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The Good And Bad From The Opening Round Of March Madness 2016

Bronson Koenig's buzzer beating three pointer defeated Xavier to cap an incredible opening four days of the 2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images North America)

The Good And Bad From The Opening Round Of March Madness 2016

The 2016 version of March Madness has been just that: Madness. Brackets were busted early and then completely blown up by the end of the first round. For as much fun as the 2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament has been, there have been some bad parts of it as well. Below we will take a look at the good and bad from the first four days of the 2016 NCAA Basketball Tournament

The Good

  1. Upsets Galore – #15 Middle Tennessee defeated one of the National Title favorites and #2 seed Michigan State in the first round. Double digit seeds won left and right (#13 Hawaii over #4 Cal, #11 Wichita State over #6 Arizona, #12 Yale over #5 Baylor, #11 Northern Iowa over #6 Texas, #10 VCU over #7 Oregon State, #10 Syracuse over #7 Dayton, #11 Gonzaga over #6 Seton Hall, #12 Arkansas-Little Rock over #5 Purdue, and #14 Stephen F. Austin over #3 West Virginia). That all made for some great action, particularly on Friday.
  2. The ACC – The Atlantic Coast Conference has put a record 6 teams through to the Sweet 16 (Miami (FL), North Carolina, Notre Dame, Duke, Syracuse, and Virginia). That is incredible to have 38% of the remaining field, but it also came down to some favorable matchups like Syracuse against Middle Tennessee. However, that is no fault of the ACC as their teams delivered.
  3. “Mid-Majors” – This was a good tournament for the upsets (see above), but the “Mid-Majors” got plenty of support in close games and some great stories. Stephen F. Austin got 33 points from Thomas Walkup, who played incredibly against West Virginia and had a solid game against Notre Dame. Yale won their first ever Tournament game against Baylor. Hawaii defeated Cal. Northern Iowa captivated the nation not once, but twice against teams from the state of Texas. First it was Texas and this buzzer beater, but then it was their collapse against Texas A&M. Saint Joseph’s played a great second round game against top seeded Oregon. Finally, Middle Tennessee going toe-to-toe with Michigan State was easily the biggest story of the first round. Mid-Majors should not be discounted in the future when picking brackets.
  4. The #1 Seeds – The top four seeds in the Tournament all looked good on the first weekend, but also faced some competition at times. Kansas took a big lead against UConn before that dwindled, but the Jayhawks fended off that challenge. North Carolina had a close first half against Florida Gulf Coast and Providence, but dominated the second half of those games to pull away. Virginia and Oregon had tough second round games against Butler and Saint Joseph’s, respectively. However, they were able to get through those games and move to the Sweet 16. The top seeds look mighty tough, but this is March Madness afterall and we have seen that anything is possible.

The Bad

  1. Brackets – Michigan State was picked to win a lot of brackets and their upset loss ended any hopes of a prefect bracket on CBS Sports. The Spartans’ loss did other damage to Final Four picks as well according to CBS Sports. Here is my 2017 New Year’s Resolution: Do not fill out a bracket.
  2. The Referees – The inconsistency of the officials calling the Tournament made it frustrating to watch at times. Between Duke and UNC-Wilmington, the referees called every soft foul imaginable while other games would let them play. Constant foul calling stems the flow of the game for TV viewers, but how frustrating must that be for a player on the floor? One thing that needs to be looked at is how much contact to allow. It does come down to each referee, but how can one game have a foul called 80 feet from the basket for putting a hand on a player’s hip and another not call a push off?
  3. Game Management – You can call this the Northern Iowa Special. The Panthers blew a 12 point lead with 35 seconds left in the game and then lost in double overtime to Texas A&M. They are not the only team to make questionable calls though. Xavier was up three in the final 10 seconds, but opted not to foul the Badgers’ shooters. Wisconsin subsequently tied the game and then Bronson Koenig hit a three at the buzzer to end Xavier’s season. Purdue deserves mention as well for letting Little Rock comeback late in the game and losing in double OT. There was also near comebacks by Wichita State (trailed 27-6 to Miami) and Yale (down as much as 27 to Duke), but those two were not able to complete the miracle comebacks.
  4. Seeding/Selection Committee – The NCAA Basketball Selection Committee did a bad job selecting teams last Sunday. It turns out they did a bad job of seeding the teams as well. Stephen F. Austin deserved better than a 14 seed as did Middle Tennessee at 15. And this was before the games were played. It is easy to pile on the Committee after the fact, but some of the seeding was questionable beforehand. In addition, the scheduling for Wichita State was brutal. The Shockers had a late game on Tuesday, late game on Thursday, and an early game on Saturday, which may have contributed to them starting as flat as they did.
  5. Wisconsin versus Pittsburgh – This was about as ugly a game to watch in recent tournament memory. The Badgers won 47-43 after scoring only 16 points in the first half. The teams combined to go 35 of 101 from the field and 7 of 30 from beyond the arc. The 90 total points were the fewest since 2000 in the NCAA Tournament. The game was wretched, but Badger fans felt greatest about the result and were lifted in the second round too.

Let’s hope the final two weekends give us as much entertainment as the first weekend provided.

2015 FCS Playoff Quarterfinals Predictions

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2015 FCS Playoff Quarterfinals Predictions

We are down to the final eight teams in the FCS Playoffs this weekend. After going 4-4 in round one, we improved to 5-3 in the second round to have a playoff total of 9-7 going into the final three rounds. The four games are split evenly with two games played on Friday and two on Saturday. The schedule can be found here and the updated bracket is here via the NCAA website.

#8 Charleston Southern Buccaneers (10-2) at #1 Jacksonville State Gamecocks (11-1) – Friday 8 PM Eastern Time

Charleston Southern had a bye in round one and then had to take on a hot Citadel team at home in the second round. After holding The Citadel to 181 yards in their regular season meeting, they did slightly worse by allowing 199 yards in the Second Round Playoff matchup. The Bucs offense did worse in terms of yardage than The Citadel (267 to 199), but did better when it mattered most. Mike Holloway had touchdown runs of 32 and 41 while finishing with 120 yards on 13 carries.

Jacksonville State also had a bye in the first round as the top seed and they had a great game in round two against Chattanooga at home. The Mocs took a 7-0 lead before Jacksonville State rang up 21 straight points. The Gamecocks held a two touchdown lead on two separate occasions, but their lead evaporated thanks to two fourth quarter touchdowns that gave Chattanooga a 35-28 lead. Troymaine Pope ripped off a 75 yard touchdown run to tie it and the game ended in overtime after an interception by the JSU defense and a touchdown run by Eli Jenkins.

