FARGO, N.D. - The North Dakota State football team is again heading to Texas in January.
The Bison delivered a staggering blow in the second quarter and rolled to a 42-14 victory against Montana State on Saturday in the Division I FCS semifinals before 18,077 fans at Gate City Bank Field at the Fargodome.
"Once again, the Fargodome doesn't disappoint," Bison head coach Matt Entz said of the crowd. "Our kids were ready to go."
NDSU (15-0) advanced to the FCS national title game, which is slated for Jan. 11 in Frisco, Texas, for the eighth time in the past nine seasons. The Bison have won 36 consecutive games and are trying to win a third consecutive national championship. NDSU has seven of the last eight national titles.
The Bison will meet James Madison in the contest.
"It hasn't sunk in yet," Entz said of leading the team to Frisco in his first year as head coach. "I'm probably afraid to go home and take a nap. I feel I'll wake up and we'll be getting ready for Butler (the Bison's season-opening opponent) or something like that. It would be a dream. It's gone unbelievably fast."
Bison quarterback Trey Lance capped his big day with a 6-yard touchdown run that gave NDSU a 42-14 lead with 13:23 to play in the fourth quarter.
Lance completed 15-of-21 passes for 223 yards and three touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 221-pound redshirt freshman also rushed for 64 yards and two touchdowns on 11 attempts. NDSU finished with 541 yards.
"When I signed here two years ago, the expectation is to play for championships," said Lance, a first-year starter.
'It shows that we're carrying it in the right direction," added Bison senior defensive end Derrek Tuszka, who had one sack against Montana State.
Former Bison quarterback Cole Davis was on the sideline Saturday and Lance said former players like Davis help in motivation.
"I was going to everything I could to not let him down," Lance said. "It's playing for the guys before us and who will come after us."
The Bison erupted for 22 points in the second quarter with sophomore receiver Christian Watson leading the charge. Watson started the barrage with a 75-yard touchdown catch from Lance that gave NDSU a 14-7 lead with 12:34 to play in the second quarter.
On NDSU's next play from scrimmage, Watson took a handoff on a sweep play and raced 70 yards for a touchdown that gave the Bison a 22-7 lead with 10:51 to play in the first half.
"It was huge for our confidence today, get back our swagger a little bit on offense," Entz said of Watson's big scoring plays.
The Bison capped their strong second quarter with a Lance-to-Jimmy Kepouros 6-yard touchdown pass for a 29-7 lead with 24 seconds to play until halftime. While Watson scored his two touchdowns in lightning fashion, Kepouros' TD catch capped a 75-yard drive that took 15 plays and 8:20 off the clock.
"Awesome team man," Montana State head coach Jeff Choate said of the Bison. "We did not have a lot of answers for their explosive players."
The Bison gained 225 yards in the second quarter to Montana State's 14. A week after not scoring a touchdown in the a quarterfinals win against Illinois State, the Bison posted 29 points and 319 yards through the first two quarters against the Bobcats.
"Not scoring a touchdown last week is something we never want to do," Lance said. "But at the same time we really moved on from it. ... Playoffs is about wins, survive and advance."
The 6-foot-3, 196-pound Watson had a monster first half with two catches for 88 yards. He also rushed for 81 yards on two carries through two quarters.
"It was a crazy experience today, me being able to go out there and execute like that," Watson said.
The teams exchanged long touchdown passes in the third quarter. Montana State receiver Kevin Kassis caught a 41-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Tucker Rovig that cut the Bison lead to 29-14 with 6:27 to play in the third.
The Bison countered with a Lance-to-Dimitri Williams 73-yard touchdown pass. Lance scrambled outside the pocket and found a wide open Williams, who raced into the end zone to give NDSU a 36-14 lead with 4:46 to play in the third. The Bison had three scoring plays of at least 70 yards.
"That's a different level play," Entz said of the Lance scramble and pass to Williams. "That's not a freshman play. That's an advanced play right there."
Lance has thrown 28 touchdowns with no interceptions heading into the FCS championship game in Frisco.
"It's everything," Lance said of leading the team to the title game. "Everything we've dreamed of, expected of ourselves since spring ball last year. ... We wanted to prove people wrong this year and I think we're doing that right now."