FARGO, N.D. (AP)Kobe Johnson broke free for a 31-yard touchdown run midway through the final quarter, Dawson Weber came up with a clutch interception with just over a minute left and North Dakota State came back twice to beat Incarnate Word, 35-32 in a Football Championship Subdivision semifinal Friday night.
The win sends the defending national champions to their 10th championship game in program history. The Bison will take on the winner of Saturday’s semifinal between Montana State and No. 1-seed South Dakota State on January 8 in Frisco, Texas.
Incarnate Word, playing in the semifinals for the first time, took a 16-0 first-quarter lead after Lindsey Scott Jr. tossed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Darion Chafin and Jarrell Wiley dashed 15 yards for a score. The other two points came when the Cardinals tackled TK Marshall in the end zone for a safety.
Griffin Crosa got North Dakota State on the board with a 27-yard field goal in the first quarter and the team roared back on a short touchdown run by Johnson and a 2-yard run by quarterback Cam Miller to take a 17-16 lead at the half.
Johnson padded the lead when he broke through the line, then raced down the sideline for a 49-yard touchdown early in the third quarter.
The Cardinals came back on a pair of 1-yard touchdown runs by Scott to take a 29-24 advantage after three quarters.
The teams traded long fourth-quarter field goals before Johnson scored his third touchdown and Braylon Henderson hit Joe Stoffel for a two-point conversion to put the Bison in front, 35-32.
Incarnate Word drove to the North Dakota State 22 with just over five minutes to play, but its drive bogged down and Scott threw incomplete on fourth down to turn the ball over.
Marshall broke free for a 32-yard run to get the Bison to the Incarnate Word 37, but the Cardinals held and Kaedin Steindorf pinned UIW at its own 3 with a 35-yard punt with 2:46 left to play.
With a first down at their own 33 with 1:13 left, Scott threw deep down the middle, but Weber had position in front of the intended receiver and came down with the interception to preserve the win.
Johnson finished with 136 yards and three scores on 15 carries to lead North Dakota State (12-2). Miller added 132 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries, but completed just 1 of his 12 pass attempts for five yards. Marshall carried 11 times for 66 yards as the Bison ran for 329 yards.
Scott was 30 of 46 passing for 282 yards to lead Incarnate Word, throwing for a touchdown and was picked off twice. His touchdown pass was his 60th of the season, extending his FCS record. He finished the season tied with LSU’s Joe Burrow for second place at all levels, two TDs behind Bailey Zappe’s all time record for a season. Scott added 71 yards and two touchdowns on 21 carries. Marcus Cooper carried 20 times for 112 yards.
More AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/college-football and https://twitter.com/ap-top25. Sign up for the AP’s college football newsletter: https://tinyurl.com/mrxhe6f2