These two teams did not meet in the regular season. The big matchup in this game will be Charleston Southern’s #22 ranked rush defense (and #2 defense as ranked by yards per game) against the Jacksonville State rushing offense. The Gamecocks have the #4 ranked rush offense and #4 ranked offense by yards per game. Against Chattanooga, Troymaine Pope had 17 carries for 234 yards and 3 touchdowns while Eli Jenkins ran for 195 yards and 3 touchdowns on 24 carries.

The matchup of strength on strength will be fun to watch and we are taking the top seeded Jacksonville State Gamecocks to win by a score of 27-20. The winner of this game will play either Sam Houston State or Colgate in the Semifinals.

Colgate Raiders (9-4) at Sam Houston State Bearkats (10-3) – Saturday 8 PM Eastern Time

Colgate opened with a big road win against CAA team New Hampshire, 27-20. The balanced offense (189 yards rushing and 188 yards passing) was able to withstand a 41 of 56 for 309 yards (1 touchdown and 1 interception) performance from Sean Goldrich. In round two, the Raiders had a 17-0 lead against James Madison before blowing that and trailing 28-24 at halftime. The game was close for the rest of the way with Jake Melville’s three yard run giving them the 44-38 lead (and win by that score) in the fourth quarter. James Holland had 165 yards and 2 touchdowns rushing while Melville ran for 163 yards and 2 touchdowns in addition to his 120 yards and 2 touchdowns passing.

Sam Houston State won their opening round game against Southern Utah at home in a thriller 42-39. The 344 yards rushing led the way, but the Bearkats also had 235 yards through the air including the eventual game winning score on a 55 yard touchdown pass from Jeremiah Briscoe to Yedidiah Louis. Round two was on the road against undefeated McNeese State 34-29. Briscoe threw for 313 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception while Cory Avery had 147 yards and a score on 30 rushes. Daniel Sams was held to 225 yards passing (4 touchdowns and a pick) and 57 yards rushing on 19 carries.

Both of these teams are a bit surprising thanks to their upset wins in the second round (and first round for Colgate). This game has a high scoring feel to it especially with Sam Houston State’s #1 ranked offense in yards per game at 543 per game. The defenses are decent at best and that is why this game could have both teams scoring in the 40s. We are going with Sam Houston State to win 52-45 to get back to the FCS Semifinals. The winner of this game will play either Charleston Southern or Jacksonville State in the Semifinals.

Northern Iowa Panthers (9-4) at #3 North Dakota State Bison (10-2) – Saturday 12 PM ET

Northern Iowa has played two games in the FCS Playoffs. The first was at home where they thrashed Eastern Illinois 53-17 with three touchdown passes from Aaron Bailey (on just 11 attempts) and 147 yards rushing and a touchdown from Tyvis Smith. The second round saw UNI travel to Portland State for a late kickoff, but once again the Panthers did not yield more than 17 points in a 29-17 win. Aaron Bailey had just 31 yards passing on 7 of 14, but he ran wild to the tune of 200 yards and 2 touchdowns. His backfield mate Tyvis Smith also had 207 yards and 2 touchdowns as Portland State could not overcome the UNI running game.

The North Dakota State Bison had a bye in round one before playing round two at home against Montana. The Bison dismantled the Grizzlies 37-6 thanks to a dominant defensive performance particularly against the run. Montana was only able to rush for 6 yards on the day with 19 carries. The defense also picked off Brady Gustafson four times with two of those returned for touchdowns. When Montana did score their lone touchdown, it was automatically canceled out by Bruce Anderson’s 100 yard kickoff return for a touchdown to end the slight hope of a comeback.

These two teams did meet in the regular season here at the FargoDome. Carson Wentz threw for 335 yards with 4 touchdowns and 2 interceptions that day, but a broken wrist has sidelined him since mid-October. Whether Wentz plays against UNI is unknown, but what is known is that Northern Iowa will try to establish the run with Bailey and Smith while NDSU will try and stop it. If the Bison have another defensive performance like last week, it does not matter who is at quarterback.

We will go with North Dakota State at home in this one to keep their drive for five straight National Championships alive 31-20. The winner of this game will play the winner of the Richmond at Illinois State game in the Semifinals.

#7 Richmond Spiders (9-3) at #2 Illinois State Redbirds (10-2) – Friday 7:30 PM ET

The Richmond Spiders faced a familiar foe in round two after an opening round by. They crushed William & Mary 48-13 in the opening round just two weeks after defeating them 20-9 in the regular season finale. The game really turned when William & Mary was trying to cut the 14-3 deficit to 14-10, but a 100 yard interception return by David Jones made the score 21-3 and the Tribe never recovered. Richmond had 302 yards rushing and 146 passing. All six of their offensive touchdowns came on the ground with three from Jacobi Green, two from quarterback Kyle Lauletta, and one from David Broadus.

Illinois State also faced a conference opponent in the second round after a bye. They played Western Illinois at home and just like the regular season matchup, the Redbirds did not put them away until late. The game was 22-19 Illinois State with less than 10 minutes to play before two touchdowns in the final six minutes ended the Western Illinois season. Tre Roberson had another bad day passing (10 of 23 for 132 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions), but he made up for that with 111 yards and 2 touchdowns on the ground. As expected, Marshaun Coprich had a heavy dose of running and he was nearly unstoppable going for 217 yards and 2 touchdowns on 31 carries. Anthony Warrum was a bright spot in the passing game for ISU with 6 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown.

Both of these teams have good offenses with each favoring one type of attack. On the season, Richmond has favored the passing game while Illinois State prefers to run the ball, but both offenses can use the pass or run. The defenses are far from spectacular, which means a lot of points could be in the forecast. We will take the Illinois State Redbirds to win after making the FCS Championship game last year in a 41-38 thriller. The winner of this game will face off against Northern Iowa or North Dakota State in the Semifinals.

2015 FCS Playoff Round 2 Predictions

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2015 FCS Playoff Round 2 Predictions

The 2015 FCS Playoffs continue on Saturday, December 5 with eight games in the second round. We went an even 4-4 last week with our predictions for round one.The eight winners on Saturday will then move on to the Quarterfinals to be played on the weekend of December 12. The schedule for the second round can be found here while an updated bracket can be found here.

