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Jacksonville State slipped past the Bison the last time the programs played

FARGO -- The last time North Dakota State played Jacksonville State, the Gamecocks ended NDSU's season on a slippery grass field in Alabama during the 1989 NCAA Division II playoffs.

FARGO -- The last time North Dakota State played Jacksonville State, the Gamecocks ended NDSU's season on a slippery grass field in Alabama during the 1989 NCAA Division II playoffs.

"It was like playing on ice it was so slippery," recalled Tony Satter, who was a junior running back on that Bison team. "The field had a crown like you had never seen before."

Satter also remembered the Gamecocks had a stingy defense that featured cornerback Eric Davis, who went on to have a Pro Bowl career in the NFL.

"They had a very good defense," Satter said.

Jacksonville State built an 18-point lead in the third quarter before holding off a late NDSU rally to earn a 21-17 victory in the Division II quarterfinals in Jacksonville, Ala. The Bison were the defending D-II national champions.

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"When I look back, I don't think about the times we won," said Satter, who played for the national title teams in 1988 and 1990. "I look back at that and think of what could have been. ... It was a tough one to lose. That one stuck with me a little bit."

The Bison (12-2) and Jacksonville State (13-1) are set to meet again in the postseason. This time its for the Division I FCS championship on Jan. 9 in Frisco, Texas.

The Bison are the four-time defending FCS champions. The Gamecocks are playing in their first national title game since they transitioned to D-I during the 1993-94 school year.

Jacksonville State won a Division II national championship in 1992.

The Gamecocks have a 2-0 overall record against the Bison, also earning a 31-7 victory in the 1977 Division II semifinals in Anniston, Ala. That game was played in front of 10,000 fans and a regional ABC television audience.

In the 1989 matchup, a Forum story reported that heavy rain fell in that area of Alabama before the Bison arrived on Thursday ahead of the Saturday game. Adding to the lore, Satter said the NDSU cheerleaders practiced at the stadium Friday. They told Satter they saw the grounds crew watering down the field.

"We didn't think much of it," Satter said. "Then we got on the field and it was slick. It was tough to run on."

The Bison finished with 340 yards, including 253 rushing yards on 63 attempts. Jacksonville State finished with 220 yards, running an option offense. Satter finished with 128 yards on 25 carries, but NDSU couldn't recover from its 21-3 deficit heading into the final quarter.

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Satter didn't make excuses for the slick footing after the game.

"You have to adjust to it," Satter told The Forum. "It's a technique problem. It wasn't the shoes."

Satter said Jacksonville State ran a wishbone-type offense, while NDSU ran the veer, both option attacks. The Bison attempted 18 passes, while the Gamecocks threw only eight times.

Even though the Bison were a predominant running team, Satter remembers Davis playing a factor.

"He was a heck of a player," Satter said. "Anything going his way was tough sledding. ... He would come up and whack you."

Bison junior defensive end Phil Hansen (now a commentator on Bison radio broadcasts) didn't play in the second half due to injury, according to The Forum game report. Hansen, like Davis, also went on to have a successful NFL career.

"We didn't have a leader like Hansen out there," Bison head coach Rocky Hager told The Forum after the game. "But we have no excuses. We made some plays and so did they. You have to compliment the Jacksonville State defense."

The teams combined for seven personal foul penalties, including five on the Gamecocks.

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"There was lots of emotion out there," Hager said. "There could have been 15."

Jacksonville State went on to play in the 1989 national championship game, losing 3-0 against Mississippi College in Florence, Ala., on a snow-covered field.

"When you turn on the championship game a couple weeks later and you see three of four inches of snow on the ground that made it hurt more," Satter said. "We would have loved it."

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