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FARGO, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota State has built its reputation around defense, but the Bison needed a career game by running back John Crockett to hold off Coastal Carolina 39-32 Saturday in the Football Championship Subdivision quarterfinals.
The three-time defending champion Bison, who will play at home again next Saturday against Sam Houston State, survived a rare shootout, by their standards. The last time they gave up more points was Dec. 11, 2010, in a playoff loss to Eastern Washington.
Crockett rushed for 227 yards and two touchdowns, including a game-winning 45-yard scamper with less than 10 minutes to play. It was his best performance in a single game and broke the NDSU playoff record of 207 yards, by D.J. McNorton in 2010.
"He's a special player and he loves this stage," NDSU head coach Chris Klieman said of Crockett.
NDSU (13-1) and Coastal Carolina (12-2) combined for nearly 900 yards of total offense in front of more than 18,000 fans at the Fargodome. NDSU finished with an even 500 yards.
"It always stings," said Coastal Carolina quarterback Alex Ross, whose team lost to the Bison 48-14 in last year's playoffs. "To invest that much time and that much effort, it hurts. I hurt for those seniors."
The Bison had trouble containing Ross and running back De'Angelo Henderson through the first three quarters, when the pair combined for 352 yards of total offense. But the NDSU defense managed to stop Coastal Carolina on its final three possessions, including an interception by safety Colten Heagle at the NDSU 49 with 53 seconds left.
"I was just so tired, I just wanted to get off the field," Heagle said about the play.
Crockett, a senior from Minneapolis, scored the go-ahead touchdown early in the fourth quarter on third down. That made it 39-32 and wiped out Coastal Carolina's only lead.
The Chanticleers had gone ahead 32-31 when Henderson scored on a 2-yard run to open the fourth quarter. That finished off a 95-yard drive that took just four plays, including a 48-yard pass from Ross to John Israel and a 32-yard run by Henderson.
The Bison regained the lead in three plays on a 69-yard drive that started with a 15-yard penalty for pass interference.
"You can lose and go home or you can keep playing," Crockett said of the winning march. "I was just happy to give my team the lead."
Klieman called Ross as good as any quarterback in FCS and said Henderson "was better than advertised." Henderson wound up with 143 yards rushing.
"We did enough things in the fourth quarter to get some stops, and that's a bunch of seniors and a bunch of experienced guys who said we're not going to let this thing slip," Klieman said.
Ross said the Chanticleers executed well for the first three quarters but "slid down a little bit" in the fourth quarter and the Bison defense played better. He was sacked twice late in the game.
"They weren't letting me step up in the pocket and escape like I'm usually able to do," Ross said.
Crockett started his show with a 70-yard touchdown run on the fourth play of the game, aided by two blocks more than 40 yards downfield. He finished with 132 yards rushing in the first half in helping NDSU to a 24-20 lead.
The Chanticleers fell back 14-3 early but came back to tie it at 17-all on a 98-yard kickoff return by Devin Brown.
Coastal Carolina coach Joe Moglia said several times afterward that "he couldn't be prouder" of his team.
"My hat goes off to anybody associated with the football program at North Dakota State," he said. "And their fans are as good as any fans in the country."
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