Crockett sends Bison back to FCS title game

Fargo, ND (SportsNetwork.com) - Sam Houston State might have won a national title or two and be headed back to the FCS championship game for more.

If, that is, the Bearkats' success in the postseason hadn't been occurring during North Dakota State's four-year dynasty.

The Bison did it again to Sam Houston Friday night as senior running back John Crockett totaled 232 yards from scrimmage and scored three touchdowns in eliminating the Bearkats, 35-3, in the FCS semifinals at the Fargodome.

Next up for the second-seeded Bison (14-1) is a return to the national championship game in Frisco, Texas, where on Jan. 10 they will try to win an unprecedented fourth straight FCS title against either fellow Missouri Valley Conference member Illinois State or top-seeded New Hampshire, who play in the other semifinal on Saturday.

The first two of North Dakota State's three straight wins in the national final came against Sam Houston. The Bison are a combined 57-3 over the last four seasons, and their senior class has the chance to finish with more national championships than losses in their career.

The visiting Bearkats (11-5) from the Southland Conference had hoped for a different result under their first-year coach K.C. Keeler, who had led Delaware to the FCS title in 2003 as well as two other championship appearances.

But the Bison, after playing poorly on offense in first half, ran away from the Bearkats behind Crockett (166 rushing yards, 66 receiving) and their powerful offensive line as well as a defense that slowed down Sam Houston's speed in the skills positions.

The Bison extended their playoff winning streak to 15 games and their home winning streak to 23.

North Dakota State managed only 99 yards in the first half while taking a 7-3 halftime lead, but the Bison nearly matched that total on their second drive of the third quarter when they began to take control of the game.

On the third play, Crockett went undefended coming out of the backfield for a 35-yard reception from quarterback Carson Wentz. On the next play, Crockett's backup, King Frazier, sliced through the Sam Houston defensive line for a 33- yard touchdown run which put the Bison ahead 14-3 midway the quarter.

On the first play of North Dakota State's next drive, Crockett went around left end to explode for a 55-yard touchdown run which extended the lead to 21-3 with 6:52 remaining in the quarter.

That margin is usually insurmountable for North Dakota State, but for good measure, Crockett scored on a 10-yard run early in the fourth quarter before Wentz connected with R.J. Urzendowski for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 3:18 left to play.

In the statement performance by coach Chris Klieman's squad, the Bison outgained Sam Houston by a decisive 217 yards to 49 in the third quarter and 398-338 overall to end the Bearkats' eight-game winning streak.

The Bison's improved offensive success in the second half was welcomed after they clung to the 7-3 halftime lead.

After the first three Sam Houston possessions didn't produce a first down in the first quarter, the Bison ran off a nine-play, 68-yard scoring drive for a 7-0 lead. Crockett caught a 31-yard reception on the drive and then went off right tackle to ease into the Sam Houston end zone from 3 yards out with 3:52 left.

Sam Houston quarterback Jared Johnson's 39-yard pass to Gerald Thomas to the Bison 11 on the first play of the second quarter set up the Bearkats for their only score, Luc Swimberghe's 22-yard field goal which completed a 15-play, 82- yard drive and pulled them within 7-3 with 13:37 left in the first half.

On Sam Houston's following drive, Swimberghe missed a 46-yard field goal attempt.

Johnson, facing great pressure by Bison pass rushers, was 20-for-31 for 227 yards and was picked off in the fourth quarter by linebacker Nick DeLuca, and he added another 66 yards on 25 carries. Wentz was 13-for-19 for 179 yards and one interception in the win.

North Dakota State sophomore wide receiver Carey Woods left the game on a stretcher midway through the first quarter after taking a hit to the back of his neck on a 9-yard reception.