North Dakota State Whips Montana State For 9th FCS Championship

January 8, 2022 by Staff

Maybe this would have been a ballgame if things had started differently for Montana State which lost its quarterback to an ankle injury on the opening drive. What looked like a promising start turned into a strange punt after lining up for a 43-yard field goal attempt. North Dakota State turned on the wounded Bobcats and ate them alive, jumping to a 35-0 lead by early in the third quarter and cruising to a 38-10 win.

It' s the 9th title in 11 years for the Bison who have never lost in the FCS Championship game. They've played in 9 of the 12 national title matches since it moved to Frisco, Texas in 2010. This was the second title for 3rd-year head coach Matt Entz to add to the 4 titles under Chris Klieman and 3 under Craig Bohl who got the whole thing started. Klieman is now the HC at Kansas State and Bohl is the HC at Wyoming.

Montana State was making its second-ever appearance and first since the Bobcats won the 1984 title by knocking off Louisiana Tech 19-6. The Bobcats lost their star quarterback of the playoffs, Tommy Mellott, for the remainder of the game after he came up limping badly following a short run on the game's opening drive. He was replace by Tucker Rovig, a junior who started in 2019 but had seen limited action this year. Matthew McKay, who had started every game in the regular season, had entered the transfer portal on December 2 after losing his starting job to Mellott. Rovig would finish 13-of-28 for 156 yards with a late TD and an early INT, but while he was shaky, he was also not helped by three drops on well thrown balls that would have gone for long yardage.

Five different players for North Dakota State ran for at least 41 yards, including QB Cam Miller who added 41 on the ground to his 126 through the air (9-of-13). Hunter Luepke rushed for 82 yards on 8 carries and scored 3 of the teams' first four TD's. Kobe Johnson had 106 yards on just 4 touches, the bulk of it coming on a 76-yard streak to the end zone that made the score 21-0 with 10:50 to play in the 2nd quarter. Quincy Patterson, the backup QB transfer out of Virginia Tech, ran 11 times for 98 yards, and Tamerik Williams added 58 yards on 9 carries. Overall, the Bison rushed for 380 yards.

The 8-seed Bobcats are the lowest-seeded team to make the championship since Youngstown State accomplished that feat as an unseeded team in 2016 when the Penguins lost to 4-seed James Madison 28-14 after the Dukes had knocked off the Bison in the semifinals. Montana State is the first 8-seed to make the championship game since the playoffs expanded to 24 teams and 8 seeds in 2013.

Date/Site/Pairing/Score of FCS Championship Game

NOTE: Computer pick is based on the Congrove Computer Rankings at

January 8 at Frisco, Texas, 12:00 p.m. on ESPN2
(2) North Dakota State (14-1) 38, (8) Montana State (12-3) 10

1st Round 2nd Round Quarterfinals Semifinals Championship
(at Frisco, TX)
Jan. 8, Noon, ESPN2
UT Martin 32
Missouri State 31
UT-Martin 7
(8) Montana St. 25
    (8) Montana St. 42
(1) Sam Houston 19
SFA 28
Incarnate Word 35
Incarnate Word 42
(1) Sam Houston 49
      SDSU 17
(8) Montana St. 31
UC Davis 24
(4) Sacramento St. 19
    SDSU 35
(5) Villanova 21
Sacred Heart 10
Holy Cross 13
Holy Cross 16
(5) Villanova 21
        (8) Montana St. 10
(2) NDSU 38
Northern Iowa 10
E. Washington 19
E. Washington 41
(6) Montana 57
    (6) Montana 6
(3) JMU 28
Florida A&M 14
SE Louisiana 38
SE Louisiana 20
(3) JMU 59
      (3) JMU 14
(2) NDSU 20
Davidson 21
Kennesaw 48
Kennesaw 31
(7) ETSU 32
    (7) ETSU 3
(2) NDSU 27
So. Illinois 22
South Dakota 10
So. Illinois  7
(2) NDSU 38

Celebration Bowl:

South Carolina State on Saturday (December 18) continued the MEAC's domination of the Celebration Bowl, upsetting the 10-point favorite Jackson State Tigers from the SWAC, 31-10. The bowl game came to fruition in 2015 with the goal of annually matching the champions of both HBCU leagues. All six Celebration Bowls have been played in Atlanta with the MEAC representative winning five of those.

Legendary Oliver Pough's Bulldogs improved to 7-5 to follow up a 3-1 spring performance. Deion Sanders' team dropped to 11-2 with the loss. Shedeur Sanders was held to 16-of-36 passing with 1 TD and 2 INT's by a SCSU defense that kept receivers blanketed, the pressure coming, and allowed just 19 yards rushing. Shilo Sanders intercepted a pass for JSU. For the Bulldogs, Corey Shields, Jr. was just 12-of-31, but had 4 TD's and a single INT.