Chattanooga Mocs (9-3) at #1 Jacksonville State Gamecocks – 2 PM Eastern Time

Chattanooga completely dominated Fordham in the first round in their 50-20 win at home. Jacob Huesman had 211 yards and 3 touchdowns passing while also running for another 129 yards on the ground. The Mocs had 560 yards of offense with 349 coming on the ground.

Jacksonville State (first round bye) had a great year as they went 10-1 and their only loss was a 27-20 loss in overtime on the road to the Auburn Tigers. They had two close games early in the year against FCS opponents, but they went on to destroy most of their opponents. The offense puts up 503 yards per game (4th best in the FCS) while the defense allows only 277 yards a game (6th in the FCS).

These two teams met in the opening week with Jacksonville State winning on the road 23-20. The Mocs were held to 196 yards of total offense while Troymaine Pope had 173 yards on 15 carries alone for JSU. With this game back in Jacksonville, we will take the Gamecocks to win, but the Mocs will give a good showing. Jacksonville State wins 35-24 with the winner of this game facing the winner of the Citadel-Charleston game.

The Citadel Bulldogs (9-3) at #8 Charleston Southern Buccaneers (9-2) – 1 PM Eastern Time

The Citadel came in to the first round high off their win over the South Carolina Gamecocks. In a back and forth affair, Eric Goins hit a 43 yard field goal as the game ended to give them another big win. Defense was optional for the two teams with both teams having more than 550 yards apiece. The Bulldogs had 524 yards rushing (!) with four different players having at least 90 yards on the ground.

Charleston Southern had a bye in the first round after a very good defensive performance in the regular season. Their two losses were to Troy and Alabama out of the FBS. The defense allows 20 points per game (20th in the FCS), but impressively allowed only 266 yards per game, which is second best in the FCS. The rushing defense has allowed only 110 yards per game.

This is yet another rematch of a regular season game in the FCS Playoffs. Charleston Southern won 33-20 on September 26 at The Citadel after trailing 17-6 at halftime. Their 17 point fourth quarter put the game firmly in their grasp. The Citadel had 181 yards on the ground, which was well below their 359 yards per game average.

This game is tough to call because The Citadel are riding high off two big wins. On the other hand, CSU has defeated them at their place and showed they can stop the running attack. We will go with The Citadel to keep their great play alive and win 30-24. The winner of this game will face the winner of the Chattanooga-Jacksonville State game.

Colgate Raiders (8-4) at #5 James Madison Dukes (9-2) – 1 PM Eastern Time

Colgate won their first round contest on the road at New Hampshire 27-20. The Raiders had lost in the regular season to the Wildcats at home 26-8, but were able to turn it around despite giving up nearly 400 yards of offense. Jake Melville had 188 yards passing and 66 yards rushing, but it was James Holland who had all four touchdowns for Colgate.

James Madison earned a first round bye after a three way tie for first in the Colonial Athletic Association. Their 9-2 record was pretty dominant with the exception of a 59-49 loss to Richmond and 44-41 loss to William & Mary. Both of those teams are still in the FCS Playoffs. The offense was the key for JMU as they put up 550 yards per game (best in the FCS) and 44.8 points per game (#2 in the FCS). The defense was below average as they ranked in the bottom half of nearly all major categories.

We went against Colgate last week and we will do so again this week as well. The offensive firepower for James Madison appears to be too much for Colgate to stop. The Raiders will probably put some points up themselves. James Madison takes this one 47-31 with the winner facing the Sam Houston State-McNeese State victor.

Sam Houston State Bearkats (9-3) at #4 McNeese State Cowboys (10-0) – 7 PM Eastern Time

Sam Houston State played a wild first round game at home against Southern Utah where they escaped 42-39. After 58 first half points, the defenses emerged with only 23 points coming in the final 30 minutes. SHSU erased a 39-26 deficit early in the third quarter despite losing quarterback Jared Johnson in the second quarter. Johnson is expected to play against McNeese State.

McNeese State had a bye in the first round thanks to their undefeated regular season. Their opening game against LSU was cancelled and they cruised through most of their schedule. They had close wins against Abilene Christian (15-13) and Lamar (20-14) on the road, but those contests both featured late touchdowns from the losing sides. The Cowboys defense is the best in the FCS in rushing yards allowed (78.6 per game) and is second in points per game at 11.1. They have allowed only 11 touchdowns and 5 field goals all season.

Stop if you have heard this one before: Sam Houston State at McNeese State is a rematch from the regular season. In that game, SHSU jumped out to a 10-0 lead thanks to a pick six before McNeese State rattled off 27 points to end the game. The Bearkats had some success against the MSU defense with 180 yards rushing and 200 yards passing. McNeese ran for 305 yards with quarterback Daniel Sams accounting for 164 of those yards and a touchdown.

This game will feature an incredible offense in SHSU against an incredible defense in MSU. Considering we saw this play out on November 7 with a big game from McNeese State at home, it is hard to see the outcome changing. SHSU does have more playoff experience in their favor (made the Semifinals last year while MSU last made the playoffs in 2013), but this game still is McNeese State’s to lose. We will go with them to win 31-20 with the winner facing either Colgate or James Madison.

Montana Grizzlies (8-4) at #3 North Dakota State Bison (9-2) – 3:30 PM Eastern Time

Montana won their opening round contest at home against South Dakota State 24-17. The Grizzlies held a 24-0 lead at half, but nearly squandered that with 17 points by South Dakota State. The Grizz were led by Brady Gustafson’s 295 yards and 2 touchdowns through the air as the defense was on their heels late in the game.

North Dakota State had a subpar regular season by their standards with two loss, but still earned a first round bye. They tied for the Missouri Valley title with Illinois State (the two teams did not play each other) with their lone loss coming at home to South Dakota 24-21. The rushing attack led the way for the Bison (244 yards per game) while the defense was stingy once again. The defense allowed only 17.6 points per game (9th in the FCS) and 291 yards per game (12th in the FCS).

In yet another unsurprising twist, these two teams met in the regular season opener. North Dakota State lost that game 38-35 with a last second touchdown by the Grizzlies to give them the big win. The Bison and Grizzlies have both played in quite a few close games this year (five games decided by 7 points or less with a 3-2 record for each team). This game is tough to call, but we will go with the Bison to win at home 31-21. The winner faces the Portland State-Northern Iowa winner.

