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Anthony Chiusano | | January 13, 2020

North Dakota State football beats James Madison for eighth FCS championship

North Dakota State wins the FCS Championship, 28-20

FRISCO, Texas — North Dakota State football is the FCS national champion for a record eighth time after defeating James Madison 28-20 to close out the 2019-20 season.

The Bison made history in Frisco, becoming the first modern-era DI college football program to go 16-0 in a single season. Only 1894 Yale shares that honor. 

North Dakota State led 28-13 following a 44-yard touchdown run by quarterback Trey Lance to open the fourth quarter. But James Madison battled back with a Riley Stapleton touchdown catch (his second of the game) and a final drive to NDSU's 5-yard line.

But NDSU safety James Hendricks clinched the win with an interception on Ben DiNucci's pass to the end zone with seven seconds left. Hendricks finished with eight tackles, an interception and a first-half touchdown run on a fake field goal.


Lance finished the game with 166 rushing yards and a touchdown on 30 attempts. He was only asked to throw 10 times (6-of-10, 72 yards) on a blustery day in Frisco, Texas. Lance, the first freshman to win the Walter Payton Award, finished 2019-20 without a single interception.

Follow along below for a full recap from the national championship game on Jan. 11, 2020. Click or tap here for the final box score.

North Dakota State vs. James Madison: Live updates


What a finish. James Madison marches down the field, with the help of some critical NDSU penalties, but Bison safety James Hendricks picks off JMU quarterback Ben DiNucci at the goal line to ice the game. North Dakota State is FCS national champion for the eighth time.

Hendricks finishes the day with eight tackles, a touchdown on a fake field goal and the game-clinching interception. 


James Madison gets its stop, and preserves all three of its timeouts with 2:51 remaining. The Dukes stuff Lance on a 4th and 2 attempt to take over at its own 37. JMU needs a touchdown and 2-point conversion to tie it up.


It's not over yet. Riley Stapleton corrals his second 5-yard TD reception of the game to trim the gap. JMU's drive lasted 11 plays, 44 yards and 4:29 in time of possession. The Dukes seek a defensive stop now, with three timeouts and just over six minutes left in regulation. 


Trey Lance is clutch. And fast. For the second time today, NDSU opens a quarter with a long touchdown run on the first play. This time, Lance raced 44 yards on a 3rd and 23 to score his first touchdown of the game. He went untouched.

Lance's day so far: 5-of-9 passing for 50 yards; 22 rushes for 138 yards and a touchdown. Not bad for a redshirt freshman.


Both teams' defenses came out strong in the third quarter as neither team found the end zone in the frame. But James Madison added a short field goal on its opening drive of the half to cut into NDSU's lead and make it, potentially, a one-score game.

We head into the final quarter with another tight one between these two FCS powers. NDSU starts the fourth with the ball at JMU's 44-yard line, facing a 3rd and 23.


After a James Madison field goal attempt doinks off the right upright, the Bison settle for a two-score lead at halftime. JMU's Ethan Ratke was actually on target with his first attempt from 39 yards out, but NDSU coach Matt Entz smartly called a timeout to negate the make and force the retry.

Here are the team and individual stats at halftime. 👇

fcS halftime


🚨 Fake field goal alert. 🚨 After a James Madison field goal, it appeared NDSU would settle for three points of its own on its drive. But starting safety James Hendricks, serving as field goal holder, took the snap and ran 20 yards for a sneaky touchdown.

NDSU has 172 yards on 20 rushing attempts — that's an impressive 8.6 yards per rush average. Lance only has four passing attempts so far in the first half.


The first play of the second quarter goes for a 38-yard touchdown on a fake double reverse. NDSU's Phoenix Sproles keeps it and runs up the left sideline for the score.

But the play of the drive has to be a 14-yard rush by Lance that seemed destined for no gain. Lance shook off an initial tackler and then ran through a herd of Dukes to pick up the first down — with some help from his offensive line. Yesterday, Entz praised the veteran offensive line and revealed the group's nickname.

"If we're going to talk offensive line, let's make sure we understand that they're called the Rams," Entz said. "That's their nickname. That's what it's been for a number of years now. They really appreciate that."


Maybe the weather and field conditions won't be a factor after all. Each team exchanges a touchdown on their opening possessions. NDSU ties it up with a 55-yard drive, with most of the yardage gained on the ground.

Redshirt freshman quarterback Trey Lance, fresh off his historic Walter Payton Award win last night, had six rushes for 41 yards, including a huge 32-yard breakaway on a 3rd and 11 play in the Bison's own territory. Adam Cofield is credited with a 1-yard touchdown from about the half-yard line.


