Sam Houston State wins national FCS championship

FRISCO, TEXAS - MAY 14: Jequez Ezzard #12 of the Sam Houston State Bearkats runs the ball against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the first quarter during the 2021 NCAA Division I Football Championship at Toyota Stadium on May 16, 2021 in Frisco, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
FRISCO, TEXAS - MAY 14: Jequez Ezzard #12 of the Sam Houston State Bearkats runs the ball against the South Dakota State Jackrabbits in the first quarter during the 2021 NCAA Division I Football Championship at Toyota Stadium on May 16, 2021 in Frisco, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images) (2021 Getty Images)

(AP) – Eric Schmid threw for three touchdowns, including a 10-yarder to Ife Adeyi with 16 seconds left, and Sam Houston wrapped the longest and most unusual college football season with its first FCS national title, beating top-seeded South Dakota State 23-21 on a rain-drenched Sunday.

Jequez Ezzard caught two touchdowns for No. 2 seed Sam Houston (10-0). He also had a 5-yard catch on fourth-and-3 to extend the final 16-play, 65-yard drive, after Schmid converted an earlier fourth-and-1 with a 9-yard run.

South Dakota State (8-2) went ahead 21-17 on Isaiah Davis’ third TD run, an 85-yarder with 5:41 left. Davis, who finished with 178 yards rushing on 14 carries, went down the sideline in front of the Jackrabbits bench, eluding half of the defense before breaking free to the end zone.

Sam Houston coach K.C. Keeler got his record 24th FCS playoff victory, and became the first coach to win FCS titles at multiple schools. He was the coach of his alma mater when Delaware won the 2003 title.

It was the first title game appearance for South Dakota State and coach John Stiegelmeier, who has coached his alma mater for 24 seasons. The Jackrabbits lost dual-threat freshman quarterback Mark Gronowski to an apparent left leg injury on the opening series of the game.

Schmid finished 20-of-37 passing for 209 yards, and Ezzard had 10 catches for 108 yards. Ramon Jefferson ran for 96 yards.

Ezzard’s second TD was a 15-yarder late in the first half, when he was wide open in the end zone. That occurred shortly after the game resumed following a 74-minute delay because of lightning. The halftime break was shortened to three minutes.

That weather delay came in the final game of a season pushed into the spring, and ending in mid-May instead of early January, because of the coronavirus pandemic. The next season kicks off in only 3 1/2 months.