Northern Iowa Panthers (8-4) at #6 Portland State Vikings (9-2) – 10 PM Eastern Time

Northern Iowa overwhelmed Eastern Illinois at home last week in the first round by a score of 53-17. Aaron Bailey threw for 162 yards and 3 touchdowns on only 7 of 11 passing while also rushing for 72 yards. Tyvis Smith had 147 yards rushing and a touchdown on 24 carries. The Panthers put up 485 yards of offense and had a pick six late in the game from Ray Buchanan.

Portland State had a bye in the first round thanks to their 9-2 regular season with a second place finish in the Big Sky. Their two losses came by a grand total of 5 points. They also had four wins by a touchdown or less including the shocking win over Washington State to begin the season. The rushing attack is 11th best in the FCS and the offense averages 35.8 points per game (12th in the FCS). The defense is average in the amount of yards given up, but allows 21.7 points per game, which is 38th best in the FCS.

This is not a rematch of a regular season game for a change. The rushing attacks for both teams will be heavily featured especially with the quarterbacks being one of the top two rushers for each team. The teams are nearly similar in every category except for two: Northern Iowa’s pass defense (#106) and Portland State’s rush defense (#71). That favors UNI slightly that they have the better rush defense.

We will go with Northern Iowa 31-28 to win on the road, but a Portland State win would not be shocking. The winner of this game will play either Montana or North Dakota State.

William & Mary Tribe (9-3) at #7 Richmond Spiders (8-3) – 12 PM Eastern Time

William & Mary had some trouble in the first round against Duquesne. The Tribe were never able to fully put the game away despite having a two possession lead on three separate occasions. The Tribe finished with 480 yards of offense with 253 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 2 picks from Steve Cluley and 137 yards and 2 touchdowns from Kendell Anderson. The 52 points scored was the most by the Tribe on offense in 2015.

Richmond had a bye in the first round after going 8-3 in the regular season and tying for the Colonial Athletic title (won the head-to-head matchups against William & Mary and James Madison). The offense is good averaging 465 yards per game (#14 in the FCS and 33.5 points per contest (#23 in the FCS). The defense is decent giving up 24.6 points per game (#53) and 375 yards per game (#54). Quarterback Kyle Lauletta has thrown a touchdown pass in 8 games and two or more in six games.

This game will feel awfully familiar for Richmond. Their final regular season was at home against William & Mary, a game they won 20-9 with a late touchdown from Lauletta to Reggie Diggs to seal it. Jacobi Green ran for 217 yards and a touchdown for Richmond while Cluley had 3 interceptions for William & Mary.

The three losses for William & Mary have come when they failed to score 30 points or more and all were on the road. The three losses for Richmond have come when they failed to score 26 points or more and all came on the road. We will (tepidly) take Richmond to win 28-21 with the winner facing either Western Illinois or Illinois State.

Western Illinois Leathernecks (7-5) at #2 Illinois State Redbirds (9-2) – 2 PM Eastern Time

Western Illinois proved the Playoff Committee correct in the opening round by winning on the road against Dayton, but it was far from an attractive victory. They trailed early in the game and probably should have been in a larger deficit than 7 points if not for mistakes from Dayton. Still, they scored the final 24 points and had 152 yards and a touchdown on 34 carries from Nikko Watson.

Illinois State tied for the Missouri Valley title with North Dakota State and those two teams did not meet in the regular season. Their losses came on road to Iowa 31-14 (currently undefeated and playing in the Big Ten Championship) and South Dakota State 25-20 (lost in the opening round of the playoffs). The Redbirds will lean heavily on running back Marshaun Coprich who has 1,710 yards and 20 touchdowns this year. Quarterback Tre Roberson has not had the best year passing (48% completions on 175 passing attempts), but he can take off with the ball as noted by his 630 yards and 9 touchdowns on 100 carries. The defense allows only 19.8 points per game (#18 in the FCS).

These two teams met on October 24 with Illinois State winning 48-28. The game was tied 28 in the final five minutes of third quarter, but the Redbirds rode Coprich (206 yards and 2 touchdowns) and Roberson (211 yards passing, 2 touchdowns, 2 interceptions, 89 yards rushing, 2 rushing touchdowns) to the victory. Western Illinois’ Trenton Norvell had 313 yards and 2 touchdowns passing in that game as well.

We are going to take Illinois State win once again due to the duo of Coprich and Roberson, but a close game would not be surprising. The Redbirds win 45-37 with the winner getting either Richmond or William & Mary.

2015 FCS Playoff Round 1 Predictions

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2015 FCS Playoff Round 1 Predictions

The 2015 FCS Playoffs begin on Saturday, November 28 with eight games in the first round. The eight winners on Saturday will then face one of the top eight national seeds in the second round on Saturday, December 5. The entire schedule can be found here while the bracket can be found here.

Fordham Rams (9-2) at Chattanooga Mocs (8-3) – 1 PM Eastern Time

The Fordham Rams enter this game after finishing the regular season 9-2 and second in the Patriot League. Their two losses were to Villanova (14-7) and Colgate (31-29), but their offense has been able to get going in their wins. They have won every game they have scored at least 35 points and even won a 24-16 battle against Bucknell. There is a worry about the defense, as they ranked in the lower half of nearly all major categories.

Chattanooga tied for first in the Southern Conference, but won the tiebreaker and exits off a big loss on the road to Florida State. However, their two losses were by a field goal apiece including the season opener against top ranked Jacksonville State at home. The Mocs will rely on their run first option attack as well as a good defense (23rd in the nation). The Mocs played in five games decided by 8 points or less in 2015 with a 3-2 record.

This is a tough matchup to call, but we will go with Chattanooga to win 30-27. The winner of this game will face the top seeded Jacksonville State Gamecocks in Round 2.

The Citadel Bulldogs (8-3) at Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (9-2) – 2 PM Eastern Time

The Citadel finished tied for first in the Southern Conference, but lost the head-to-head tiebreaker to Chattanooga. They will feature the #2 rushing attack in the FCS and are coming off a big win over South Carolina. Three of their last four games been decided by 8 points or less and are 2-1 in those games so they know how to win close games. The Citadel defense is a better than average at #40 in the nation.

Coastal Carolina finished second in the Big South after losing two games in conference to Charleston Southern and Liberty. Both of those games were on the road and by a combined 11 points. They have one of the better offenses in the FCS and also boast a good defense that gives up only 18.2 points per game. The offense is balanced enough to give most teams fits. De’Angelo Henderson will be the man to stop for The Citadel as he has 1,245 yards rushing and 15 rushing touchdowns.

