|FCS Season VI National Championship|
|Illinois State Redbirds||South Dakota Coyotes|
|Head Coach:||Head Coach:|
|Stadium: Toyota Stadium|
|Location: Frisco, TX|
FCS Season VI National Championship Game
The FCS Season VI National Championship was a postseason college football game that determined a national champion in the NFCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision for Season VI of FCFB and the NFCAA. It was played at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, TX on FSPN. This was the culminating game of the FCS Season VI Playoffs. The championship featured the #5 seed Illinois State Redbirds and the #7 seed South Dakota Coyotes, both from the Missouri Valley Conference. The win gave Illinois State their first national championship. South Dakota, for their part, appeared in their first National Championship game all-time. This was the first inter-conference matchup since the FCS Season II National Championship, and it also marked the first national championship where neither team was seeded fourth or better.
Season VI College Football Playoffs
|First round||Second round||Quarterfinals||Semifinals||Final|
|16.||Tennessee State||49||1.||New Hampshire||10|
|17.||Idaho State||22||16.||Tennessee State||24|
|24.||Kennesaw State (OT)||27||24.||Kennesaw State||14|
|12.||Western Carolina||37||5.||Illinois State||28|
|21.||Northern Arizona||53||21.||Northern Arizona||7|
|13.||Youngstown State||27||4.||Houston Baptist||28|
|14.||Incarnate Word||48||3.||Eastern Illinois||38|
|19.||Portland State||7||14.||Incarnate Word (OT)||39|
|11.||North Dakota State||21||6.||Norfolk State||35|
|22.||Norfolk State||35||22.||Norfolk State||14|
|2.||William & Mary||7|
|15.||Towson||28||2.||William & Mary||24|
The FCS Season VI National Championship featured the No. 5 Illinois State Redbirds and the No. 7 South Dakota Coyotes. It was the teams' third meeting, with the series tied at 1-1; they first met in FCS Season IV, where South Dakota were 56-35 victors. Entering the contest, the teams last met during Week 4 of the season prior, as Illinois State defeated South Dakota, 22-17. This was the first meeting between MVC teams in the postseason; Illinois State and South Dakota also joined Northern Iowa as the only MVC teams to appear in the National Championship Game.
On top of making their national championship debuts, Illinois State and South Dakota also made their playoff debuts during FCS Season VI. Both teams' best record prior to this season was 7-5, achieved during FCS Season V.
Illinois State was coming off of a 7-5 season, their best in program history. Their first game was the home opener against Arkansas-Pine Bluff, where they escaped with a 30-27 victory. A neutral site game against Marist followed, which saw the Redbirds score twice in the last two minutes to win 28-21. Illinois State's conference play opened with an upset win over #7 Western Illinois, before they traveled to Des Moines and won a tight game against winless Drake. The Redbirds returned home to face last season's finalists Jackson State, where they came back from 18 down to win 53-49, before returning to Iowa and defeating Northern Iowa 21-0 in a shortened game. Top 10 matchups against Eastern Illinois and Tarleton State followed, where Illinois State won those games by 31 and 17, respectively. A tough test in Northern Colorado came to town for Week 9, but Illinois State extended their record to 9-0 by winning 47-16. The Redbirds' first regular season setback was a 50-59 loss against Indiana State, where they were down by as many as 24 in the third quarter. Despite the loss, Illinois State remained first in the committee rankings, but dropped to #2 in the Coaches' Poll. Illinois State was able to bounce back against a feisty St. Thomas squad before falling to Missouri State, 28-35. Due to tiebreakers, the Redbirds missed out on a spot in the MVC Championship Game, but their overall body of work was good enough for the #5 seed in the Season VI FCS Playoffs. Their first opponent was #21 Northern Arizona, whom they eased past by a score of 28-7. Illinois State then had to travel to Houston Baptist, but they came away with a 34-28 win over the #4 seed Huskies. The semifinals saw the Redbirds return home to face #16 Tennessee State, the surprise team in an already surprising playoffs. A 28-14 victory earned Illinois State a national championship berth. They entered the game with a 13-2 record, going 6-2 in conference play.
