Death Valley isn’t in Clemson, South Carolina. It isn’t in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, either. Let the FBS powerhouses call their stadiums whatever they please, but it should be known that the real Death Valley is in Fargo, North Dakota. It doesn’t deserve this name because of the almost inhabitable climate that consists of negative-20 degree temperatures and almost five feet of snowfall per year. No, the Fargodome is the real Death Valley because it’s where FCS national title dreams go to die.
Over the last five years 18 playoff teams — all battle tested and well-tried — have entered the Fargodome. Eighteen in a row have been sent home with hopes for better luck next year. It’s just the way it is. You don’t win playoff games in the Fargodome. You just don’t beat North Dakota State in the postseason.
Maybe it’s the noise. Maybe teams can’t handle the sound of 18,000 screaming fans when they’re packed into the dome. Maybe it’s because before the game they turn all the lights off and blast AC/DC’s “Thunderstruck” in a pregame ritual that’s so exciting you can’t help but stop and stare. Or maybe it’s because North Dakota State knows they’re the best, and everyone else knows they’re the best too, so before the game even starts- you’ve already lost. Chalk it up to whatever you want, five national titles in a row mean something.
That kind of dominance isn’t just a streak, it’s a dynasty. It’s a reign of FCS terror. JMU was the 19th team to enter the Fargodome in a playoff contest and it was safe to say that many thought their fate would be no different than anyone else’s. But this story doesn’t start in Fargo, North Dakota. The Dukes historic season began almost a year before their fight in Death Valley.