The Fargodome is a tough place to play, let alone if starting quarterback Michael Hiers is out due to injury for the Samford Bulldogs. With Hiers out, redshirt freshman Quincy Crittendon got the start, and the North Dakota State defense made their presence felt early.
The Bison forced Samford into a three-and-out in each of the Bulldogs’ first three possessions. Those nine plays only took 1:10 off the first quarter clock, but the Bison offense didn’t fare much better, stalling out in each of their first three possessions as well. Samford was able to sustain their fourth drive in the first quarter finding a way into the redzone, but would have to attempt a field goal from the 16-yard line. NDSU’s Waege would come up huge for the Bison blocking the 33-yard field goal attempt.
In the second quarter NDSU and Samford would exchange turning the football over on downs. Then, NDSU would finally get on the scoreboard with 1:25 remaining in the second quarter after Cam Miller connected with Joe Stoffel for a two yard touchdown pass. The drive lasted 12 plays for 69 yards and ate up 7:28 of game clock. The Bison would force Samford into another three-and-out starting their next drive near midfield with 0:25 remaining in the first half. NDSU would be stopped at the 42 yard line to end the half, until a hit on a defenseless receiver gave NDSU 15 yards and an untimed down. Griffin Crosa would end up knocking down a 44-yard field goal, giving the Bison a 10-0 halftime lead. The field goal drive lasted three plays for 24 yards in 25 seconds.
NDSU received the second half kickoff and capitalized on the half opening drive. TK Marshall would cap off a seven play 82 yard drive with a seven-yard touchdown run. The drive took 3:59 of the third quarter clock, extending NDSU’s lead to 17-0. After receiving the ensuing kick, SoCon Offensive Player of the Year Mike Hiers entered the game. Hiers didn’t start the game due to discomfort in his throwing hand after suffering a broken bone in that same hand's wrist. Hiers would provide a spark for the Bulldogs sustaining a drive into plus field possession, before the drive ended with an interception complementary of senior NDSU safety Dawson Weber. The Bison would wear down the Bulldogs defense with a 12 play 63 yard drive that lasted 7:16 capped off by a Cam Miller QB sneak touchdown, extending the lead to 24-0 with 2:02 remaining in the third quarter.
Samford would have an extended drive in the fourth quarter that eventually stalled at the 11-yard line. Zach William knocked down a 28-yard field goal to get the Bulldogs on the scoreboard, eliminating the potential shutout. With 12:08 remaining in the game the score was 24-3 in favor of NDSU after Samford’s 12 play 63 yard drive that lasted 4:48. NDSU would counter with a 71 yard drive in nine plays that took 6:04 ending with a Griffin Crosa 22-yard field goal with 6:04 remaining in the fourth quarter, extending NDSU’s lead to 27-3.. Samford’s next drive ended with a Hiers 40-yard touchdown pass to Chandler Smith with 3:53 to go in the fourth quarter. The high tempo drive lasted 2:11 on eight plays and 75 yards. The game would minutes later with the Bison coming out on top 27-9.
No. 3 NDSU will now host No. 7 Incarnate Word in the FCS semifinals next week. On the other side of the bracket No. 1 South Dakota State will play host to No. 4 Montana State. The winner of each game will advance to the National Championship game in Frisco, TX on January 8.