Chants fall shy to three-time FCS national champ Bison

ccufoot-de'angelo henderson at ndsu (2)Coastal Carolina scored on consecutive possessions to end the third quarter and start the fourth, taking a 32-31 lead with 14:56 left to play in the game. However, the defending three-time national champion North Dakota State Bison, seeded and ranked second, used a 45-yard touchdown run and two-point conversion with 9:28 remaining to claim a 39-32 victory in the quarterfinal of the NCAA Division I Football Championship before a national ESPN audience at the Fargodome.

The sixth-ranked and seventh-seeded Chanticleers (12-2) end the season for the second straight year in the national quarterfinal with a loss to the Bison (13-1). Coastal’s two losses came by a total of eight points, dropping a 15-14 game to Liberty in the regular-season finale and today’s seven-point setback.

Alex Ross completed 11-of-24 passes for 197 yards, while rushing for two scores. Ross set a CCU and Big South single season records for both passing yards (3,389) and total offense (4,080). He additionally became the CCU career leader in total offense, now with 8,264 yards.

De’Angelo Henderson had 24 carries for 143 yards and a touchdown. Henderson topped the 100-yard plateau for the ninth time this season and a CCU-record 10th time for his career.  Brett Johnson led the CCU defense with 13 tackles, while fellow senior Pernell Williams added 11.

All-American Quinn Backus finished with eight stops and finishes his illustrious career with 441 tackles, 14th on the NCAA FCS all-time list, and 243 solo tackles, 10th on the FCS career list.

The Bison wasted little time taking a 7-0 lead. After a converting a third down, John Crocket broke free down the right sideline for a 70-yard touchdown run.

Coastal quickly moved the ball into scoring position thanks to a 40-yard Ross to Bruce Mapp completion. However, the drive stalled and the Chants were forced to settle for a 32-yard Alex Catron field goal.

North Dakota State used a more conventional drive to take a 14-3 lead midway through the first quarter as Carson Wentz capped the 9-play, 76-yard drive with a 20-yard touchdown completion to Kevin Vaadeland for a 14-3 lead.

Coastal answered back to cut its deficit to four, 14-10. Of note, De’Angelo Henderson had rushes of 25 and 12 yards before Ross sealed the drive with a four-yard touchdown run.

The teams traded punts and Coastal had NDSU backed up, but Wentz connected with RJ Urzendowski for a 41-yard gain on 3rd-and-8. However, the Chanticleer defense stiffened and forced a 27-yard field goal by Adam Keller for a 17-10 lead.

On the ensuing kickoff, Devin Brown tied the game at 17-17. The sophomore caught the ball on his own two yard line and returned it 98 yards for his second kick return for a TD this season and third of his career. He now has the three longest scoring plays in CCU history, a 99-yard kick return, today’s 98-yard kick return and a 95-yard kick return last season.

The Bison regained the advantage, needing just six plays to go up 24-17. NDSU had gains of 12, 10, 13, 18 and ultimately a 21-yard Wentz to Luke Albers touchdown pass.

As time expired in the first half, Catron connected from 25 yards out to make the score 24-20 at the break. During the drive, Mapp caught a 29-yard pass, his 70th reception of the season to tie Matt Hazel (2014) for the CCU single-season record.

North Dakota State pushed its advantage to 31-20 early in the third quarter. Crockett picked up 36 yards early in the drive and Wentz kept the ball on a quarterback keeper for a two-yard score.

The Chants came right back down the field, thanks in part to a 20-yard kick return to the CCU 42 by Osharmar Abercrombie. Ross also hit John Israel for a 24-yard pass then, on a scramble, dove into the end zone from four yards out. The two-point conversion fell incomplete to make the score 31-26 with just over three minutes left in the third period.

Coastal forced a punt on the ensuing Bison drive, which NDSU punter Ben LeCompte’s 59-yard boot wnet out of bounds on the CCU five yards line. Undaunted, Ross connected with Israel for a 48-yard completion on the first play, followed by a 32-yard Henderson run. Ross hit Abercrombie for 13 yards to the NDSU two to end the third quarter. On the first play of the fourth quarter, Henderson scored his 20th rushing TD of the season. The two-point play again was incomplete, but the Chants took their first lead of the game, 32-31.

The teams traded punts and, after a pass interference call on Coastal, Crockett hit the left sideline for a 45-yard touchdown. Wentz scrambled and converted the 2-point try to provide the 39-32 final score.

Photo courtesy of CCU Athletics

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