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McFeely: Redbirds still searching for what eluded them in Frisco

North Dakota State’s Carlton Littlejohn attempts to keep up with elusive Illinois State quarterback Tre Roberson Saturday, Jan. 10, 2015, during the FCS title game in Frisco, Texas. David Samson / The Forum

NORMAL, Ill. — At the bottom of the scoreboard at north end of Hancock Stadium, home of the Illinois State football team, there is a sign. It reads: “2015 NCAA D-I FCS National Champion Runner-Up”

That is a reminder of what nearly was for the Redbirds following the 2014 season, the year quarterback Tre Roberson and running back Marshaun Coprich led them within 98 seconds of the program’s first national championship. Illinois State had an outstanding team that season, both offensively and defensively, and looked poised to defeat three-time defending national champion North Dakota State in the Football Championship Subdivision title game in Frisco, Texas.

Roberson, a dual threat who had transferred from the Big Ten’s Indiana for his junior year, sprinted 58 yards up the middle to score a touchdown that gave Illinois State a 27-23 lead over NDSU with 1 minute, 38 seconds remaining. It appeared the Bison’s reign at the top of FCS was finished.