An impressive opening drive by James Madison culminates in a 5-yard touchdown grab by Riley Stapleton on a slant up the middle. JMU drove 86 yards on the top-ranked scoring defense in the country. Four different receivers had at least one catch on the drive.

It's Stapleton's ninth touchdown of the year. The senior's not new to this stage. In the Dukes' 2017 title game loss to NDSU, Stapleton finished with seven catches for 107 yards.


Let the 2020 FCS championship game begin. North Dakota State wins the coin toss and elects to defer to the second half. James Madison's second-ranked offense will get the ball first. Tune in now on ABC or listen here on Westwood One. 

NDSU is 7-0 all-time in FCS title game appearances; JMU is 2-1.

PREGAME | 11:23 a.m. ET

North Dakota State made championship history last year with its unprecedented seventh FCS title. More milestones could be reached this year with a Bison win. Here are two interesting tidbits from the North Dakota State game notes:

  • Matt Entz could become the eighth first-year DI coach to go undefeated, and the first since Chris Petersen led Boise State to a perfect record in 2006. You may remember what went down in that year's Fiesta Bowl vs. Oklahoma. 
  • NDSU could become the first 16-0 team in modern-era college football with a win today. The only other program to ever go 16-0 was 1894 Yale.

PREGAME | 10:54 a.m. ET

We're just over an hour away from the national championship, and it's cold here in Frisco. There's been light snow and rain throughout the early morning, but that's expected to subside just in time for 11 a.m. CT/noon ET kickoff.

Both teams are on the field at Toyota Stadium for warmups. North Dakota State is donning its yellow jerseys with green helmets and pants. James Madison wears its white uniforms and helmets with purple pants.

2019 FCS playoffs: The championship bracket

Twenty-four teams were originally selected to the 2019 FCS championship bracket. Ten were awarded automatic qualification via regular season conference championship. The remaining 14 teams were selected at large.

FCS CHAMPIONSHIP: View the interactive bracket | 2019 printable bracket | Full scoreboard

Below is a look at the 2019 bracket.

2019 FCS bracket

FCS playoffs: Schedule, scores and how to watch

The first round of the 2019 tournament kicked off Saturday, Nov. 30 with eight first-round games, followed by eight more second-round games on Saturday, Dec. 7. The quarterfinals were played Dec. 13-14, and semifinals on Dec. 21.

All games were hosted on campus until the national championship game. The title was decided on Jan. 11, 2020 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

Here is the round-by-round schedule, including past results:

All times in ET


How North Dakota State won its eighth FCS title in nine years

SEMIFINALS (Saturday, Dec. 21)

  • No. 1 North Dakota State 42, No. 5 Montana State 14 : The Bison were dominant against Montana State on Saturday to earn another trip to Frisco. North Dakota rushed for over 300 yards and quarterback Trey Lance was 15-of-21 for 223 yards and three touchdowns. North Dakota State will make its third straight appearance in the FCS national championship game. 
  • No. 2 James Madison 30, No. 3 Weber State 14: James Madison clinched its spot in the title game after easily handling Weber State. Quarterback Ben DiNucci was 19-of-26 for 255 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receiver Riley Stapleton had nine catches for 162 yards and two scores. JMU's last trip to Frisco was in 2017 when it fell to North Dakota State 17-13 in the title game. 

QUARTERFINALS (Saturday, Dec. 14)

  • No. 1 North Dakota State 9, Illinois State 3: North Dakota State failed to score a touchdown, but three field goals were enough to support a strong defensive effort. The Bison allowed 194 yards of total offense, including just 34 through the air. NDSU will play in its ninth straight FCS semifinals.

QUARTERFINALS (Friday, Dec. 13)

  • No. 2 James Madison 17, UNI 0: James Madison shut out UNI in the first game of Friday's FCS quarterfinals. Ben DiNucci put the Dukes on the board in the first quarter with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Brandon Polk and a field goal gave JMU a 10-0 lead at halftime. In the final three minutes of the game, Percy Agyei-Obese's one-yard touchdown run served as insurance, moving James Madison back to the semifinals for the third time in four years.
  • No. 5 Montana State 24, Austin Peay 10: Tucker Rovig completed 13-of-20 passes for 114 yards and a touchdown and the Bobcats rushed for a combined 279 yards to send Montana State to the semifinals. The Bobcats will next face the winner of No. 1 North Dakota State vs. Illinois State.
  • No. 3 Weber State 17, No. 6 Montana 10: There were several momentum shifts in this game, but it was ultimately Weber State's blocked punt for a touchdown in the fourth quarter that secured the victory over Montana. The Grizzlies threw five interceptions, including a pick that ended their hopes of a game-tying drive with two minutes remaining. Weber State's Jack Constantine threw for 70 yards and a touchdown in the win. 

