Sam Houston wins 2020-21 FCS championship over South Dakota State
Sam Houston wins the 2020-21 FCS championship game
Sam Houston is FCS national champion for the first time.
SHSU defeated South Dakota State 23-21 on a game-winning 10-yard touchdown pass with 16 seconds left. South Dakota State ran two plays after a kickoff return and was stopped just past midfield on an attempt to keep the game alive through laterals.
See the final stats | Final bracket | Championship history
You can watch Sam Houston's full game-winning drive, ending with a touchdown pass from Eric Schmid to Ife Adeyi, below.
Schmid finished 20-of-37 with 209 yards and three passing touchdowns. His top target was Jequez Ezzard, who had 10 catches for 108 yards and two first half touchdowns. Ezzard also had a punt return touchdown brought back due to a penalty away from the play.
For South Dakota State, true freshman running back Isaiah Davis finished with a career high 178 yards and three touchdowns on just 14 carries. His 85-yard touchdown run with 5:41 left in the game gave SDSU its first lead since the first quarter.
But the Jackrabbits offense took a big hit to start the game, losing freshman quarterback Mark Gronowski to injury on the opening drive.
With the win, Sam Houston's K.C. Keeler became the first head coach to win an FCS title at multiple schools. He also led Delaware to the 2003 national championship.
Sam Houston 23, South Dakota State 21 | 0:16 Q4
What a wild, incredible final quarter.
Sam Houston is back in the lead on a goal line strike from Eric Schmid to Ife Adeyi with just 16 seconds remaining. SHSU missed the ensuing PAT to keep it a two-point game.
South Dakota State takes over after the kickoff with 10 seconds left.
South Dakota State 21, Sam Houston 17 | 5:41 Q4
Freshman Isaiah Davis is having himself a breakout game. The true freshman puts South Dakota State ahead with under six minutes left on an 85-yard touchdown.
Davis has scored all three SDSU touchdowns today with 178 yards on 14 carries.
Sam Houston, who already has two second half comebacks these playoffs, caught a break on an ensuing kickoff that went out of bounds. Buckle in for the final stretch.
Sam Houston 17, South Dakota State 14 | 13:12 Q4
And here comes South Dakota State. The top-seeded Jackrabbits wasted little time, starting the fourth quarter with a quick touchdown to cut the deficit to a field goal.
True freshman Isaiah Davis broke free for a 28-yard touchdown run, his second of the day and ninth on the season. That was his third run of 20+ yards today.
HE CAN'T BE STOPPED!— NCAA FCS Football (@NCAA_FCS) May 16, 2021
What a run by Isaiah Davis🏃♂️💨
📺 @ABC#FCSChampionship x @GoJacksFB pic.twitter.com/1WtG6fPjQH
END Q3: Sam Houston 17, South Dakota State 7
We are a quarter away from crowning a first-time FCS champion. No. 2 seed Sam Houston leads No. 1 South Dakota State 17-7.
Jequez Ezzard nearly added a tremendous one-handed catch in the end zone to his highlight reel day, but he could not maintain possession. SHSU settled for a 45-yard field goal from true freshman Seth Morgan to bookend a 10-play drive.
South Dakota State had its own long drive halted early in the quarter at SHSU's 33-yard line. Opting to go for it on fourth down, after failing on two field goal attempts in the first half, Keaton Heide missed his target for a turnover on downs.
SDSU now has the ball back at the opponent's 49-yard line to begin the final quarter.
HALFTIME: Sam Houston 14, South Dakota State 7
Jequez Ezzard is once again sparking Sam Houston's offense. After an electric two-touchdown day in SHSU's semifinal comeback last weekend, he already has two touchdowns today in the first half of the national championship game.
His second score came with 1:21 left before halftime, on a pass from Eric Schmid from 15 yards out. Ezzard now has three catches for 60 yards and two touchdowns.
For South Dakota State, rainy conditions may be having an impact on special teams. SDSU has two failed field goal attempts — including one on a poor snap. With starting QB Mark Gronowski departing early due to injury, backup Keaton Heide is 3-of-7 for 16 yards and an interception.
Below are the first half team stats. Due to an extended lightning delay in the second quarter, action will resume after a condensed, three-minute halftime break.
FCS championship play resumes after long lightning delay
After a 71-minute lightning delay, the FCS championship game has resumed. South Dakota State has the ball at Sam Houston's 41-yard line, tied 7-7, with 8:25 left in the first half.
The halftime break will now be only three minutes long and teams will remain on the field.
Lightning delay stops play in second quarter
A weather delay has halted play with 8:25 remaining in the second quarter. Lightning was detected in the area, triggering a 30-minute delay. If another lightning occurrence happens during this timeframe, another 30-minute delay will be issued.
Here is the updated weather forecast in Frisco, Texas.
Fans at Toyota Stadium have been told to exit the stadium and seek shelter in their cars. They will be allowed re-entry once conditions improve.
Before play was stopped, Sam Houston tied the game at 7-7 on a 35-yard catch-and-run touchdown from Jequez Ezzard. After having a punt return touchdown erased by penalty in the first quarter, the dynamic Ezzard would not be denied this time around. Watch the play below.
