FRISCO, Texas (AP) — A perfect ending for North Dakota State coach Chris Klieman and quarterback Easton Stick, and yet another championship for the Bison.
Stick ran for three touchdowns and threw for two more as the Bison beat Eastern Washington 38-24 on Saturday for their record seventh FCS title, the fourth in five years with Klieman as head coach before he takes over at Kansas State.
“It was a special journey — 15-0, end it with a national championship. … The story’s complete,” said Klieman, 69-6 as head coach and part of all of those titles, three as defensive coordinator. “That’s something that movies are made out of, dreams are made out of, books are written about.”
North Dakota State (15-0) has won all those seven FCS titles over the past eight seasons.
Stick, who succeeded Carson Wentz as NDSU’s quarterback, threw for 198 yards and ran for 121 in his 49th victory to become the winningest FCS quarterback. Stick leaves with school records for total yards (11,216), passing yards (8,693) and 129 total touchdowns (88 passing, 41 rushing).
“This place is special,” Stick said. “Quarterback’s a unique position. You’re only as good as players you’re surrounded with. … I’m so thankful for every guy I played with because as a freshman you come in and you just want to be a part of it.”
Eastern Washington (12-3) got to within 17-10 with a 2-yard touchdown on a fake field goal in the final minute of the first half. Holder and backup quarterback Gunner Talkington took the snap and was still on his knee when he shuffled the ball to a sweeping Jayce Gilder, who dived into the end zone.
The second half began with the teams combining for three turnovers and three long touchdowns in less than 4½ minutes. All of the scores, including Stick’s TD passes of 23 and 78 yards to Darrius Shepherd, came in a span of four plays over 68 seconds.
“A five-minute frenzy,” Eastern Washington coach Aaron Best said.
“It was so back and forth. It was pretty crazy,” said Sam McPherson, who had a 75-yard TD run on Eastern Washington’s only play between Stick’s two TD passes. “It was wild for sure. It definitely got us up, got us down.”
There were interceptions on consecutive plays before Eastern Washington turned it over again when Talkington, playing with starter Eric Barriere out a series while getting his throwing hand looked at, fumbled when being sacked by Stanley Jones. That set up the 23-yard pass Stick threw to Shepherd beyond the reach of three defenders.
Eastern Washington: The Eagles won the first FCS championship game played at the pro soccer stadium north of downtown Dallas. That was eight years ago in their only other title game appearance. They beat NDSU in the quarterfinal round of the playoffs that year but are 0-3 against the Bison since.
North Dakota State: The Bison had been tied with the six FCS (formerly Division I-AA) titles Georgia Southern won before it moved to the FBS level. … Klieman matched the four FCS titles won by Jim Tressel as coach of Youngstown State before he won a national title at Ohio State.
NDSU fans clad in green and gold flooded the field after the game to celebrate another Fargo-to-Frisco pinnacle. Klieman and Stick went out with multiple championships in their final game, just like coach Craig Bohl and quarterback Brock Jensen five years ago when the Bison wrapped up another 15-0 season.
According to the final stats, Eastern Washington finished with eight penalties for 60 yards. Those penalties hurt more than that, since three of them in the first half wiped out big plays — two on their opening nine-play drive when the Eagles had a pass play inside the 10 wiped out and then a third-and-9 run erased by another penalty.
“They weren’t the 10-yard variety. They were 50 because we had gained 40,” Best said.
Eastern Washington plays its 2019 season opener on Aug. 31 at Pac-12 team Washington.
North Dakota State plays its first game for new head coach Matt Entz, the Bison defensive coordinator the past five seasons, in its 2019 season opener on Aug. 31 against Butler at Target Field in Minneapolis.