SECOND ROUND (Saturday, Dec. 7)

  • No. 2 James Madison 66, Monmouth 21: The Dukes scored the final 45 points, after Monmouth tied it at 21-21 six seconds into the second quarter, to advance to the quarterfinals for the third time in four seasons. JMU QB Ben DiNucci finished 21-of-25 for 273 passing yards, 66 rushing yards and four total touchdowns.
  • UNI 13, No. 7 South Dakota State 10: The Jackrabbits became the first ousted seeded team, losing on an 18-yard field goal by UNI's Matthew Cook with 2:10 left in regulation. SDSU opened a 10-0 lead after one quarter before the Panthers scored the final 13. Trevor Allen finished with 90 rushing yards and UNI's lone TD in the win.
  • Illinois State 24, No. 8 Central Arkansas 14: ISU star running back James Robinson had another huge day, racking up 210 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the upset over UCA. Illinois State reached the end zone thrice in the second quarter to open the lead, and the defense (four forced turnovers) did the rest.
  • No. 6 Montana 73, Southeastern Louisiana 28: The Grizzlies dropped 73 points for a big statement in their 2019 playoff debut. Dalton Sneed had a monster day through the air with five passing TDs — including three to Samori Toure (12 catches, 303 yards) — and RB Marcus Knight added three scores of his own in an all-around offensive display.
  • No. 5 Montana State 47, Albany 21: Tucker Rovig finished 24-of-30 with three touchdowns to lead Montana State to a breezy second-round victory. The Bobcats edged Albany handily in total offense (483-333) and forced two interceptions on defense.
  • No. 3 Weber State 26, Kennesaw State 20: An Adam Rodriguez fumble return touchdown and a Josh Davis 2-yard touchdown run in the third quarter propelled the Wildcats to a one-score victory over the Owls. Weber State will play in the national quarterfinals for a third straight year.
  • No. 1 North Dakota State 37, Nicholls 13: The top-seeded Bison were tested by Nicholls early, leading just 14-10 at halftime, but pulled away in final 30 minutes. After a second-half-opening field goal by the Colonels, NDSU scored the final 24 points of the game. QB Trey Lance tallied three total scores.
  • Austin Peay 42, No. 4 Sacramento State 28: In the biggest upset of the tournament so far, Austin Peay used a 21-0 first-quarter burst to glide by top-4 national seed Sacramento State. RB Javaughn Craig finished with 164 yards and a TD — on just 12 carries. The Govs have now won their first two FCS playoff games in program history.

Follow along below for latest championship news and see the updated bracket, schedule and round-by-round results. This season's national championship game will be played Jan. 11, 2020 in Frisco, Texas.

FIRST ROUND (Saturday, Nov. 30):

  • Monmouth 44, Holy Cross 27: Monmouth star running back Peter Guerriero finished with 220 rushing yards and three touchdowns in the Hawks' playoff-opening win. The 17-point win is Monmouth's first FCS playoff victory in program history, in its second appearance. Monmouth will face No. 2 James Madison in the second round.
  • Albany (NY) 42, Central Connecticut State 14: The Great Danes piled on 42 unanswered points to claim its first FCS championship victory in program history. Jeff Undercuffler led the way under center with six touchdown passes and 304 yards on 19-of-30 passing.
  • Austin Peay 42, Furman 6: Three years removed from an 0-11 season, Austin Peay is now on to the second round. The Govs routed Furman for their first-ever FCS playoff win, powered by an accurate day from QB Javaughn Craig (18-of-23, three TDs) and a stifling defensive performance (APU outgained the Paladins 434-227).
  • Illinois State 24, Southeast Missouri State 6: James Robinson accounted for 297 of ISU's 340 rushing yards in the Redbirds' dominating first round victory over SEMO. Illinois State forced two turnovers and limited SEMO to just two field goals. 
  • UNI 17, San Diego 3: The Panthers shut down an explosive San Diego offense, holding the Torreros to just a single field goal. UNI's strong defense held San Diego to just 26 rushing yards and 213 total yards of offense.
  • Nicholls 24, North Dakota 6: Nicholls QB Chase Fourcade completed 14-of-16 passes for 165 yards and added 46 yards on the ground in a two-touchdown day to lead the Colonels past North Dakota in Round 1. Next up, Nicholls will head to Fargo to take on No. 1 overall seed North Dakota State.
  • Southeastern Louisiana 45, Villanova 44: In the closest game of Round 1, Southeastern Louisiana rallied from a 17-point halftime deficit to knock off Villanova by a single point. The Lions took its first and only lead of the game with 2:56 remaining on a CJ Turner 8-yard touchdown reception.
  • Kennesaw State 28, Wofford 21: The Owls put the game away with two fourth-quarter touchdowns by Jonathan Murphy, including a 61-yard dagger with four minutes left in regulation. Murphy finished with 206 yards and three touchdowns.

