Bison fends off the Incarnate Word, earning a trip to the 10th FCS Championship Game

Fargo — North Dakota State safety Dawson Weber saved Friday.

An interception by a senior safety with less than 90 seconds left by the Bison helped preserve a 35-32 victory against Incarnate Word in the NCAA Division I FCS Semifinals before 12,569 fans at Gate City Bank Field in the Fargodome.

“The ball looked like it was in the air for about 30 minutes,” Weber said.

NDSU earned a spot in the FCS game for the 10th time in the past 12 seasons and another trip to Frisco, Texas. The Bison trailed by 16 points in the first quarter before rallying to win. Bison running back Kobe Johnson rushed for 136 yards and three touchdowns on 15 attempts.

“We’ll be back where we need to be,” Weber said.

North Dakota State’s Dawson Weber intercepted an Incarnate Word pass in the dying moments of the FCS Championship Semifinal football game on Friday, December 16, 2022, at the Fargodome.

Michael Vosberg / Forum Communications Co.

“Unbelievable determination by our football team,” Bisons coach Matt Entz added.

The Cardinals and Bison took turns seizing the momentum through the four quarters.

“Two forces throw the blows back and forth,” said JG Kane, Artistic Director of Incarnate Word.

Lindsey Scott Jr. completed 30 of 46 passes for 282 yards and 1 touchdown. He also rushed for 80 yards and two touchdowns on 21 attempts.

The Cardinals moved the ball to the Bisons 33-yard line with less than 2 minutes left, but Weber’s 6-foot-2, and Scott’s deep spike at the NDSU 18-yard line stopped the game with 1 minute and 13 seconds remaining. The bison ran out clockwise from there.

“It just didn’t go our way this time,” said Scott, one of the top three finalists for the Walter Payton Award. “I can’t do it as a veteran. It’s on me.”

For the second straight season, the Bison had a dramatic late interception to help seal the semifinal victory. A year ago, cornerback Destin Talbert had a one-handed interception in the end zone — with about three minutes to play in the fourth quarter — to help preserve the 20-14 win over James Madison.

“Knowing that Christmas has now been canceled is very exciting,” Weber said with the FCS title match scheduled for January 8 in Frisco.

Johnson scored on a 49-yard touchdown rush for a 24-16 lead with 12 minutes, 56 seconds to play in the third quarter. That capped off a 74-yard drive that took four plays on the opening drive of the second half and set the stage for a final 30-minute drive.

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North Dakota State fans cheer at Kobe Johnson’s touchdown against the Incarnate Word during the FCS Championship Semifinal football game on Friday, December 16, 2022, at the Fargodome.

Michael Vosberg / Forum Communications Co.

The Cardinals cut the Bison lead to 24-22 on Scott’s 1-yard TD run with 7:05 remaining in the third quarter. NDSU stopped the two-point conversion attempt. The drive covered 75 yards and lasted 15 plays.

Scott added a 1-yard TD run on UIW’s next drive for a 29-24 lead with 2:59 to play in the third quarter. The 61-yard drive took five plays.

Bison kicker Griffin Crosa blocked a 47-yard field goal to narrow UIW’s lead to 29-27 with 13:03 remaining in the fourth quarter. The Cardinals’ Carson Mohr kicked a 41-yard field goal for a 32-27 lead with 9:38 to play in the fourth quarter.

“I’m proud of our men and how hard they fought,” Kane said.

Johnson broke away on a 31-yard TD run for a 35-32 lead with 8:11 remaining. The 65-yard drive took three plays. Tight end Joe Stoffel caught the two-point conversion from receiver Braylon Henderson from a jet sweep. That score held up with the help of Weber’s late-game heroics.

“This is a good team offensively, as I’ve seen,” Entz said of the Incarnate Word.

UIW record in the opening drive. Receiver Darion Chaffin caught a 1-yard pass from Scott to give the Cardinals a 7-0 lead with 10:37 remaining in the first quarter. Capped off a 75-yard drive that took 10 plays.

UIW continued to advance on their next drive, taking a 14-0 lead after a 15-yard Jarrell Wiley touchdown run with 7:42 to play in the first quarter. That drive covered 85 yards, took six plays and lasted less than 60 seconds.

The Cardinals built a 16-0 lead after a safety with 7:33 remaining in the first quarter. NDSU started the drive on its own 2 and UIW tackled Bison running back TK Marshall in the end zone on the first play of this drive.

“I think that’s what really strengthened us,” said Bison quarterback Cam Miller, who rushed for 132 yards and a touchdown on 18 attempts. “People didn’t snap at each other when we were down 16-0.”

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Body incarnate player Lindsey Scott Jr. scrambles after a loose ball after being tackled by North Dakota State’s Luciaka Rockies during the FCS Championship Semifinals football game Friday, December 16, 2022, at the Fargodome.

Michael Vosberg / Forum Communications Co.

Crosa hit a 27-yard field goal to cut the Cardinal lead to 16-3 with 2:15 to play in the first quarter. UIW put out a kick that was covered by NDSU at their own 2-yard line, but a Bison holding penalty sent a Marshall TD off the board.

Johnson added a 4-yard touchdown run to cut the UIW lead to 16-10 with 4:46 to play in the first half. It capped off a 93-yard drive that took eight plays. Miller helped set up the score with a 35-yard touchdown run that passed the ball to the Cardinals 41.

Miller scored on a 2-yard run to give the Bison a 17-16 lead with 47 seconds to play in the first half. Jayden Price helps get that score with a 41-yard strike that moved the ball to the UIW 17.

The Cardinals finished with 539 yards in 94 plays, but UIW had four turnovers while NDSU had no turnovers.

“It’s hard to win games like that. Bend don’t break,” said Spencer Waig, the Bisons’ defensive end.

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