UNH Wildcats routed by North Dakota State in semis
FARGO, N.D. – North Dakota State quarterback Brock Jensen made a mistake on the third play of the game.
It may have been his only miscue.
The senior signal caller and the Bison defense, as well as the team’s yellow and green clad followers, proved to be all they were cracked up to be and crushed New Hampshire, 52-14 , in an FCS tournament semifinal game on Friday night in front of 18,694 in the Fargodome.
UNH closed out the finest season in its decade-long run in the national tournament with a 10-5 record.
The Wildcats win streak of six straight games overall and three in the playoffs came to a screeching halt.
North Dakota State won its 23rd straight game overall and improved to 14-0 for the season and now advances to the FCS national championship game for the third straight year. The Bison have won the title each of the last two seasons.
“That was heckuva team, a heckuva team we just got beat by,” said UNH coach Sean McDonnell. “As the game developed and went on, you saw why North Dakota State has been where it’s been and why it’s going where it’s going.”
The Bison struck quickly to break the game open late in the second period and had a 31-7 lead at the half.
The rare Wildcat highlights came very early.
They scored first when junior defensive back Steven Thames picked off a Jensen pass and went 38 yards untouched for a score on the third play of the game.
Redshirt freshman defensive back Casey DeAndrade recovered a Sam Ojuri fumble on the second play of the next Bison possession.
That was about it for good news for UNH.
The Wildcat defense went interception, fumble recovery and forced punt on North Dakota’s first three offensive turns.
Then Jensen and Co. got rolling. Big-time.
He completed only nine of his 18 first half passes for 132 yards, but had three TD passes, including a 50-yarder to Zach Vraa that tied the game at 7-7 with 5:21 left in the first period.
The Bison also started to rip off large gains on the ground. By the half, John Crockett had 96 yards rushing, Sam Ojuri had 60.
North Dakota State rolled up 319 yards, 187 of them on the ground.
The Bison were at least as dominant on the defensive side, stuffing sophomore quarterback Sean Goldrich and his crew all night.
New Hampshire managed just 61 yards of offense in the opening half, 29 on the ground. The Wildcats were 0-for-7 on third down conversions in the first half and 2 for 14 in the game.
“As the game progressed, they bottled us up on the inside,” said senior running back and captain Chris Setian. “They had a great scheme against us. What can you say? They were a more physical team than us today. Running room was hard to find.”
Jensen connected with Derrick Lang for a 7-yard TD pass to make it 17-7 with 7:40 left in the half.
The defense came up with a score – the crowd helped the home team – and the Bison were pulling away.
The crowd was roaring again on a 3rd and 5 and Goldrich hurried to get a play in and was unable to handle the snap from center. Defensive tackle Levon Perry tracked the ball down and scored on a 6-yard fumble return.
The Bison ended UNH’s first two possessions of the second half with interceptions and turned both into TDs and led 45-7 lead.
North Dakota State finished with 350 rushing yards and 509 yards total.
UNH was held to 67 yards rushing and had only 184 total yards.
“My hat’s off to them,” McDonnell said. “They’re a really, really tough team. But I’m also very proud of my team. We took a step forward this year.”
The Wildcats had not advanced past the quarterfinals in any of their previous nine trips to the tournament.