Just Jequez Ezzard doing Jequez Ezzard things ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ #SouthlandStrong #EatEmUpKats #FCS pic.twitter.com/E2B5ZiFh1u— Southland Conference (@SouthlandSports) May 16, 2021
END Q1: South Dakota State 7, Sam Houston 0
South Dakota State's opening drive ended with an unpleasant sight — freshman QB Mark Gronowski limping toward the sideline with an apparent left leg injury. Gronowski was the Missouri Valley Football Conference player of the year.
Keaton Heide entered at QB for SDSU's next drive after a Sam Houston fumble loss at its 41-yard line. Running back Isaiah Davis would break free for a big 20-yard rush down the right side to set himself up for a 1-yard touchdown run to open the game's scoring.
The Jackrabbits strike FIRST in the National Championship game 👏— NCAA FCS Football (@NCAA_FCS) May 16, 2021
📺 @ABC#FCSChampionship x @GoJacksFB pic.twitter.com/jn0UyUvV8s
An illegal block in the back negated a would-be game-tying punt return touchdown from Sam Houston's Jaquez Ezzard to close out the first quarter. South Dakota State holds the 7-0 lead.
ESPN's Kris Budden reported that Gronowski is out for the remainder of the game. His replacement, Heide, attempted just two passes this year entering Sunday, but started five games in 2019.
Expect RBs Davis (71.1 yards per game) and Pierre Strong Jr. (81.2 ypg) to get the bulk of the work for SDSU's offense with Gronowski out.
2020-21 FCS championship game kicks off
The 2020-21 FCS championship game is officially underway at a rainy Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. We'll have a first-time national champion at the end of the day.
Sam Houston won the coin toss and deferred to the second half. South Dakota State starts the first drive of the game at the 37-yard line.
Stay here for live updates and scores through the final whistle. You can watch the game on ABC or WatchESPN.
Poll: Who will win the FCS championship?
We're about an hour away from kickoff for the 2020-21 FCS championship game between South Dakota State and Sam Houston.
Who do you think will win? Vote below in a Twitter poll from @NCAA_FCS.
IT'S ALMOST GAME TIME‼️🏈— NCAA FCS Football (@NCAA_FCS) May 16, 2021
Who do YOU think will come out on top@BearkatsFB or @GoJacksFB ⁉️🤔🏆#FCSChampionship
Follow today's FCS national championship game
South Dakota State and Sam Houston will meet for the 2020-21 FCS national championship today. The top two seeds in this year's playoff field are both seeking their first title as FCS programs.
No. 1 South Dakota State is playing in its first national title game after a historic year that included a Dakota Marker victory over top rival and three-time defending champion North Dakota State to close out the regular season. No. 2 Sam Houston returns to the championship game after back-to-back runner-up finishes in 2011-12. You can read our full game preview here.
Here's the schedule for Sunday's championship game from Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.
- No. 1 South Dakota State vs. No. 2 Sam Houston | 2 p.m. ET| Live stats | Broadcast: ABC | Stream: Watch ESPN
Click or tap here to view the interactive tournament bracket
To view a .PDF of the printable bracket, click or tap here.
Southeastern Louisiana's Cole Kelley wins Walter Payton Award
Southeastern Louisiana quarterback Cole Kelley was announced the 2020-21 Stats Perform FCS Walter Payton Award winner Saturday afternoon. The senior is the 34th winner of the annual award given to the top offensive player in the FCS.
Kelley is the fifth straight quarterback to win the award. He led the FCS in passing yards (2,662), completions (210), total offensive yards (2,708) and total touchdowns (27 total; 18 passing, seven rushing and two receiving) in seven games this season.
Kelley edged out Eastern Washington QB Eric Barriere by six points in final voting (137 to 131). He received 16 of the 40 first-place votes. Sacred Heart RB Julius Chestnut finished third with 84 total points.
Here is the complete history of the FCS Walter Payton Award.
Southern’s Jordan Lewis wins Buck Buchanan Award
Southern defensive end Jordan Lewis was named the 2020-21 Stats Perform FCS Buck Buchanan Award recipient Saturday afternoon, becoming the 26th winner in the award's history and the first in SWAC history.
The Buck Buchanan Award is given to the top defensive player in FCS football. Lewis finished with 15 tackles for loss and 10.5 sacks in only five games this spring.
Lewis placed ahead linebackers Colby Campbell (Presbyterian) and Stone Snyder (VMI) in the final tallies. A 40-member national media panel voted following the regular season, which spanned the fall and spring semesters.
The 2020-21 Walter Payton Award winner will also be named this afternoon. The three finalists are Eric Barriere (Eastern Washington), Cole Kelley (Southeastern Louisiana) and Julius Chestnut (Sacred Heart).
South Dakota State vs. Sam Houston: FCS championship game preview
No. 1 South Dakota State faces No. 2 Sam Houston for the 2020-21 FCS national championship this Sunday, May 16 in Frisco, Texas. Both schools eye their first FCS title.
NCAA.com's Anthony Chiusano previewed the game with a glimpse at key storylines for Sunday and what both teams' paths to the national championship looked like.
The national championship kicks off at 2 p.m. ET Sunday on ABC and ESPN3. Click or tap here to see the updated interactive bracket. Click or tap here to listen to Westwood One's live radio coverage.