North Dakota State is a football factory, but it's not a spring football factory. The Bison fell to Sam Houston State 24-20 in the FCS quarterfinals on Sunday, marking the first time the program will not reach at least the semifinals since the 2010 season.
It was a heartbreaking loss for the Bison, who battled back from a 17-2 deficit to take a 20-17 lead in the fourth quarter. Following a Bearkats touchdown to retake the lead, the Bison put together a 10-play, 54-yard drive, but turned the ball over on downs at the Sam Houston State 21-yard line. It was reflective of the game on the whole for the NDSU offense, as defense and special teams were responsible for 17 of the team's 20 points.
Freshman QB Cam Miller finished by completing only seven of his 18 pass attempts for 90 yards and had two interceptions. Sam Houston State's Eric Schmid had a much better day, completing 25 of his 37 passes for 227 yards and a touchdown. Schmid's biggest pass of the day was a 47-yard connection to Ife Adeyi on third-and-10 late in the fourth quarter to set up a first-and-goal. Schmid would finish the drive with a 6-yard touchdown run that proved to be the game-winner.
The loss comes fewer than 72 hours after Trey Lance was selected with the third overall pick in the NFL Draft. Lance had entered 2020 as the team's starting quarterback, but after COVID delayed the FCS season to the spring, Lance chose to opt-out to prepare for his NFL future. The Bison offense was also without offensive tackle Dillon Radunz, who was selected in the second round of the draft over the weekend.
The Bison last lost in the quarterfinals of the FCS playoffs in 2010, a 38-31 loss to Eastern Washington. It was the first time the program reached the playoffs under then-coach Craig Bohl, and it was only the program's seventh season as an FCS Division I program. The Bison would win the national title the following season and the next four after that before having their run end with a 27-17 loss to James Madison in the 2016 semifinals. Three more national titles followed until the loss on Sunday.