FRISCO, Texas -- When you share a hometown with Paul Bunyan, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when you stand out above the crowd.
Bemidji’s own James Hendricks did just that on Saturday, playing hero for the North Dakota State football team in a 28-20 win over James Madison in Frisco, Texas, to clinch the Bison’s eighth FCS national championship in nine years.
Hendricks, a 2015 Bemidji High School graduate and former Lumberjack quarterback, finished his collegiate career with a game-sealing interception at the goal line to prevent the potential game-tying score. The safety jumped the route and picked off Dukes quarterback Ben DiNucci near the pylon for the goal-line stand with two seconds remaining.
“It was on film all year,” Hendricks said of the play. “We knew that when they got in that set they were going to run a pick play. And, honestly, they got us in a good call. ... I made that play and the rest is history."
North Dakota State wins their 8th FCS title and finishes off an undefeated season with a pick on 1st and Goal pic.twitter.com/aOXU9ht9nI— CJ Fogler (@cjzero) January 11, 2020
But that wasn’t Hendricks’ only shining moment of the game. In the second quarter, he scored his first collegiate touchdown on a fake field-goal attempt, jumping up from his holder position and rushing 20 yards to the end zone for the eventual game-winning score.
It was North Dakota State’s first successful fake field goal since 2003 at the University of Montana.
On defense, Hendricks finished with eight total tackles, including seven solo tackles, plus the interception.
“They call him 'Jimmy Football' for a reason,” receiver Phoenix Sproles said. “He makes big plays in big games and we’re going to miss him next year.”
With the win, NDSU became the first college football team in any division to go 16-0 since the 1894 Yale team.
A championship is nothing new to Hendricks, however. The redshirt senior was also a member of the Bison’s 2015, 2017 and 2018 national title squads. At the high school level, Hendricks and BHS won section championships in 2012 and 2014.
“That’s how it was supposed to be," North Dakota State head coach Matt Entz said of the Hendricks interception. "It was like it was scripted that way. They couldn’t have written a movie better than that.”
Bison quarterback Trey Lance finished 6-for-10 passing for 72 yards through the air, plus 166 rushing yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. He was named the FCS Championship’s Most Outstanding Player.