FCS playoffs: National championship history

North Dakota State leads all FCS programs with seven national titles, all coming since 2011. Below is the complete FCS national championship history, since 1978.

FCS CHAMPIONSHIP FORMAT AND HISTORY: Everything you need to know about the tournament

2019 North Dakota State Matt Entz 28-20 James Madison Frisco, Texas
2018 North Dakota State Chris Klieman 38-24 Eastern Washington Frisco, Texas
2017 North Dakota State Chris Klieman 17-13 James Madison Frisco, Texas
2016 James Madison Mike Houston 28-14 Youngstown State Frisco, Texas
2015 North Dakota State Chris Klieman 37-10 Jacksonville State Frisco, Texas
2014 North Dakota State Chris Klieman 29-27 Illinois State Frisco, Texas
2013 North Dakota State Craig Bohl 35-7 Towson Frisco, Texas
2012 North Dakota State Craig Bohl 39-13 Sam Houston State Frisco, Texas
2011 North Dakota State Craig Bohl 17-6 Sam Houston State Frisco, Texas
2010 Eastern Washington Beau Baldwin 20-19 Delaware Frisco, Texas
2009 Villanova Andy Talley 23-21 Montana Chattanooga, Tenn.
2008 Richmond Mike London 24-7 Montana Chattanooga, Tenn.
2007 Appalachian State Jerry Moore 49-21 Delaware Chattanooga, Tenn.
2006 Appalachian State Jerry Moore 28-17 Massachusetts Chattanooga, Tenn.
2005 Appalachian State Jerry Moore 21-16 UNI Chattanooga, Tenn.
2004 James Madison Mickey Matthews 31-21 Montana Chattanooga, Tenn.
2003 Delaware K.C. Keeler 40-0 Colgate Chattanooga, Tenn.
2002 Western Kentucky Jack Harbaugh 34-14 McNeese State Chattanooga, Tenn.
2001 Montana Joe Glenn 13-6 Furman Chattanooga, Tenn.
2000 Georgia Southern Paul Johnson 27-25 Montana Chattanooga, Tenn.
1999 Georgia Southern Paul Johnson 59-24 Youngstown State Chattanooga, Tenn.
1998 Massachusetts Mark Whipple 55-43 Georgia Southern Chattanooga, Tenn.
1997 Youngstown State Jim Tressel 10-9 McNeese State Chattanooga, Tenn.
1996 Marshall Bob Pruett 49-29 Montana Huntington, W.Va.
1995 Montana Don Read 22-20 Marshall Huntington, W.Va.
1994 Youngstown State Jim Tressel 28-14 Boise State Huntington, W.Va.
1993 Youngstown State Jim Tressel 17-5 Marshall Huntington, W.Va.
1992 Marshall Jim Donnan 31-28 Youngstown State Huntington, W.Va.
1991 Youngstown State Jim Tressel 25-17 Marshall Statesboro, Ga.
1990 Georgia Southern Tim Stowers 36-13 Nevada Statesboro, Ga.
1989 Georgia Southern Erk Russell 37-34 Stephen F. Austin * Statesboro, Ga.
1988 Furman Jimmy Satterfield 17-12 Georgia Southern Pocatello, Idaho
1987 Louisiana-Monroe Pat Collins 43-42 Marshall Pocatello, Idaho
1986 Georgia Southern Erk Russell 48-21 Arkansas State Tacoma, Wash.
1985 Georgia Southern Erk Russell 44-42 Furman Tacoma, Wash.
1984 Montana State Dave Arnold 19-6 Louisiana Tech Charleston, S.C.
1983 Southern Illinois Rey Dempsey 43-7 Western Carolina Charleston, S.C.
1982 Eastern Kentucky Roy Kidd 17-14 Delaware Wichita Falls, Texas
1981 Idaho State Dave Kragthorpe 34-23 Eastern Kentucky Wichita Falls, Texas
1980 Boise State Jim Criner 31-29 Eastern Kentucky Sacramento, Calif.
1979 Eastern Kentucky Roy Kidd 30-7 Lehigh Orlando, Fla.
1978 Florida A&M Ruby Hubbard 35-28 Massachusetts Wichita Falls, Texas

* -- Stephen F. Austin's participation in 1989 championship vacated. 

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