This game being at home for Coastal Carolina boosts their chances big time and they are a bit more balanced than The Citadel. If the Bulldogs can hog possession with their rushing attack, they have a chance to pull the upset, but we will go with Coastal Carolina to win 42-31. The winner of this game will face #8 Charleston Southern in Round 2.

Colgate Raiders (7-4) at New Hampshire Wildcats (7-4) – 3:30 pM Eastern Time

Colgate was the surprise winner of the Patriot League after pulling a 31-29 upset at home against Fordham. It was a slow start to the season going 0-3 with one of the losses coming to this same New Hampshire team. They were not very good in that game, losing 26-8. Quarterback Jake Melville will be the main man for Colgate as the leading passer and rusher. As he goes, so will the offense. Colgate has the 72nd ranked defense by total yards in the FCS and have struggled mightily against the pass at #106.

New Hampshire finished in a tie for fourth in the Colonial Athletic Association. The Wildcats suffered three losses in losses in conference and were not very close in any of those games. Their offense is only 74th in the nation by yards while the defense is similar at 77th by yards. The defense has been susceptible to the run giving up over 200 yards per game, but has allowed just 21.5 points per game employing a bend, but do not break style. It is also worth noting that all four losses came on the road for New Hampshire.

Despite the fact that New Hampshire won rather easy in the 26-8 drubbing of Colgate, this game could be defensive and much closer. With New Hampshire being at home, we will give them the edge by a score of 17-10. The winner of this game will face the #5 seed James Madison in Round 2.

Southern Utah Thunderbirds (8-3) at Sam Houston State Bearkats (8-3) – 3 PM Eastern

Southern Utah had a great season winning the Big Sky Conference. They opened 0-2 with losses to Utah State and South Dakota State, but would not lose again in 8 games when they lost by a point to Portland State. The offense for Southern Utah is one of the top 25 by yards, passing, points, touchdowns, and field goals. The defense has been poor at times particularly against the run (#87), but they also put together a streak of 5 straight games in the middle of the season where they allowed 7 points or less.

Sam Houston State finished in a tie for second in the Southland Conference behind the undefeated McNeese State team. Sam Houston State also opened 0-2 before ripping off 6 wins in a row. The offense for the Bearkats is #2 at 544.5 yards per game and they also like to put up points in bunches to the tune of nearly 44 per contest. The defense gives up nearly 400 yards per game, but also allows only a solid 24.5 points per game.

This game has a shootout feel to it. Whichever defense makes the most plays will probably win this game. We will go with Sam Houston State to win 45-40. The winner of this game will play #4 McNeese State in the second round.

South Dakota State Jackrabbits (8-3) at Montana Grizzlies (7-4) – 3 PM Eastern Time

South Dakota State comes out of the incredibly competitive Missouri Valley Football Conference where they finished in a three way tie for third. Their three losses were to North Dakota State, Western Illinois, and Northern Iowa, with the former two making the FCS Playoffs as well. SDSU had a shift in offensive style with Zach Zenner off to the NFL. The Jackrabbits have a top 20 passing offense led by Zach Lujan, who has missed some of the season due to injury. The defense is stingy when it comes to allowing points as they allow just 16.7 per contest, which ranks 9th best in the FCS.

Montana finished in a tie for second with Portland State in the Big Sky Conference. After opening with a win against the 4-time defending FCS Champions NDSU, Montana lost games to Cal Poly and Liberty. Their other two losses came to Weber State and Portland State. The passing game for Montana is the key for the offense (#11 in the FCS), but wide receiver Jamaal Jones will be the top target. Jones averages 99 yards per game and also has 9 receiving touchdowns. The Grizzlies are a middle of the road team on defense giving up 389 yards per game with the yardage split nearly even between rushing and passing.

Both of these teams like to pass the ball to move the chains, but both defenses struggle against the run and are decent against the pass. That will make for an interesting dynamic along with Montana being at home. The SDSU defense is much better at not giving up points (16.7 to 24.2 for Montana) so we will go with them in 24-21 win on the road. The winner of this matchup will face the #3 seed North Dakota State Bison.

Eastern Illinois Panthers (7-4) at Northern Iowa Panthers (7-4) – 5 PM Eastern Time

Eastern Illinois made a strong rally to finish the season in second place in the Ohio Valley Conference. They opened 0-3 including a field goal loss to Illinois State at home. They won the next five games before a 24-3 loss to top ranked Jacksonville State. They won their final two games to finish 7-4 and reach these FCS Playoffs. The offense has been better at running the ball than passing, but only yields 337 yards per contest on offense. Devin Church will be they key man running the ball, but can also be a receiving threat out of the backfield. The Panthers’ defense is top 35 against the pass and average against the run. EIU gives up 24.2 points per game, the same amount that they score.

Northern Iowa finished in a three way tie for third in the Missouri Valley. They lost their opener to Iowa State, came back to win the next two, and then lost the next 3 to sit at 2-4. They won their final five games over mostly bottom teams from the MVFC. Aaron Bailey is the cog in the UNI offense as the leading passer and rusher. He prefers to run as much as possible, but can throw the ball when required. The Northern Iowa defense is stingy against the run and also gives up 19.7 points per game (top 20 in both categories).

With this game being at home for UNI, they are the clear favorites to win this game. Their lone loss at home in 2015 was to Western Illinois by 5 points. The UNI defense may be too much for Eastern Illinois to overcome. Northern Iowa wins 24-13. The winner of this game will take on #6 Portland State in the second round.

Duquesne Dukes (8-3) at William & Mary Tribe (8-3) – 3:30 PM Eastern Time

The Duquesne Dukes won the Northeast Conference thanks to a 30-20 win over St. Francis (PA) in the final week of the regular season. The losses for the Dukes were to Dayton, Albany, and Bryant with all three coming on the road. The offense produces a solid 408 yards per game, but the emergence of running back Rafiq Douglas will be important for Duquesne. After failing to crack 90 rushing yards in the first seven games, Douglas has ran for at least 165 in three of the final four games of the regular season. The defense is ranked in the top 25 in yards per game at 326 yards per contest and they have allowed only 1,400 yards rushing all season.