Like Illinois State, South Dakota was also coming off of their best season in program history. They opened their schedule with a neutral site game in Tiraspol, but fell to #16 Delaware 31-28. The next game was in Bangui, Central African Republic, against Texas Southern. In spite of the ongoing civil war, concerns for player safety were brushed aside as South Dakota squeaked by Texas Southern, 28-27. The conference play opener saw a 24-7 loss to North Dakota State, before they rebounded against Butler via a forfeit. South Dakota's players did not want to visit another war-torn country, so instead, they traveled to #5 Davidson and trounced them by 22. Two more conference wins over Valparaiso and North Dakota followed, before another trip to a country in political strife (Cyprus) resulted in a 28-10 victory over #20 Incarnate Word. Their five-game winning streak was snapped by Dayton, but the Coyotes rallied with a 38-17 drubbing of #11 Western Illinois and a close win over Indiana State. Going into Week 12, South Dakota was on the outside looking in for a MVC Championship Game spot, but the result of every Week 12 game broke their way, and they finished the season atop the conference. A rematch with North Dakota State saw a closer final score, but still the same outcome for South Dakota. They managed to earn the #7 seed in the Season VI FCS Playoffs. Their first opponent was #23 Harvard, whom they squeaked past, 30-28. A big matchup against #2 seed William & Mary was mostly a defensive battle, with 13 points enough to get the job done for the Coyotes. A semifinal appearance saw South Dakota meet Norfolk State, where a 21-17 victory earned South Dakota a national championship berth. They entered the game with a 12-4 record, going 6-2 in conference play.
Illinois State won the coin toss and deferred to the second half, and their kickoff was returned to the South Dakota 20. After getting stuffed on the first play, South Dakota's running back broke off an 80 yard touchdown run, which was the quickest touchdown scored in any national championship game. The ensuing kickoff was booted through the end zone, resulting in a touchback. Illinois State's first play from scrimmage saw their star running back scamper for 70 yards of his own, before the fullback punched it in from five yards out on the next play. South Dakota's next drive started from their 25, and they were able to pick up a few first downs to get close to midfield. They combined for -1 yards on 2nd and 3rd down, forcing a punt which was returned for a touchdown, and a 14-7 lead for Illinois State. South Dakota started with better field position following a return to their 30, but quickly went 3-and-out, giving the ball right back to Illinois State. As the second quarter began, the Redbirds worked into Coyote territory before fumbling on 3rd down at the 32. South Dakota looked to take advantage of this mistake, reeling off 39 yards in 5 plays to get into field goal range. But another 3rd down fumble was recovered by the Redbird defense, and their ensuing 7 play, 71-yard drive was capped off by a 4 yard touchdown run, which extended the lead to 14. South Dakota was desperate to get back into the game, and they looked poised to reduce the deficit when a 60 yard end-around left them 4 yards away from the end zone. Ultimately, the drive ended with a fumble recovery in the end zone for the Redbirds, who went into the locker room up 21-7.
South Dakota needed a strong start to the second half, and they got one in the form of a special teams mistake. Illinois State's returner muffed the kick, and he had to fall on it at his own 5 yard line. The Redbirds quickly dug themselves out of the hole, running for 51 yards in 3 plays, before a fumble two plays later set up the Coyotes around midfield. South Dakota got into field goal range again, but the Redbird defense forced another timely turnover, before fumbling themselves three plays later. South Dakota soon had 1st and 10 at the 13, but lost 11 yards over two plays and had to settle for a field goal try. The 33 yard attempt was shanked by the kicker, and Illinois State took over at their own 16. They would retain possession for the whole 4th quarter to win their first national championship.
|FCS Season VI National Championship|
|at Toyota Stadium • Frisco, TX
|Quarter||Time||Plays||Yards||TOP||Team||Scoring Information||Illinois State||South Dakota|
|1||6:17||2||80||0:38||South Dakota||80 yard rushing touchdown, PAT good||0||7|
|1||5:50||2||75||0:27||Illinois State||5 yard rushing touchdown, PAT good||7||7|
|1||2:25||Illinois State||Punt return for touchdown, PAT good||14||7|
|2||1:15||7||71||2:14||Illinois State||4 yard rushing touchdown, PAT good||21||7|
|Statistic||Illinois State||South Dakota|
|Field Goal Efficiency||0/0||0/1|
Illinois State's win marked their first national championship all-time, as well as the first national championship for an MVC team. They finished the season with a record of 14–2, while South Dakota finished with a 12–5 record. Illinois State became the first national champion to not compete in their conference championship, and both teams set program records for most wins in a season. This was also the Redbirds' last game as a member of the MVC; due to extensive realignment, they would begin FCS Season VII as a member of the newly-created Ohio Valley Conference. Illinois State's head coach I.M. Material would announce his retirement following the game, while South Dakota's head coach returned for another season.