Defending FCS champion South Dakota State is heading back to the national title game with a 28-game winning streak and nearly looking unbeaten in a semifinal-round win over UAlbany Friday night.

But how about this: The Jackrabbits will next share the dance floor, er turf, with the Montana Grizzlies, a program they’ve never defeated in eight previous matchups.

Yes, it’s No. 1 South Dakota State (14-0) versus No. 2 Montana (13-1) – the way it usually should be.

The Grizzlies went two overtimes to dispatch of North Dakota State in Saturday’s semifinal, setting up the winner-take-all showdown.

Following is a review of the semifinal round:

No. 1 Seed South Dakota State (14-0) 59, No. 5 Seed UAlbany (11-4) 0

Quick Synopsis – The MVFC champion Jackrabbits were as dominant as ever during their 28-game winning streak, jumping to a 35-0 halftime lead while posting the largest shutout win in FCS playoff history. Mark Gronowski accounted for 315 yards of total offense and three touchdown passes, including two to tight end Zach Heins, and Isaiah Davis rushed for 107 yards and two touchdowns.

Game Balls – It’s Gronowski (15-for-19) for sure, but also credit the SDU defense for producing four turnovers, including linebacker Jason Freeman scoring on a 34-yard fumble return and posting a team-high nine tackles.

Key Stats – SDSU had a 338-117 advantage in yards during the decisive first half, building it to 556-298 by game’s end. In addition to the historic shutout, the Jackrabbits’ margin of victory was the second-largest in FCS playoff history (Montana beat Troy 70-7 in a 1996 semifinal).

Up Next – SDSU, playing in the FCS championship game for the third time in the last four seasons, next faces Montana (13-1) in just the eighth all-time matchup between the top two seeds and the eighth that matches the No. 1- and 2-ranked teams.


No. 2 Seed Montana (13-1) 31, North Dakota State (11-4) 29, 2 OTs

Quick Synopsis – Montana won a classic matchup of power programs, going ahead 31-23 in the second overtime on Eli Gillman’s 13-yard run and Junior Bergen’s two-point pass to Keelan White, then denying the visiting Bison of a two-point pass attempt following TK Marshall’s two-yard scoring run. Corbin Walker intercepted the pass in the Griz end zone, sending much of the sold-out Washington-Grizzly Stadium into hysteria.  

Game Ball – Bergen, a wide receiver, not only passed for the decisive two points as he was about to be tackled on a reverse, but he scored on a 22-yard catch in the first OT and via a 47-yard punt return early in the fourth quarter – his third return for a TD in the last two games. He had 80 yards from scrimmage and 75 more on returns.

Key Stats – NDSU committed nine penalties, including six false starts, compared to just two by the Grizzlies. The game was the final one for Bison coach Matt Entz, who will depart for an assistant’s coaching position at USC after winning two national titles and posting a 60-11 record in five seasons.

Up Next – Montana will play in the championship game for the eighth time, but for the first time since 2009 in coach Bobby Hauck’s first stint as head coach, when it faces South Dakota State (14-0). The Grizzlies have won 10 straight games.