William & Mary finished in a three way tie for first in the Colonial Athletic Association with losses to Virginia (35-29), Delaware (24-23), and Richmond (20-9) with all three of those coming on the road. At home the Tribe did not lose a game and only one game was closer than 14 points (James Madison, 44-41). The offense is incredibly balanced with the passing attack averaging just 20 more yards per game. The defense will be the unit that determines the outcome. They give up only 18 points per game (#13 in the FCS) and the yards per game surrendered is at 331 (#28 in the FCS).

This contest has a defensive feel to it and it also feels like the Tribe are more likely to win. Duquesne’s losses all came on the road while William & Mary was unblemished at home. The defense for the Tribe has also faced better competition. We will call for William & Mary to win 28-10. The winner of this matchup will play #7 Richmond in the second round.

Western Illinois Leathernecks (6-5) at Dayton Flyers (10-1) – 12 PM Eastern Time

Western Illinois was a surprise pick to make the FCS Playoffs at 6-5, but did finished in a three way tie for third. WIU lost to Illinois (FBS), Coastal Carolina, Illinois State, Youngstown State, and North Dakota State with only YSU not in the FCS Playoffs. WIU also beat FCS Playoff teams in Eastern Illinois, Northern Iowa, and South Dakota State. Trenton Norvell will lead the offense and the #32 passing attack, but Nikko Watson has back-to-back games of at least 150 yards rushing and a touchdown. The defense for Western Illinois is a major concern. They are below average in every major statistical category, which is never a good sign.

Dayton finished in a tie for the Pioneer League title, but their head-to-head win over San Diego made them the champs. Their lone loss came in the regular season finale at Drake where they lost 27-17. The offense is balanced for Dayton, but only averages 341 yards per game and that ranks 85th in the FCS. The passing defense for Dayton is poor at 87th in the FCS, but the Flyers have a solid run defense (30th) and do not give up a ton of points at 18.6 per game (#16 in the FCS).

This is a tough game to call because Dayton does not have a stellar offense (#85 in yards per game), but Western Illinois does not have a good defense (#84 in yards allowed per game with 409). On the flip side, WIU had the #32 passing offense against Dayton’s 87th ranked passing defense. In a true coin flip game, we will go with Dayton win at home 24-20. The winner of this game will face the second seeded Illinois State Redbirds.

2014 FCS Playoffs Second Round Wrap Up

North Dakota State Celebrates Their Win Over South Dakota State (Joe Ahlquist / Argus Leader)
North Dakota State Celebrates Their Win Over South Dakota State (Joe Ahlquist / Argus Leader)

2014 FCS Playoffs Second Round Wrap Up

Eight games were played in second round to determine the Quarterfinal matchups next weekend. As usual, there were surprises, close games, and expected results. Let’s take a look at each game from the second round and be sure to check the results compared to the predictions made last week, which can be found here.

 

Fordham Rams (11-2) at #1 New Hampshire Wildcats (10-1)

New Hampshire had a strong performance against Fordham holding the Rams to just 161 yards passing. The Wildcats won 44-19.

New Hampshire scored on their first play from scrimmage with a 51 yard run by Jimmy Owens. The missed extra point kept the score at 6-0. Their second possession resulted in another touchdown as quarterback Sean Goldrich ran in for an 8 yard touchdown on fourth and two. The Wildcats were successful on the two point attempt to make it a 14-0 lead. New Hampshire was on their way to another score until a lost fumble by Goldrich gave the ball to Fordham.

The Rams turned that fumble into a field goal and would have more good fortune on New Hampshire’s next drive. The Wildcats were on their way to another score until a lost fumble by Jared Allison was recovered at the 3 yard line. Two plays later, Chase Edmonds ripped of a 91 yard dash to the end zone and the Rams missed the two-point conversion. The Rams closed the deficit to 14-12 after a 26 field goal on their next drive from Michael Marando.

Following the field goal, New Hampshire made it a two-score game with Nico Steriti’s 11 yard touchdown run. The Wildcats hit a 30 yard field goal as time expired in the first half to take a 24-12 lead at the break.

The Wildcats opened the second half with an excellent kickoff return and parlayed that into a touchdown with Steriti punching the ball in from a yard out to make it 31-12. Fordham responded in kind with an excellent return of their own in addition to a penalty that put them at New Hampshire’s 12 yard line. Three plays later, Mike Nebrich hit Brian Wetzel for a 5 yard touchdown and trailed 31-19 early in the third quarter. Late in the third quarter, the Wildcats extend the lead to 37-19 on Steriti’s 7 yard touchdown run. Once again, the extra point attempt was no good.

The fourth quarter saw New Hampshire’s punt blocked early on, but Fordham was unable to cash in. The Wildcats capped the scoring later in the quarter with Steriti’s 24 yard touchdown run. They did make the extra point for a 44-19 lead.

Mike Nebrich had a tough game passing for Fordham. He went 12 of 30 for 161 yards with a touchdown and a pick. Chase Edmonds ran for 208 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Tebucky Jones Jr. led the Rams with 3 catches for 64 yards. Brian Wetzel had 3 catches for 34 yards and a touchdown.

New Hampshire was led by Sean Goldrich, who went 22 of 37 for 240 yards with no touchdowns or no picks. He also ran for 48 yards and a touchdown. Nico Steriti ran 14 times for 110 yards and 4 touchdowns while Jimmy Owens had 3 carries for 71 yards and a touchdown. R.J Harris was the top receiver with 8 catches for 91 yards. Harold Spears caught 4 passes for 71 yards.

 

Indiana State Sycamores (8-5) at #8 Chattanooga Mocs (9-3)

Chattanooga’s balanced attack proved to be too much for Indiana State in their 35-14 win. The Mocs threw for 241 yards and ran for 262.

Indiana State started with an early interception that put the Mocs at the three yard line. Keon Williams punched the ball in from 3 yards out to make it 7-0 Chattanooga. A punt on the next drive for Indiana State resulted in a long drive by the Mocs. They went 90 yards in 14 plays while burning 6:10 off the clock. Jacob Huesman ran for a one yard touchdown to make it 14-0 Chattanooga. After both teams traded punts, Indiana State got the ball and quickly cut the deficit in half. Mike Perish connected with A.J. Johnson for a 75 yard touchdown. The first quarter ended with Chattanooga holding a 14-7 lead.

Chattanooga attempted a 25 yard field goal early in the second quarter, but it was blocked by the Sycamores. The Mocs had yet another chance to extend the lead on the next drive, but Huesman was stuffed on fourth and goal from the one to keep the game at 14-7 still. After a poor Indiana State punt and a penalty, but the Mocs finally put points back on the board with Huesman completing a 29 yard touchdown pass to Tommy Hudson. The Mocs had one final chance to go up even more but missed a 21 yard field goal. Chattanooga led 21-7 at halftime.