The Tigers came into the game with the longest current FCS winning streak at 9 games after Sam Houston State's string of 22 consecutive wins was halted last week by Montana State.

List of Celebration Bowls:

Date MEAC Team SWAC Team
December 19, 2015 North Carolina A&T 41 Alcorn State 34
December 17, 2016 North Carolina Central 9 Grambling_State 10
December 16, 2017 North Carolina A&T 21 Grambling State 14
December 15, 2018 North Carolina A&T 24 Alcorn State 22
December 21, 2019 North Carolina A&T 64 Alcorn State 44
2020 Canceled - Covid      
December 18, 2021 South Carolina State 31 Jackson State Tigers 10

Final Rankings

North Dakota State finished No. 1 in the Congrove Computer Rankings, followed by James Madison, Sam Houston State and Kennesaw State. Ivy League winner Dartmouth checks in at No. 5.

SEE: Complete Top 128

Computer Success

Congrove Computer Rankings successfully preseason predicted 6 of the 14 conference champions, and 5 of its other picks finished second in their respective conference. It correctly placed 17 of the 24 team playoff teams before a snap was taken. However, it had James Madison knocking off Sam Houston State in the championship game with NDSU winning the MVFC but falling in the playoff semis. Montana State was picked to go 8-3, enter the playoffs as an unseeded team and lose in the second round.

The six correct champion picks were Sam Houston State (AQ7), James Madison (CAA), Dartmouth (Ivy), South Carolina State (MEAC), North Dakota State (MVFC), Holy Cross (Patriot). The five teams it picked to win a conference title, but finished second, are Monmouth (Big South), Sacred Heart (NEC), Southeast Missouri (OVC), and San Diego (Pioneer League).


2 teams played 2 FCS teams this fall (UConn and UMass), and 115 teams played 1 FCS school for a total of 117 such matchups.

FBS teams finished the season 105-12 vs. the FCS and are 1,574-140 (.918) since we began tracking this in 2003.

Last year, 30 FBS teams played a total of just 34 games against FCS schools and the FCS won just 1 game (1-33). That honor also went to Jacksonville State with its 19-10 victory over FIU.

Here are the FCS wins in 2021:
September 2: UC Davis 19, Tulsa 17
September 2: Eastern Washington 35, UNLV 33 (2 OT)
September 3: South Dakota State 42, Colorado State 23
September 4: Holy Cross 38, UConn 28September 4: Montana 13, Washington 7
September 4: ETSU 23, Vanderbilt 3
September 11: Duquesne 28, Ohio 26
September 11: Jacksonville State 20, Florida State 17.
September 18: Incarnate Word 42, Texas State 34.
September 18: Northern Arizona 21, Arizona 19
November 6: Rhode Island 35, Massachusetts 22
November 13: Maine 35, Massachusetts 10

This was the only FCS win vs. the FBS in 2020:
October 23: Jacksonville State 19, FIU 10

In 2019, FBS teams were 111-3 (.974) in such games. These were the only FCS wins that season:
August 29: Central Arkansas 35, Western Kentucky 28
September 7: Southern Illinois 45, Massachusetts 20
September 14: The Citadel 27, Georgia Tech 24 (OT)


SAN DIEGO - Won 7 straight over-all (FCS longest)
Last: Won 41-16 at Stetson on Saturday, Nov. 20.
Next: Season complete (7-4)

ALCORN STATE - Won 13 straight home games (FCS longest).
Last: Lost 24-10 at Jackson State on Saturday, Nov. 20.
Next: Season complete (6-5)

MONMOUTH - Had won 16 straight conference games (was FCS longest).
Last: Lost 49-17 at Kennesaw State on Saturday, Nov. 20.
Next: Season complete (7-4)

DARTMOUTH - Won 11 straight road games (FCS longest).
Last: Won 52-31 at Brown on Saturday, Nov. 20.
Next: Season complete (9-1) Ivy League champs.

TEXAS SOUTHERN - Lost 18 straight road games (FCS longest).
Last: Lost 24-21 at Alabama State on Saturday, Nov. 20.
Next: Season complete (3-8)

YOUNGSTOWN STATE - End road losing streak at 17 games (was tied for FCS longest).
Last: Won 35-18 at Southern Illinois on Saturday, Nov. 20.
Next: Season complete (3-7).

BUTLER - Snapped 14-game conference losing streak (was FCS longest)..
Last: Won 28-21 at Marist on Saturday, Nov. 20.
Next: Season complete (3-8).

WAGNER - Lost 20 straight overall (FCS longest).
LAST: Lost 44-0 at home vs. Duquesne on Saturday, Nov. 20.
Next: Season complete (0-11).