Top-seeded James Madison (14-0) faces second-seeded North Dakota State (13-1) Saturday at noon in Frisco, Texas, for the FCS championship, which the Dukes won past year.
Stick, the game's Most Outstanding Player, stuck to his word, and the following celebration was a familiar sight for fans in Frisco: North Dakota State has won six of the last seven FCS national championships, making North Texas somewhat of a second home.
The loss snapped James Madison's FCS-best 26-game winning streak dating back to September 2016.
It's not quite as cold as it was previous year in Texas, as the temperatures were in the high 40's on Thursday, and it's expected to be in the mid-50's on Saturday for the FCS national championship game.
Now North Dakota State is back in the finals, and looking to prove past year was a fluke.
The Bison, the Missouri Valley Conference champs and No. 2 playoff seed, built a 17-6 halftime lead, scoring twice off turnovers, and then desperately held on in the final 30 minutes after Marcus Marshall's 1-yard touchdown run early in the third. "We made too many mistakes".
On 4-and-16 from the 25-yard line, with defenders in pursuit and the game on the line, Dukes quarterback Bryan Schor heaved the ball into the end zone, but it fell harmlessly to the ground after it was tipped amidst a large gathering of players. "You play it to get into these games, and have these moments with your teammates, and it's going to be a great game". North Dakota State limited James Madison to 21 yards in the first quarter, and neither team conjured an offensive explosion until the Bison executed a near-flawless play-action pass with 4:14 left in the half. "He just said "Coach, don't worry, there will be no time left on the clock".
"We thought that look could be there", Shepherd said. It marked the first time all season the Dukes trailed by double digits. "Darrius was able to run underneath and get us in the end zone, and that was a huge play for us". D'Angelo Amos' 33-yard punt return to the Bison 33 set up the drive and Marshall capped it with a 1-yard run.
Defending national champion JMU will be taking on North Dakota State in the FCS Finals this weekend.
Senior linebacker Nick DeLuca missed that game because of injury, so he'd been waiting for over a year to get another shot at the Dukes.
Top-seeded JMU is trying to become just the fourth school ever to win back-to-back FCS championships.