North Dakota State Are FCS National Champions, AGAIN
North Dakota State Are FCS National Champions, AGAIN. NDSU has a long legacy of winning. Saturday night the 40th FCS Championship was played at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas. NDSU won its 6th national championship in seven years in front of a standing room only crowd of 19,090. NDSU was the number two seed while James Madison the reigning National Champions going into the game was the number one seed. Last January NDSU had won five straight national championships and James Madison killed that streak. Saturday NDSU came out with something to prove. I had the privilege of being on the sidelines and watching the game through a camera lens. Being on the sidelines shooting pictures is a unique experience. You get lost in the motion of moving around the field trying to find the best spot for the coolest action shots. You shoot a TON of photos (I shot 1,902) at a game. Meanwhile, only a handful shots turn into a “YES! Look at that” shot. Here are the top shots I took of the Division I FCS Football Championship on January 6, 2018, in Frisco, Texas.
1. The On Field Access
As a photographer, you get some pretty cool access. Being able to shoot pictures of a team running on the field is exhilarating. You take 100 shots in a short amount of time and you hopefully get one really great one. North Dakota State University head coach Chris Klieman running out onto the field with the team.
2. Bruce Anderson And The Action Shot
There is a reason Junior running back Bruce Anderson was NDSU’s leading rusher all season. He was the workhorse for the Bison offense. Yet the JMU defense held him to 18 carries for 63 yards. Anderson capped off his junior season Saturday with a National Championship as well as finishing with 1,216 yards in 234 carries in 15 games. Did you know that Anderson’s season yardage was 126 yards shy of 1,342 yards which were the combined total rushing yards for ALL 15 of the Bison’s opponents this season? This might be my favorite shot from the game.
3. Easton Stick
Easton Stick had his work cut out for him as he faced a relentless JMU defense. Stick finished his junior season with 2,466 passing yards, 164 completions, 28 touchdowns, 8 INTs. As well as a solid ground game with 663 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns. Easton’s game on Saturday was not his most exciting performance of the season. As he was sacked three times one of which resulted in a fumble that JMU recovered. Quarterbacks are fun to shoot but hard to shoot as well. They are often the center of the action which makes them the easiest target for the lens.
4. Bryan Schor
James Madison’s junior quarterback Bryan Schor had his hands full with the Bison defense. Yet he kept his team in the game, with his ability to escape the defenders as well as thread the needle to get the ball to his receivers. For the handful of crisp shots I have of Schor I have another 200 hundred blurry shots. Schor kept that Bison defense busy.
5. Right Place Right Time
Sometimes you get lucky and are at the right spot at the right time. That ball lands in the receiver’s hands right in front of you. It makes for a great progression of photos. Darrius Shepard was wide open and Stick threw him a bomb. I was in the perfect spot to catch the action. Catches like this turn are how sports photographers end up shooting 1,900 pictures in a game. Your camera shoots 10 frames a second you just keep shooting. You never know what you have captured until you look through the final photos. Although, my favorite picture in this series is the very first one. *side note* Yes, this is an excessive amount of photos, but I wanted to give you a glimpse into the process of shooting a football game. I only posted HALF of them.
6. The Blocked Kick
Pictures like this are fascinating. Particularly in seeing the full frame, as the two teams and the players all in various stops of action. NDSU’s Cam Pedersen’s kick blocked and the ball barely visible JMU’s Andrew Ankrah #93. The FCS Championship game may not have been high scoring but the action was fantastic. It was a battle of wills as both defenses did their due diligence to keep the points off the board. Special teams were a mixture of missed field goals and blocked kicks.
7. Defense Wins Championships
In fact, we have all heard the saying “defense win championships” that much was true in the FCS Championship game. As North Dakota State outlasted James Madison. With these three pictures, you can see the tenacity of the Bison defense. Their hustle to the ball and drive to finish plays made the difference in the game.
8. The Champions
Then ultimately the trophy presentation arrives. This was my first time shooting one of these. The confetti was amazing. The emotions were captivating and the excitement pouring from the National Champions was electric, you did not want it to end. All in all shooting football is a great way to watch the game. It is a rewarding and unique opportunity. One I would not trade for the world.