Georgia Southern vs. North Dakota State final score: Eagles come up short in Fargo, 23-20

Scott Cunningham

North Dakota State staged a late rally past Georgia Southern to advance to the FCS championship game.

Georgia Southern led for most of the game, but the Eagles came up short against North Dakota State in the FCS semifinals, dropping a 23-20 decision Friday night at Fargo, N.D.

Quarterback Jerick McKinnon led the Eagles (10-4) with 168 yards and a touchdown on 31 carries, and he completed 2 of 5 passes for 91 yards and another score. Dominique Swope ran 14 times for 77 yards and caught one pass for a 49-yard touchdown.

Bison (13-1) quarterback Brock Jensen was 9 of 19 for 76 yards, and he carried 10 times for 58 yards and the game-winning score. Sam Ojuri picked up 71 yards and a touchdown on nine rushes, and Ryan Smith caught four passes for 29 yards.

Georgia Southern opened the scoring with a four-yard touchdown run by JJ Wilcox midway through the first quarter, and the Eagles held the lead for most of the game. Down 20-16 with 5:49 remaining, North Dakota State took over at their own 47-yard line, and the Bison promptly marched 53 yards for the go-ahead score, as Jensen found the end zone from five yards out.

On its final drive, Georgia Southern drove to the Bison 33, thanks in part to a 40-yard completion on a fourth-and-11, but Drew Ruggles' potential game-tying field goal from 50 yards was blocked. The Bison ran out the final 20 seconds for the win.

North Dakota State will try to defend its FCS title in the championship game on Jan. 5 in Frisco, Texas. The Bison will face the winner of Sam Houston State-Eastern Washington. The Bearkats and Eagles kick off their semifinal Saturday, Dec. 15 at 4 p.m. ET.

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