From Brock Jensen to Carson Wentz to Easton Stick, it’s become a tradition on a mild, overcast Saturday in January in a soccer stadium in Frisco, Texas.
North Dakota State quarterback takes the snap under victory formation, touches his knee to the ground, and chaos ensues, as thousands clad in green and yellow stampede onto the field after their Bison win an FCS National Championship.
LeBron James can help us on the counting with “not one, not two, not three, not four” but five consecutive national championships for NDSU after the No. 3 Bison took down No. 1 Jacksonville State University at Toyota Stadium.
And while the streak was just extended one more year to an unprecedented five, further smashing Georgia Southern’s three straight titles, NDSU will be no slouch to defend its title yet again next year.
On offense, gone are NFL prospects Wentz and Joe Haeg, bruisers Andrew Bonnet and Jedre Cyr and the bionic man Zach Vraa, among others, like Nate Moody.
Defensively and on special teams, Brian Schaetz on the interior, CJ Smith and Jordan Champion at the corners, and the latest in NDSU’s string of booming punters Ben LeCompte will all be moving on from their roles.
Before looking at the future, this class of seniors has something special to show from the past. Since most of them entered the program in 2011 as redshirt freshmen, the Bison have gone a combined 71-5, outscoring opponents 2597-988 during the five-year stretch. That’s pure and utter domination with an average score of around 34 to a measly 13.
The Bison beat JSU 37-10.
Moreover, these games aren’t against scrub teams, with four wins over FBS opponents on the road and a combined 42-4 in all games against teams in Missouri Valley, the perennial power conference in FCS football.
Oh, and I almost forgot to mention a perfect 20-0 in the FCS playoffs and a ring for every finger of one hand and the drive for five complete.
Next up is the streak for six, and NDSU will have a healthy complementary of familiar faces back in action. Six of eleven starters will return next year on the offensive side of the ball.
This number does not include backup redshirt freshman Easton Stick, who started eight games for the Bison, and wide receiver Darrius Shepherd, who made crucial catches throughout the season behind Vraa and sophomore RJ Urzendowski.
Junior linemen Jack Plankers and Landon Lechler both have starting experience to replace Haeg and senior Jeremy Kelly, and all four running backs — King Frazier, Chase Morlock, Lance Dunn and Bruce Anderson — are set to return next year.
On the other side of the ball, junior Nick DeLuca and seven other starters will be returning for a defense that ranked No. 2 in the FCS for third down defensive efficiency and No. 3 in total defense.
Looking back at the first year the Bison won the FCS National Championship in 2011, the defense ranked 20th in total defense and 49th in third down defensive efficiency.
Progressing through the last four years after the first title, it becomes apparent how NDSU has achieved so much success at the FCS level with the adage “defense wins championships.” The Bison vaulted up to the No. 1 total defense in 2012 and has remained in the top five ever since.
The latest example of that came Saturday against what was considered to be the toughest test for the Bison defense in an FCS title game, a high-powered Gamecock offense, which averaged 529 yards of offense per game and 625 yards per game in the playoffs.
NDSU stymied JSU for only 204 yards, forced five turnovers and held the Gamecocks to 25 percent on third down conversions. The Bison offense did its thing too, converting 65 percent on third down and holding the ball for over 40 minutes of the game, a statistic the Herd has dominated during the consecutive championship stretch.
It sure seems NDSU has found the formula for winning championships at the FCS level, and the team has the players coming back who can use that formula to stampede to Frisco for six consecutive national championships.