Gamecocks lose to North Dakota State in FCS title game

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By Mike Goodson/Sports Correspondent

Jacksonville State fell short in its bid for a second
football championship last Saturday (Jan. 9), losing to North Dakota State,
37-10, in the Football Championship Subdivision national championship game in
Frisco, Texas.

Although the No. 1 ranked Gamecocks fell short in their bid
for the national title, the more than 5,000 Gamecock fans, family and alumni
attended the game to support the team. Fans dressed in green and gold made up a
majority of the record crowd of 21,836.

NDSU senior quarterback Carson Wentz threw for a touchdown
and ran for two more scores in his first game since mid-October as North Dakota
State won an unprecedented fifth straight FCS championship.

The Gamecocks were held to a season-low 204 total yards, 325
below their average and 181 under their previous season low. Jacksonville State
(13-2) had won 12 games in a row since an overtime loss on Sept. 12 at Auburn.

Considered a potential first-round pick in the NFL draft,
Wentz, hadn’t played since breaking his right wrist in a loss to South Dakota.
He was 16-of-29 passing for 197 yards with two interceptions.

JSU junior quarterback Eli Jenkins completed 7 of 20 passes
for 57 yards and two interceptions. He also ran 15 times for 88 yards and the
Gamecock’s only touchdown.

The Bison (13-2) won their 20th consecutive playoff game,
including all five times they have made the trip from Fargo to Frisco for the
title game at the FC Dallas professional soccer stadium.

Cam Pedersen made field goals of 29, 31 and 38 yards for
North Dakota State after making only one of seven attempts the first three
playoff games.

North Dakota State led throughout after Pedersen’s 29-yard
kick ended the Bisons’ game-opening 15-play drive.

The NDS lead grew to 17-0 early in the second quarter after
Wentz threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andrew Bonnet followed by an
11-yard score 90 seconds later.

After falling behind 24-0 at halftime, JSU cut the deficit
to 14 points late in the in the third quarter Jenkins’ 6-yard touchdown run and
Connor Rouleau’s 26-yard field goal. But costly turnovers led to a pair of
Bison scores and a 34-10 lead, a deficit that the Gamecocks could just not
overcome.

Although the final score of 37-10 was disappointing, the JSU
faithful were happy with the many successes the season had to offer. The
Gamecocks were ranked No. 1 since the Auburn loss, and JSU brought home another
Ohio Valley Conference championship.

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