The Mocs’ first drive put them ahead comfortably after Huesman pounded the ball in from a yard out to give them a 28-7 lead. Indiana State was able to get on the board immediately with Jordan Wallace returning the kickoff 64 yards for the touchdown. Both defenses stepped up for the remainder of the quarter with Chattanooga leading 28-14 after 45 minutes.

The Mocs first drive of the fourth quarter was impressive, yet yielded no points once again. The Mocs went 83 yards in 16 plays while taking 9:27 off the clock. However, their 23 yard field goal attempt was blocked and another red zone opportunity went begging. Indiana State would give the Mocs another great opportunity, as Mike Perish lost a fumble at his own 28 yard line. Derrick Caine punched the ball in for a one yard touchdown. Another Perish turnover, this time an interception at the Chattanooga 13 yard line, allowed the Mocs to win 35-14.

Perish went 12 of 27 for 151 yards with a touchdown and 2 picks. He also lost a fumble. The Sycamores were not effective on offense, but were awful at running the ball. Their top rusher was LeMonte Booker with 3 carries for 26 yards. The Sycamores had 18 carries for 27 yards for the entire game. A.J. Johnson had 4 catches for 94 yards and a touchdown.

Jacob Huesman had a solid game for the Mocs. He went 15 of 24 for 241 yards with a touchdown through the air. He was also the top rusher with 153 yards and 2 touchdowns on 31 carries. Keon Williams added in 70 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries. C.J. Board caught 2 passes for 65 yards while Xavier Borishade had 2 catches for 43 yards.

 

Northern Iowa Panthers (9-4) at #5 Illinois State Redbirds (10-1)

Illinois State took a 24-0 lead at halftime and were able to hold on from there to reach the quarterfinals. They got revenge on Northern Iowa with a 41-21 win on Saturday. Former Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson threw 4 touchdown passes.

Illinois State began with Roberson’s first touchdown pass to Cameron Meredith from 6 yards out. After a Northern Iowa punt, Illinois State went up 14-0 after Marshaun Copich ran in from a yard out. The first quarter ended with the Redbirds right on the door step of UNI’s end zone as they faced a second and goal from the four yard line.

The Redbirds would get into the end zone with Roberson and Meredith connecting once more, this one from 2 yards out. The Panthers next drive got to the ISU 30 yard line, but their pass was incomplete on fourth and 5 to give the ball back to Illinois State. The Redbirds tried a 51 yard field goal, but it was blocked by Xavier Williams. On the final play, ISU hit a 45 yard field goal to take a 24-0 lead at halftime.

The Panthers got the ball to start the second half and did well on their first drive. Sawyer Kollmorgen was hit at the ISU three yard line, fumbled the ball, and then managed to get back on it in the end zone for a Northern Iowa touchdown. The Redbirds responded with a 39 yard field goal to lead 27-7. After a UNI punt, Tre Roberson hit James O’Shaughnessy for a 26 yard touchdown. The third quarter ended with Illinois State leading 34-7 and at the UNI 7 yard line.

The Redbirds would end up not getting points after Lechein Neblett lost a fumble at the UNI 6 yard line. The Panthers would score following the fumble with David Johnson scoring from 2 yards out to make it a 34-14 game. The Panthers continued to gain momentum following ISU’s lost fumble on the kickoff. UNI recovered and scored three plays later when Kollmorgen hit Brett LeMaster for a 20 yard touchdown. That made it 34-21 and there was still plenty of anxious moments to come.

The Redbirds went all the way down to the UNI 22 yard line before a lost fumble by Roberson gave the ball back to the Panthers. They managed to get down to the ISU 30 yard line, but the fourth and 10 pass was incomplete to stop that potential scoring drive. UNI’s next drive ended in disaster on a trick play. Wide receiver Brett LeMaster threw a pass back to the quarterback, but was picked off by Teddy Corwin. Three plays later, Roberson hit O’Shaughnessy for a 36 yard touchdown and the clinching touchdown at 41-21.

Sawyer Kollmorgen went 18 of 31 for 234 yards with one touchdown while also running for another touchdown. The Panthers were held in check on the ground gaining only 33 yards on 25 carries as a team. David Johnson led the team with 16 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Charles Brown had 2 catches for 77 yards while Brett LeMaster had 4 catches for 55 yards and a touchdown.

Tre Roberson went 22 of 33 for 382 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air. He also ran 10 times for a total of 37 yards. Marshaun Copich led the way with 148 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries. Cameron Meredith finished with 7 catches for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns while James O’Shaughnessy had 4 catches for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns as well.

 

Montana Grizzlies (9-4) at #4 Eastern Washington Eagles (10-2)

It was more of a defensive battle than expected, but that did not stop Eastern Washington from coming out on top. The Eagles beat Montana 37-20 on Saturday to advance to the quarterfinals.

Montana’s second drive resulted in a punt, but that was blocked by EWU. Two plays later, Vernon Adams hit Terry Jackson II for a 2 yard touchdown pass and a 7-0 lead. The Grizzlies responded with a long drive that resulted in a 28 yard field goal from Daniel Sullivan. Eastern Washington led 7-3 at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter failed to produce much in the way of offense until the final minute. Vernon Adams ran for a 3 yard touchdown to take a 13-3 lead. The extra point was missed and that lead would hold until halftime for the Eagles.

The Eagles began the second half with the ball and made the most of it. Adams connected with Cory Mitchell for a 23 yard touchdown to go up 20-3. The Grizzlies first drive ended with an interception by Jordan Johnson, but the Eagles were not able to make them pay for the turnover. Montana finally scored their first touchdown when Jordan Canada broke loose for a 38 yard score. The Eagles did not let Montana get any momentum, as they scored a touchdown in response courtesy of a 27 yard run by Quincy Forte. The Grizzlies came right back down the field at the end of the third quarter thanks to Johnson’s 50 yard pass Travon Van to the 10 yard line. The third quarter ended with EWU leading 27-10 and Montana threatening to close the gap.

The Grizzlies were unable to punch it in and had to settle for a 27 yard field goal to trail 27-13. The Grizzlies next possession started at their own 3 yard line and ended with a lost fumble from Travon Van. The Eagles were only able to get a field goal, but that made it a three possession game at 30-13. Van redeemed himself on the next drive by taking a 30 yard touchdown pass from Johnson to cut the deficit to 30-20.

