FARGO, N.D. (AP) — Griffin Crosa kicked three second-quarter field goals and North Dakota State's defense did the rest as the defending national champion Bison beat Illinois State 9-3 in an FCS quarterfinal on Saturday.
The top-seeded Bison (14-0) will host No. 5 seed Montana State next week in the semifinals after posting their 35th consecutive victory, extending their own FCS record and tying them for fifth all-time among all Division I programs. They have won seven of the last eight FCS championships including the last two.
The Bison held the unseeded Redbirds (10-5) to three points for the second time this season, having beaten Illinois State 37-3 in a Missouri Valley Football Conference game in Fargo on Oct. 5.
This time the Redbirds defense kept the game close, allowing only Crosa's field goals of 38, 33 and 22 yards on consecutive possessions for a 9-0 halftime lead.
Illinois State's only points came from Sam Fenlason's 27-yard field goal after a 70-yard drive. The Redbirds reached Bison territory only one other time.
Trey Lance was 10-of-21 passing for 135 yards and rushed for 41 yards on 11 carries for North Dakota State. Christian Watson had 102 yards receiving by halftime but made only one more catch and finished with 107 yards.
James Robinson, who rushed for over 200 yards in the Redbirds' two playoff victories, finished with 94 yards on 24 carries while Bruce Jefferson added 58 on 11. North Dakota State was outrushed 160-138, the first time that has happened since Nov. 4, 2017 — which was also its last loss, 33-21 to South Dakota State.
The Redbirds, who came in averaging only 116.6 yards passing per game, saw Jefferson go 3 for 8 for 34 yards with an interception by Michael Tutsie. The Bison had a 263-194 edge in total yards offense.