Last season, the Dukes went to the Fargodome in Fargo, North Dakota, and took down the Bison - a feat not often accomplished by road teams.
Eight plays later, Marshall found the end zone to cut the Bison lead to four points. D'Angelo Amos returned Koonce's punt for 37 yards - the second-longest return of his career - to put the Dukes at the NDSU 14-yard line.
On 4-and-16 from the 25-yard line, with defenders in pursuit and the game on the line, Dukes quarterback Bryan Schor heaved the ball into the end zone, but it fell harmlessly to the ground after it was tipped amidst a large gathering of players.
"He didn't have the type of season I thought he was going to have", Schor said. The Bison then ran out the final 58 seconds. They had (only) 53 yards rushing in the first half.
But cornerback Marquise Bridges picked off Schorr at the 3-yard line and NDSU still had the lead. Ratke then matched Pedersen, as with six seconds remaining in the half, the freshman kicker knocked in a 21-yard field goal to trim NDSU's lead to 17-6 heading into the half. Those were the game's final points as both defenses took over late.
"It's a tremendous honor to be here representing James Madison University and the CAA", JMU head coach Mike Houston said.
That was the case against Weber State in the FCS quarterfinals, when the Dukes (14-0) had to overcome a second-half deficit and kick a game-winning field goal as time expired.
That setup a first down at the Bison 29-yard line for the Dukes, however the Bison defense would answer once again.
"I didn't truly understand what the kids were going to face at the championship site in the days leading up to the game", Houston said.
A personal foul penalty on JMU on the play gave the Bison the ball at the 44. NDSU was able to run out the clock to earn a sixth FCS championship.
"Great time to get a first", Klieman said. The Bison won a record 33 consecutive games between 2012 and 2014.
Houston expects to get a pretty solid shot from NDSU (13-1) on Saturday, and wouldn't be surprised if the game turns out to be one for the ages. He also rushed for 19 yards on 14 attempts. After taking over at their own 44-yard line, Stick handed the ball off to Anderson for 13 yards on two plays and Dunn for two yards on two plays before whistling a dart to junior wide receiver Darrius Shepherd, who converted a wide-open pass downfield into a 50-yard touchdown to extend NDSU's lead to 14-3.
Under center for the Bison will be Easton Stick (39 total touchdowns, 62.4 completion percentage).
"What an incredible leader for this team", Shepherd said of Stick.
Klieman entered the postgame press conference sweating and looking for a bottle of water moments after the nail-biting victory and ensuing celebration.
"We talk about it all the time: Field goals won't beat you, and it didn't today", Klieman said.