Quarterback Carson Wentz made a dramatic return from a broken wrist to lead North Dakota State to its fifth straight Football Championship Series championship with Saturday’s 37-10 victory over Jacksonville State in Frisco, Texas.
The Bison senior, who missed eight starts, completed 16-of-29 passes for 197 yards and one touchdown while rushing for 79 yards and two scores in his first action since mid-October.
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“I felt good,” said Wentz, a two-time national champion after quarterback Brock Jensen won three in a row for the Bison. “I felt good for the last couple weeks now. That kind of showed a little today. The rust people might have wanted to talk about, that didn’t show. “I was fired up all day to be out there. It was just a lot of fun.”
No. 3-seeded North Dakota State (13-2) never trailed in the game at Toyota Stadium in suburban Dallas. The Bison held top-seeded Jacksonville State (13-2) to 204 net yards – 325 below its season average – and had a lopsided 20-minute-plus possession advantage.
The Bison opened a 3-0 lead on kicker Cam Pedersen’s first quarter 29-yard field goal and added 21 unanswered points in the second.
Wentz threw an eight-yard touchdown pass to tight end Andrew Bonnet and ran
11 yards for another score. Running back King Frazier scored on a one-yard run.
“So happy for Carson to come in and play the way he did,” coach Chris Klieman said. “A lot of people may have questioned if he was going to be rusty. I didn’t question it at all. I know what kind of competitor he is. I know what kind of player he is.
“I can’t put it into words. It’s remarkable what these guys have done. We meet every January and talk about staying hungry.”
North Dakota State missed a chance to go up by 31 points at halftime when Gamecocks cornerback Jalen Hill intercepted Wentz’s deep pass on a late drive with 36 seconds left.
The Gamecocks scored 10 unanswered third quarter points, but the Bison replied with a 31-yard field goal by Pedersen with 3:21 left in the third and Wentz’s one-yard touchdown plunge that locked up the win with 7:45 left in regulation.
Pedersen added a 38-yard field goal with 4:22 to play.
“It was not our best day, of course,” coach John Grass of Jacksonville State said. “But take my hat off to North Dakota State. They played a great game. We just didn’t give them a good game today.”
Wentz suffered a broken wrist on Oct. 17. He had surgery and faced the prospect of being out for the season.