The Bison accomplished the task by knocking off No. 1 James Madison 17-13 in Frisco, Texas Saturday. He led JMU to the promised land previous year - his first in Harrisonburg - but he learned more about how to prepare for the big stage from a 2013 Division II title loss to Northwestern Missouri State when he was the head coach at Lenoir Rhyne University in North Carolina.
The loss snapped James Madison's FCS-best 26-game winning streak dating back to September 2016.
The North Dakota State University Bison collected their 6th Division 1 FCS title.
James Madison scored on its first possession of the third quarter to close within 17-13.
"They made plays and we made too many mistakes", James Madison coach Mike Houston said.
Ethan Ratke (Atlee High) hit a pair of first-half field goals (31 and 21 yards) for JMU's only points before the break.
Marcus Marshall had a 1-yard run for the only touchdown for the Dukes, who lost the turnover battle 3-1 after forcing 10 takeaways in the semifinals.
Points were at a premium, but the Bison were able to muster 17 before halftime.More news: Numbers have been drawn for Mega Millions jackpot of $450M
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Stapleton had a breakout performance in the FCS quarterfinals, helping keep the Dukes' season alive. Either way, the national championship trophy will be coming back to Fargo, N.D. or Harrisonburg, Va. for the seventh straight year.
"Most important things to us was don't flinch", said NDSU cornerback Marquise Bridges on the fake punt. They took advantage of a short field on their first drive of the third quarter.
Special teams gave James Madison an opportunity to win the game late.
"What I love about my teammates this year is something that I've loved since I got to JMU", senior quarterback Bryan Schor said. The Dukes' Simeyon Robinson blocked Cam Pedersen's 38-yard field goal attempt and they got the ball at the 27 with 4:37 remaining. After Schor hit redshirt senior wide receiver Terrence Alls for 12 yards, Schor and Marshall combined for 20 rushing yards over four consecutive plays to bring the Dukes to the 1-yard line. The Bison defense knocked down pass to get the ball back on downs with 58 seconds to play. On 3rd-and-17 at midfield, Shepherd slipped behind the James Madison secondary and Stick lofted a pass to him at the 10, which Shepherd turned into his first touchdown of the season and a 14-3 Bison lead with 4:14 left. "People picked us to be the best team this year, and people picked them to be the best this season". "He just said "Coach, don't worry, there will be no time left on the clock". NDSU finished plus-2 in turnover margin, including two interceptions that both came with James Madison in scoring position. He also missed from 42 yards.
Stick completed 13 of 22 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. To add insult to injury, a fight broke out after the play and JMU was taxed with a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
"What an incredible leader for this team", Shepherd said of Stick.
"Field goals don't beat you", Klieman said of his team's defensive effort.