visitors ahead, 24-20.
But the Bison drove 76 yards in eight plays, helped by a pass interference that moved the ball 14 yards to the South Dakota State 7.
After Wentz threw an incompletion and the Bison were moved back five yards by a false start, Wentz faked a handoff to John Crockett and lofted the game-winning pass over SDSU cornerback Dallas Brown and into the hands of the 6-foot Urzendowski just inside the end zone.
On the first play of South Dakota State's ensuing possession, Tre Dempsey intercepted Sumner at the Jackrabbits' 25 to put North Dakota State's escape on ice.
The Bison overcame South Dakota State senior running back Zach Zenner, who rushed for 133 yards and two touchdowns while becoming the first player in NCAA Division I history to surpass 2,000 yards in a season for a third time. He finished the season with 2,019 yards.
Zenner kept South Dakota State's go-ahead drive alive with a 5-yard run on 4th- and-2 at the Bison 32. The Jackrabbits scored when Sumner faked a handoff to Zenner and fired a quick slant to Wieneke in the Bison end zone with 3:18 left to play.
North Dakota State built a 14-0 lead in the first half as Wentz fired a 27-yard touchdown pass to Urzendowski and then ran in a 27-yard score.
Urzendowski finished with four receptions for 109 yards. Crockett rushed for 102 yards on 23 carries and Wentz had 70 yards on 13 carries.
South Dakota State fought back to tie the game 14-14 before halftime on two Zenner touchdown runs in the second quarter.
Justin Syrovatka's 33-yard field goal at the 6:43 mark of the third quarter put the Jackrabbits ahead 17-14, but NDSU's Adam Keller countered with two field goals and the Bison went back ahead 20-17.