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North Dakota State a unanimous No. 1

By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director

Frisco, TX (Sports Network) - Are they still celebrating in Fargo?

No doubt.

The North Dakota State Bison have some memories that will last a lifetime.

NDSU has left no doubt about which Football Championship Subdivision team was the best this season. On the heels of a 17-6 victory over Sam Houston State in the NCAA Division I Championship Game on Saturday, the Bison, not surprisingly, were a unanimous selection as the final No. 1 in The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25, released Monday.

The Bison (14-1) earned all 125 first-place votes and 3,125 points from the poll's national panel of sports information and media relations directors, broadcasters, writers and other dignitaries.

Sam Houston State (14-1), which was top-ranked at the end of the regular season, finished second. But NDSU had all the right answers for the Bearkats with its FCS-leading defense.

"Our challenge now is to keep the momentum going," ninth-year head coach Craig Bohl said, "but we're going to sit back and enjoy this victory for quite some time."

North Dakota State allowed only 27 points in four postseason victories and finished the season ranked first in the FCS in scoring defense (12.7 ppg).

The Bison featured two members of The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS All- America Team, sophomore cornerback Marcus Williams (first team) and senior offensive tackle Paul Cornick (second team), as well as 10 other players who earned All-Missouri Valley Football Conference honors.

Sophomore Sam Ojuri and senior D.J. McNorton were both 1,000-yard rushers and senior wide receiver Warren Holloway went over 1,000 yards receiving as sophomore quarterback Brock Jensen improved throughout the season.

In addition to Williams, the dominating defense featured seniors Coulter Boyer (defensive end) and Chad Willson (linebacker). Freshman linebacker Travis Beck was the Most Outstanding Player of the national championship game.

Sam Houston State (14-1) was second on all but two ballots and finished with 2,998 points. Coach Willie Fritz's squad featured mostly underclassmen, including the Southland Conference's player of the year (sophomore running back Timothy Flanders), offensive player of the year (sophomore wide receiver Richard Sincere) and defensive player of the year (junior safety Darnell Taylor).

The other two teams that reached the national semifinals, Big Sky Conference co-champion Montana (11-3) and Southern Conference champion Georgia Southern (11-3), finished No. 3 and 4, respectively.

The rest of the Top 10 was No. 5 Lehigh (11-2), the Patriot League champion; No. 6 Northern Iowa (10-3), the Missouri Valley co-champion with North Dakota State; No. 7 Montana State (10-3), the Big Sky co-champion; No. 8 Maine (9-4), which moved up five spots after a run to the national quarterfinals; No. 9 Towson (9-3), the CAA Football champion; and No. 10 Old Dominion (10-3).

A fourth straight CAA team was No. 11, New Hampshire (8-4). Next up were No. 12 Appalachian State (8-4); No. 13 Wofford (8-4); No. 14 Central Arkansas (9-4); No. 15 James Madison (8-5); No. 16 Harvard (9-1); No. 17 Delaware (7-4), No. 18 Stony Brook (9-4), the Big South Conference champion; No. 19 Norfolk State (9-3), the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champion; and No. 20 Illinois State (7-4).

Ohio Valley Conference tri-champion Tennessee Tech (7-4) was No. 21, followed by No. 22 Jackson State (9-2) and No. 23 North Dakota (8-3), the Great West Football Conference co-champion.

Eastern Kentucky (7-5), the OVC tri-champion, moved into the final rankings at No. 24 and Liberty (7-4) was No. 25. Jacksonville State fell out of the rankings.

The CAA had the most teams in the final rankings with six, followed by the Missouri Valley and SoCon with three each.

But it was North Dakota State which settled who's No. 1 on the field. And everybody came away convinced.

Sacks or scores, contact Craig Haley at
chaley@sportsnetwork.com.


Follow Craig Haley on Twitter and Facebook.

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