JMU football will head to Frisco, Texas, for the third time in the past four seasons come Saturday. This year, it’s a rematch of the 2017 FCS National Championship game — the Dukes will take on North Dakota State.
The Bison have been the hallmark of FCS football since winning their first national title in 2011 under former head coach Craig Bohl. Since then, they’ve had a near clean sweep of championships, including the 2017 bout with the Dukes.
No Division-I college football team has done what NDSU has since 2011.
The Bison have won nine straight MVFC titles and have won the National Championship seven times. The only year they failed to reach Frisco was in 2016, when they fell to JMU during the semifinal in Fargo, North Dakota.
The Bison’s dominance has come under three head coaches: former head coaches Craig Bohl and Chris Klieman, and current head coach Matt Entz. They have a combined record of 188-8 when coaching NDSU, and Entz’s predecessors have both earned jobs at the FBS level — Bohl at Wyoming and Klieman at Kansas State.
As a whole, the program boasts the sixth-best winning percentage in the FCS behind three Ivy League schools — Harvard, Princeton and Yale — Grambling State and Kennesaw State, whose football team began play in 2015.
JMU hasn’t matched the accolades NDSU has accrued over the past nine years, but there are many similarities between the programs. Both have hosted College GameDay twice, and both are FCS schools that have received votes in the AP Top 25. The Dukes received votes in 2010 following their 21-16 win over then-No. 13 Virginia Tech, while the Bison finished the 2012 season with one vote and the 2013 season with 17 votes.
NDSU’s key players
NDSU’s offense runs through redshirt freshman quarterback Trey Lance, who’s emerged as one of the nation’s most dynamic quarterbacks. After beating Iowa State transfer and junior quarterback Zeb Noland for the starting job, Lance has put together a resume fit for a championship.
Lance leads the Bison in both rushing and passing yards, averaging 62.3 yards on the ground and 180.9 through the air. The Marshall, Minnesota, native also leads the country in passing efficiency at 182.80 and has yet to throw an interception this season, arguably his most impressive statistic.
In the backfield, NDSU splits carries between junior running back Adam Cofield and senior running back Ty Brooks. Brooks, who hails from Fargo, North Dakota, averages 86.1 all-purpose yards per game and is 60 rushing yards away from breaking the 1,000 yard mark. Cofield is used as a short-yard back and has garnered 11 touchdowns in 2019.
Defensively, junior linebacker Jabril Cox has been active for the Bison. He leads the team in solo tackles with 54 and has made 8.5 tackles for loss. He’s also added 4.5 sacks, five quarterback hits and one interception.
History between JMU and NDSU
The Bison and Dukes have met three times. The first was in 2011 in the second round of the FCS Playoffs, where NDSU swept JMU 26-14 in front of a home crowd. The second meeting was in 2016, when JMU put a hold on the Bison dynasty, downing NDSU 27-17 en route to the program’s second national title. The third matchup came a year later when the Bison got their revenge and defeated the Dukes 17-13 in the National Championship.
NDSU has cemented itself as the powerhouse of FCS football. JMU has proven to be a top program, but needs to show it can take down the Bison in the biggest game of the season if it wants to establish itself in the upper echelon of the FCS. By the end of Saturday, NDSU’s dynasty will either continue, or the Dukes will stamp their place in the history books. Kickoff is set for noon, and the game will be broadcast on ABC.
Contact Noah Ziegler at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more football coverage, follow the sports desk on Twitter @TheBreezeSports.