Fargo, ND (SportsNetwork.com) - North Dakota State trailing in the fourth quarter has been a rarity during its three-year reign as the FCS champion, but the Bison have come from behind to win two consecutive playoff games in eight days.
Indeed, they continue to have the collective heart of a champion even as teams get closer in the rear-view mirror.
Running back John Crockett rushed for a school playoff-record 227 yards and two touchdowns and became the Bison's new single-season rushing leader while second-seeded North Dakota State held off seventh-seeded Coastal Carolina, 39-32, Saturday for the second consecutive year in the national quarterfinals.
The game was far different from North Dakota State's 48-14 playoff rout of Coastal last season, but the Bison (13-1) will host Sam Houston State (11-4) in the national semifinals next weekend. The Bison defeated Sam Houston in both the 2011 and '12 national championship games.
A week ago, the Bison rallied past Missouri Valley Conference rival South Dakota State in the final minute of their second-round game. On Saturday, they fell behind for the first time, 32-31, on Coastal running back De'Angelo Henderson's 2-yard touchdown run to open the fourth quarter. The Chanticleers, however, failed on a two-point attempt after a second straight score, keeping their lead at one point.
North Dakota State then retook the lead two possessions later when Crockett found running room along the Coastal sideline and scored on a 45-yard dash with 9:28 remaining to play. Quarterback Carson Wentz ran up the middle to score a two-point conversion and lift the Bison advantage to 39-32.
On Coastal's next drive, the Chanticleers converted a fake punt just inside their territory, but didn't gain another first down on the drive. After NDSU's Adam Keller missed a 49-yard field goal that could have put the win away, Bison safety Colten Heagle (team-high 12 tackles) stymied the Chants' final drive with an interception of Alex Ross just inside Bison territory with 53 seconds remaining.
Crockett, who's gained three 1,000-yard seasons, has 1,754 this season on a school-record 320 carries, including 26 on Saturday. He's scored 17 of his 18 touchdowns on the ground.
Wentz accounted for three touchdowns (two passing, one rushing) in the win. But Big South co-champion Coastal Coastal Carolina (12-2) was nearly up to the challenge, scoring the most points against NDSU during the Bison's playoff win streak.
Henderson had 143 rushing yards and the touchdown, Ross rushed for two touchdowns and All-American Quinn Backus finished with eight tackles to end his illustrious career with 441 stops, 14th on the FCS all-time list.
North Dakota State, which had won 22 straight home games and 14 consecutive playoff games, had hoped to assert itself in the second half after clinging to a 24-20 halftime advantage.
After Coastal's offense went three-and-out to begin the third quarter, the Bison completed a nine-play, 69-yard drive with Wentz's 2-yard scoring run around right end providing a 31-20 lead.
But Ross capped the Chanticleers' following possession by diving into the North Dakota State for a 4-yard touchdown and they pulled within 31-26 at the 3:29 mark.
Henderson's go-ahead touchdown capped a quick-strike, four-play drive which went 95 yards when Ross had a 48-yard pass to John Israel, Henderson a 32-yard run and Ross a 13-yard pass to Osharmar Abercrombie.
The first half featured offensive firepower as North Dakota State took a 24-20 lead at halftime.
Crockett opened the scoring with a 70-yard touchdown and Wentz fired touchdowns to Kevin Vaadeland and Luke Albers. But Coastal moved the chains and Devin Brown returned a kickoff 98 yards for a touchdown midway through the second quarter, tying the game at 17-17.
Alex Catron's 25-yard field goal on the final play of the half pulled Coastal within 24-20.