FRISCO – Eric Schmid threw three touchdown passes, including a 10-yard touchdown pass to Ife Adeyi with 16 seconds to play, and Sam Houston State capped off the longest and most unusual season of collegiate football with his first FCS title, defeating the first seed South Dakota State 23-21 on a soggy Sunday afternoon.
Jequez Ezzard had two touchdown receptions for No. 2 Sam Houston State (10-0). He also had a 5-yard reception on a fourth down and 3 to extend the final drive, a 16-play, 65-yard drive, after Schmid had previously converted a fourth down 1 on a 9-yard carry.
For the first time in the history of the program, Sam Houston State is the FCS Champion. Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
South Dakota State (8-2) led 21-17 on Isaiah Davis’ third TD run, an 85-yard run with 5:41 to play. Davis, who finished with 178 rushing yards on 14 carries, ran down the sideline off the Jackrabbits bench, eluding the middle of the defense before breaking free into the end zone.
Sam Houston State coach KC Keeler earned his record 24th FCS playoff victory and became the first coach to win multiple school FCS titles. He was his alma mater’s coach when Delaware was crowned in 2003.
It was the first appearance in a title game for South Dakota State and coach John Stiegelmeier, who has managed his alma mater for 24 seasons. The Jackrabbits lost double-threat freshman quarterback Mark Gronowski to a left leg injury in the game’s opening series.
Schmid finished with 20 completions of 37 attempts for 209 yards, and Ezzard had 10 receptions for 108 yards. Ramon Jefferson rushed for 96 yards.
Ezzard’s second touchdown was a 15-yard touchdown late in the second half, when he was uncovered in the end zone. That happened shortly after the game restarted, following a 74-minute delay due to a thunderstorm. The halftime break was shortened to three minutes.
Eric Schmid found Ife Adeyi with 16 seconds left to secure the Bearkats championship. NCAA Photos via Getty Images
That weather delay came in the final game of a campaign that lasted until spring, due to the coronavirus pandemic. The following season kicks off in just three and a half months.
The game started under heavy rain. He was tied 7-7 with 8:25 left in the second period when he was stopped by lightning from the same phenomenon that impacted the final round of the AT&T Byron Nelson PGA Tour tournament in McKinney, Texas, less than 10 miles away. There were tornado warnings south of the area.
When the game was resumed, the rain had stopped, and the sun was breaking through the gray skies by the time the game ended.
Gronowski was likely hurt on a 3-yard dash when he lost the ball, though South Dakota State recovered and he threw an incomplete third-down pass before limping off the field. He got on the stationary bike before trying to throw the ball, but stopped in obvious pain from the pressure on his left leg while trying to throw.
The Jackrabbits got the ball back when Schmid failed to control a high cross that was recovered by Tolu Ogunrinde at the 41-yard line from Sam Houston State, leading to a 1-yard touchdown by Davis that immediately followed his 20-yard run. Davis broke three tackles en route to a 28-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter.
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Before the delay, the Bearkats tied the game on Ezzard’s 35-yard score. He received the ball behind the line before cutting near the 25-yard line, then took off a tackler as he crossed the field to the opposite side.
He had a 63-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the first period erased by an illegal blocking penalty.
Ezzard had a 69-yard reception for a touchdown and an 80-yard punt return for a score as the Bearkats overcame a 21-point deficit at halftime in a 38-35 win a week ago in the semifinals against him. third seed James Madison, the only other team other than eight-time champion North Dakota State to have won the FCS title in the last nine years. Sam Houston State eliminated the Bison, who had won the championship in the most recent three seasons, in the quarterfinal round.