FARGO, N.D. — Grant Olson set a school record with 29 tackles and North Dakota State rode its top-rated defense to a hard-fought 14-7 victory over Wofford on Saturday in the quarterfinals of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.
The defending champion Bison (12-1) forced two turnovers, blocked a field goal and did not allow an offensive touchdown. They withstood two fourth-quarter drives by the Terriers, including one that ended on downs at the Bison 5 with less than 4 minutes left.
“I guess I’m still at a little bit of a loss for words,” Olson said afterward. “It was a lot of fun. I’m so proud of this team. Coach told us to leave our hearts out there, and that’s what we did.”
Olson, a junior linebacker, broke the previous school record of 26 tackles set by safety Ken Clark in 1989.
Wofford (9-4) finished with a 326-262 edge in yards of total offense, but Terriers head coach Mike Ayers said the game boiled down to lost opportunities and turnovers.
“That being said, we played well enough defensively to keep the game within a score and we fought our tails off to try to get down there and make it happen,” Ayers said.
The Bison scored on two long drives in the first half, including a go-ahead 10-play, 97-yard march capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Brock Jensen to Zach Vraa 1:02 before halftime. That made it 14-7.
North Dakota State also scored on the first possession of the game, going 75 yards in 10 plays before Sam Ojuri scored from the 1.
Wofford stayed true to its option offense led by fullback Eric Breitenstein, running the ball on 51 of 58 plays. Breitenstein, the No. 2 rusher in FCS, ran for 135 yards on 24 carries and became the first player to top 100 yards on the ground against North Dakota State.
EASTERN WASHINGTON 51, ILLINOIS STATE 35
In Cheney, Wash., Kyle Padron threw a school-record-tying six touchdown passes, including two to Brandon Kaufman on back-to-back plays early in the third quarter, to lift second-seeded Eastern Washington over Illinois State in the quarterfinals.
Padron completed 19 of 33 passes for 358 yards. Kaufman added a clutch 76-yard catch-and-run early in the fourth quarter after the Redbirds (9-4) had scored 18 straight points to close within 38-35.
The Eagles (11-2), the national champions two seasons ago, play host to Sam Houston State in a semifinal next weekend.