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Eagles grounded by Bison
Georgia Southern N Da Heal
North Dakota State's Brock Jensen dives for the end zone against Georgia Southern during Saturday's Football Championship Subdivision semifinal game in Fargo, N.D. - photo by Associated Press


FARGO — For a second consecutive season, Georgia Southern hit a championship speed bump in the national semifinals.

North Dakota State held the Eagles to a season-low point total Saturday at a loud, sold out Fargodome. The Bison defense slowed the GSU triple option en route to a 35-7 victory in the Division I Football Championship Subdivision semifinals before 18,108 fans.

Georgia Southern (11-3) also lost in the national semifinals last season.

"They’re all tough," said GSU head coach Jeff Monken. "It hurt last year and it hurt this year. We’re in the same position and they whipped us. They’ve got a great team."

NDSU (13-1) will play Sam Houston State (Texas) for the national championship on Jan. 7 in Frisco, Texas.

"It was great to be at home and soundly beat a good football team," said NDSU head coach Craig Bohl. "Not only a good football team, but a great program."

GSU missed a chance to play in its ninth national championship game and add to its six FCS titles.

"It’s not where we want to be," said GSU senior cornerback Laron Scott. "Everyone wants to make it to that last game."

NDSU limited the Eagles to 186 rushing yards on 48 attempts. That is the second-lowest rushing output for GSU this season. The Eagles rushed for 135 yards in a loss at Appalachian State during the regular season.

"They played really hard and they were very physical and you have to give them credit," GSU quarterback Jaybo Shaw said of the NDSU defense. "We didn’t get a lot going on offense. They made the plays and they got the stops. The credit goes to those guys."

Shaw said the crowd noise in the Fargodome, deafening at times, also made it tough for the Eagles to get in sync.

"It was pretty tough to change some plays at the line of scrimmage," Shaw said. "It was a tough atmosphere to play in."

Bison sophomore quarterback Brock Jensen helped the Bison start to pull away late in the third quarter. Jensen faked an end around to the right before cutting back off left tackle to the short side of the field. Jensen found room up the sideline and scampered 55 yards for the touchdown.

"We had a blitz called," Monken said. "The corner was supposed to blitz on that side and take the quarterback. … We missed the call from the sideline."

Jensen’s touchdown run staked the Bison to a 20-7 lead with 5 minutes, 53 seconds to play in the third quarter. That run came moments after GSU looked like it was going to tie the game.

Shaw completed a 34-yard pass to slot back J.J. Wilcox, but Wilcox lost the ball at the end of play. Bison senior safety John Pike ripped the ball free near the 5-yard line and NDSU recovered at its own 4.

"You can’t make mistakes like that against a great football team and they are," said Monken, whose team lost three fumbles.

The Eagles were in the thick of things late in the second quarter.

Freshman fullback Dominique Swope evened the score at 7-7 with a 23-yard touchdown with 3 minutes, 58 seconds to play in the first half. Earlier on that drive, the Eagles lined up in punt formation from their own 33-yard line. GSU, however, faked the punt on a fourth-and-5 play. Punter Charlie Edwards shoveled a pass to Johnathan Bryant, who advanced the ball 13 yards to the 46 for a first down. Six plays later, Swope found the end zone.

The Bison quickly countered with a five-play touchdown drive that covered 60 yards in 2 minutes, 20 seconds. Senior wide receiver Warren Holloway capped the march with a 17-yard run on a reverse play. That scored gave NDSU a 14-7 lead with 1:38 remaining in the first half.

GSU marched into field goal range in the closing seconds of the first half, lining up for a 41-yard attempt with 10 seconds remaining.

The Eagles, however, ran a fake. Edwards, the holder, initially scrambled away from pressure, but his pass attempt was broken up in the end zone as time expired in the first half.

"We got lined up and called timeout and we were going to kick it," Monken said. "We thought we could execute the fake that we practiced this week for them. … Sometimes you roll the dice and it works great and sometimes it doesn’t work out."

The Bison finished with 314 rushing yards on 37 attempts with 246 coming in the second half on 24 carries.

"They made the plays they needed to," said GSU junior defensive tackle Brent Russell. "They’re a very good team. Their O-line was probably one of the better ones we have seen this season."

Monken took over as GSU head coach two seasons ago when the program was coming off a 5-6 campaign.

"I’m tremendously proud of our team and for our seniors who two years ago were 5 and 6," Monken said. "Words can’t describe the disappointment that I have for them, not being able to get to the championship game. I hoped we could find a way to win today."