Bison blank Lehigh, reach FCS semifinalsFARGO — The North Dakota State football team’s defense has been solid all year. But this was ridiculous.
By: Heath Hotzler, The Dickinson Press
FARGO — The North Dakota State football team’s defense has been solid all year. But this was ridiculous.
The No. 4-ranked Bison limited one of the top offensive teams in the country to 356 total yards en route to a 24-0 victory against No. 6 Lehigh in the Football Championship Subdivision playoff quarterfinals before 18,111 fans Saturday at the Fargodome.
“We didn’t stay with a static look,” NDSU head coach Craig Bohl said. “We showed them different types of coverages, and gave him a lot of different pictures.”
The game had all the makings of a shootout.
Lehigh (11-2) entered the game averaging 35 points and 479 total yards a game. Starting Mountain Hawks quarterback Chris Lum, in the running for FCS player of the year honors, had more than 4,000 passing yards and 32 touchdowns.
However, the high-scoring, back-and-forth battle never materialized. NDSU’s defense made sure of that by swarming to the ball on every play.
Run or pass, it didn’t matter. NDSU gave up few big plays.
The Mountain Hawks likely missed leading receiver Ryan Spadola, who was suspended this week for retweeting an insensitive remark on the social media Web site Twitter.
He led Lehigh with 96 receptions for 1,614 yards and 11 touchdowns.
The team was forced to go elsewhere without him.
Jake Drwal had 10 receptions for 111 yards. The rest of the team finished with 15 catches.
Lum finished 25 of 53 for 288 passing yards. He was intercepted twice by a Bison defense ready for the challenge.
“In terms of never feeling comfortable in the pocket, they were relentless,” Lum said.
NDSU (12-1) took a 7-0 lead after Warren Holloway hauled in a 36-yard touchdown pass from Brock Jensen in the back of the end zone. Holloway, who finished with eight catches for 96 yards vaulted over a pair of defenders before touching both feet down.
Jensen made it 14-0 on a 1-yard sneak, and kicker Ryan Jastram’s 31-yard field goal put the Bison up 17-0 at halftime.
That was all the offense the Bison needed.
Jensen put the game away with a 1-yard run midway through the fourth quarter.
Sam Ojuri ran 17 times for 136 yards to lead NDSU. D.J. McNorton had 52 yards on 11 carries.
But this game belonged to the defense, which forced three turnovers, limited the Mountain Hawks to 5 of 15 on third down and kept Lehigh from the Red Zone for almost the entire game.
NDSU’s last shutout in the playoffs came against Cal Poly in 1990. The team’s last overall shutout was against Mississippi Valley State in 2006.
The Bison will host Georgia Southern next Friday or Saturday for a berth in the national championship game in Frisco, Texas. The time and date of the semifinal game will be determined today.
“It’s a great feeling,” Bohl said. “It’s hard to do.”
Lehigh 0 0 0 0 — 0
NDSU 0 17 0 7 — 24
NDSU—Holloway 38 pass from Jensen (Jastram kick), 10:33.
NDSU—Jensen 1 run (Jastram kick), 2:10.
NDSU—FG Jastram 31, :05.
NDSU—Jensen 1 run (Jastram kick), 7:23.
TEAM STATISTICS Lehigh NDSU
First downs 19 20
Rushes-yards 22-68 36-221
Passing 288 163
Comp-Att-Int 25-53-3 17-28-1
Return Yards 5 67
Punts-Avg. 6-36.5 4-45.3
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 3-2
Penalties-Yards 6-50 6-54
Time of Possession 29:14 30:46
RUSHING: Lehigh, Fitz 11-46, Sherman 4-18, Colvin 1-3, Lum 5-2, Team 1-(minus 1). NDSU, Ojuri 17-136, McNorton 11-52, Wahlo 1-18, Lang 5-13, Jensen 2-2.
PASSING: Lehigh, Lum 25-52-2-288, Colvin 0-1-1-0. NDSU, Jensen 17-28-1-163.
RECEIVING: Lehigh, Drwal 10-111, Kurfis 2-48, Haggins 2-32, Jefferson 2-28, Fernandez-Soto 2-26, Fitz 2-17, Hayden 2-12, D.Gordon 1-8, Wickware 1-4, Sherman 1-2. NDSU, Holloway 8-96, McNorton 3-20, Keller 1-22, Grothmann 1-11, Wahlo 1-8, Nelson 1-3, Vaadeland 1-3, Moody 1-0.
Hotzler is a sports reporter for The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.