Third-seeded Georgia Southern failed to score on four possessions inside the North Dakota State 30-yard line and another Eagles possession ended at the 33 during a 35-7 loss to the Bison in the Fargodome.
Georgia Southern (11-3) lost in the semifinals for the second consecutive year after falling to Delaware 27-10 in 2010.
North Dakota State (13-1) advanced to the finals where it will face Sam Houston State, a 31-28 winner over Montana on Friday night. The FCS championship game will be played in Frisco, Texas, on Jan. 7.
“(All playoff losses) are tough,” Georgia Southern coach Jeff Monken said. “It hurt last year and it hurts this year. We were in the same position. (North Dakota State) whipped us. They have a great team. They’re physical and tough. Those teams are tough to beat and they were tough to beat today, for sure.”
Three turnovers made it a long day for the Eagles. Georgia Southern couldn’t finish drives with points, and the defense gave up too many big plays.
North Dakota State ended with 451 yards and out-rushed the second-leading rushing team in the FCS, 314-186.
It was close for 39 minutes, but the Bison, now headed to its first FCS championship game after moving up from Division II in 2004, stomped on the Eagles with 21 points in the final 21 minutes.
Wideout Warren Holloway caught a touchdown pass and ran a reverse for a touchdown. Quarterback Brock Jensen and running backs Sam Ojuri and D.J. McNorton ran for scores.
Only a 23-yard touchdown run by Dominique Swope late in the second quarter avoided the Eagles from getting shut out.
“We got in the red zone a couple of times, but give credit to that North Dakota State defense,” Georgia Southern quarterback Jaybo Shaw said. “They made the plays they needed to make and got the stops.”
The Eagles high-powered triple option offense struggled to adjust to a new wrinkle and finished with 150 fewer rushing yards than its season average of 334 yards a game. Strong safety Colten Heagle lined up in different positions to run lanes and produced a game-high 15 stops.
Georgia Southern finished with a season-low seven points. It was the Eagles fewest points in a postseason game since 1997 in a 16-7 loss at Delaware.
“To hold them to seven points really was phenomenal,” Bison coach Craig Bohl said.
“I couldn’t be prouder.”