As the James Madison football team prepares to take the field Saturday in search of their second straight FCS national championship, Dukes coach Mike Houston can't help but be in awe of North Dakota State's string of five titles in a row.
Grimsley and the Bison won the title during the 2015 season, but James Madison upset NDSU a year ago in the semifinals before being crowned champion.
Previous meeting: JMU ended NDSU's streak of five consecutive FCS national championships with a 27-17 win in the semifinals past year.
North Dakota State won five-straight FCS national titles, until JMU beat them in the semifinals to end the streak last season.
The Bison limited James Madison to 241 yards on 62 plays, allowing one touchdown. "I think both teams would say this is the most physical game they've played in all year". The Dukes scored on a Marcus Marshall 1-yard touchdown run that sliced the NDSU lead to 17-13 with 9 minutes, 26 seconds to play in the third quarter. They trailed 17-6 at halftime. Late in the first quarter, for example, punt returner D'Angelo Amos returned a kick 37 yards to the North Dakota State 14-yard line.
"We just watched the film and decided what we liked and didn't like ... and moved on", Klieman said.
Stapleton had a breakout performance in the FCS quarterfinals, helping keep the Dukes' season alive.
Eight plays later, Marshall found the end zone to cut the Bison lead to four points.
After showing flashes of excellence in the third quarter, the Dukes' reverted to their sloppy style of play from the first half in the fourth quarter. Each championship game was played in Frisco except for James Madison's first title, won in Chattanooga, Tennessee. On fourth-and-16 from the 25, James Madison quarterback Bryan Schor was pressured before he threw a desperation heave to the goal line.
NDSU 7 JMU 3 - Ethan Ratke drills a 31-yard field goal with 3:48 left in the first quarter.
JMU started the possession at their own 27-yard line, and Schor picked up a first down on a 17-yard run to start the team's season-defining drive.
The Bison would runout the final 58 seconds of the clock for the championship.
As for the Bison's secondary, Klieman said the statuses of injured cornerbacks Jalen Allison and Jaylaan Wimbush will be "game-time decisions". James Madison made seven trips deep into NDSU territory, but came away with three field goal attempts (only two of which were made), two interceptions, a touchdown and a turnover on downs. He also rushed for 19 yards on 14 attempts.
Stick 13/22 through the air for 130 yards and a score while rushing for another 35 yards in the win.
"That was a great football game between two great teams, and more importantly, two great programs", Klieman said. To add insult to injury, a fight broke out after the play and JMU was taxed with a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.
"He didn't have the type of season I thought he was going to have", Schor said.