North Dakota State returns to Frisco, Texas for the seventh time this January as the Bison will go for history, attempting to become the first FCS program to win seven national championships. Over the next ten days, we’ll look back at the ten biggest moments NDSU has had in its previous six title game appearances.
2015 FCS Championship Game: NDSU met a conference opponent to conclude the 2014 season, facing Illinois State, a team they did not play during the regular season. This game may go down as the best in FCS history, as the game had everything you could ask for, from big plays to late game heroics. Illinois State had grabbed a 27-23 lead on the Bison after Tre Roberson scampered 58 yards to give the Redbirds the lead. NDSU answered, with Carson Wentz driving the Bison down the field in six plays, scoring the go-ahead touchdown to give NDSU the lead back at 29-23.
Illinois State got the ball back with 37 seconds left as Roberson tried to weave some more magic. Roberson was faced with a second and 7 at the Redbird 44, when he threw a pass over the middle and senior linebacker Esley Thorton made a great diving play to steal the ball away for an interception, sealing the NDSU win. It was a wild finish to a career for Thorton, who came to NDSU in 2010 from Bismarck High School after an illustrious high school career. He was the backup quarterback to Brock Jensen in 2011, who even played in the national title game in 2011. He was moved to linebacker before the 2012 season and after some growing pains that season, saw his first extended action in 2013 after Grant Olson tore his ACL.
Thorton moved into the starting lineup in 2014, joining Carlton Littlejohn and Travis Beck and more than held his own. That was proven out in the title game, Thorton had a chance at an interception earlier in the game and dropped it. He made up for with an interception to seal NDSU’s record setting fourth straight national championship and ended his career with a mark of 58-3 and four national championships.