The Eagles moved the ball back down the field to the Montana 13 yard line. On fourth and 4, Adams was picked off in the end zone. That would not prove to hurt them, as Johnson was picked off by Todd Raynes and returned for a 40 yard touchdown. That made it 37-20 and clinched the victory for Eastern Washington.

Jordan Johnson went 18 of 33 through the air for 223 yards with a touchdown and 2 picks. Johnson also ran for 48 yards on 16 carries. Jordan Canada ran 11 times for 79 yards and a touchdown. Travon Van had an excellent game receiving with 9 catches for 161 yards and a touchdown. He did, however, also lose a fumble. Sean Haynes had 6 catches for 48 yards.

Vernon Adams did not put up eye popping numbers going 24 of 35 for 182 yards with 2 touchdowns and a pick. He also ran for 37 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. Quincy Forte had 128 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Cooper Kupp led the Eagles in receiving with 12 catches for 86 yards.

 

Sam Houston State Bearkats (9-4) at #3 Jacksonville State Gamecocks (10-1)

Sam Houston State gave up a lot of yards (over 500) but won the battle that counts the most on the scoreboard. The Bearkats scored 13 second half points to beat Jacksonville State on the road 37-26.

Jacksonville State started very well on the opening drive. Quarterback Eli Jenkins went 2 for 2 for 69 yards. DaMarcus James capped the drive off with a 1 yard touchdown run and a 7-0 lead. After a punt from each team, SHSU tied the game when Jared Johnson completed a 10 yard touchdown pass to Keshawn Hill. Jenkins responded right away with a 73 yard touchdown pass to Spencer Goffigan on the second play of the drive. The penultimate play of the first quarter was Jenkins being picked off by Tristan Eche and taking it back to the Jacksonville State 22 yard line.

The Bearkats would tie the game at 14 when Johnson ran for a 10 yard touchdown on the third play of the second quarter. The Gamecocks responded on the next series with Jenkins scrambling for a 14 yard touchdown. The extra point was blocked and JSU led 20-14. That lead did not last long with Jared Johnson hitting LaDarius Brown for a 19 yard touchdown and a 21-20 lead.

The final half of the second quarter saw three field goals between the two teams. JSU started first with a 37 yard field goal followed by the Bearkats drilling a 29 yarder of their own. The first half ended with Jacksonville State hitting a 42 yard field goal courtesy of Connor Rouleau. Jacksonville State held a slim 26-24 lead at the halftime intermission.

Both teams had to punt in their first series of the third quarter. On SHSU’s second series, they started at their own 9 yard line and scored the go-ahead touchdown when Johnson connected with Brown for the second time. This touchdown went for 49 yards, but the Bearkats missed the two point conversion and led 30-26. On the following possession, JSU went for it on fourth and 2 from the Sam Houston State 42 yard line. They were stuffed for a one yard loss and the Bearkats would score on a 33 yard touchdown run by Jalen Overstreet. That made it 37-26, which is how the the third quarter ended.

The fourth quarter did not produce any points though JSU had a great chance to score a touchdown late in the game. On first and goal at the 9 yard line, Eli Jenkins was picked off in the end zone by Mikell Everette to end any hopes of a Gamecocks comeback. The Bearkats ended up being able to run the clock out thanks to getting three first downs.

Jared Johnson went 13 of 19 for 161 yards with 3 touchdowns. He was also the top rusher with 85 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Jalen Overstreet was not far behind with 10 carries for 83 yards and a touchdown. LaDarius Brown had 4 catches for 88 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Eli Jenkins went 12 of 24 for 253 yards with a touchdown and 2 picks. He also ran for 84 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. The top rusher was DeMarcus James with 19 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown. Anthony Johnson caught 4 passes for 74 yards. Spencer Goffigan had just the one catch for 73 yards and a touchdown.

 

Liberty Flames (9-4) at #6 Villanova Wildcats (10-2)

The Liberty Flames put a serious scare into Villanova and had their chances to pull another upset in the FCS Playoffs. However, Villanova overcame 4 lost fumbles to win 29-22 on Saturday.

Liberty started the game with a 72 yard kickoff return to get their first drive started at the Villanova 27 yard line. 5 plays later, Josh Woodrum punched the ball in from a yard out to give them a 7-0 lead. After forcing a Villanova punt, the Flames went up by 10 points thanks to a 50 yard field goal from Josh Lunsford. Villanova was unable to move the ball effectively on Liberty and trailed by that 10-0 score at the end of the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter, Josh Woodrum was picked off by Villanova, but the Wildcats were unable to take advantage of the turnover, as they lost a fumble at the Liberty 44 yard line. That lost fumble was turned into a 23 yard field goal from Lunsford and a 13-0 lead for the Flames. Villanova finally got something going on the next drive when John Robertson connected with Kevin Gulyas for an 87 yard gain to the Liberty 5 yard line. Two plays after that, Robertson ran in for a 3 yard touchdown to make it 13-7.

The Wildcats’ fortunes continued to be positive when Liberty lost the kickoff at their own 16 yard line. The Wildcats made the most of that with a 1 yard touchdown run from Austin Medley made it 14-13 in favor of Villanova. Liberty’s fortunes in the turnover department swung back in their favor when Villanova’s Robertson was sacked by Toby Onyechi and Nick Newman picked the ball up and ran it back for a 58 yard touchdown return. The two point conversion failed, but Liberty held a 19-14 lead at halftime.

Villanova’s turnover troubles continued in the third quarter. After forcing a punt by Liberty, Jason Ceneus fumbled the kick and Liberty recovered at the Villanova 45 yard line. The Flames were able to get deep into Villanova territory, but the Wildcats defense forced a field goal, which was good and gave Liberty a 22-14 lead at the end of three quarters.

Villanova got another big play on their first drive of the fourth quarter. Robertson and Gulyas connected on a 70 yard touchdown with the two-point conversion also being good to make it a tie game at 22. The Wildcats’ next drive ended with yet another lost fumble when Robertson turned it over at the Liberty 27. They forced a Liberty punt and then went on a long time consuming drive. The Wildcats went 84 yards in 18 plays and took 7:11 off the clock. Robertson ran in from a yard out to make it 29-22 and just over a minute remaining. The Flames had one last drive, but their desperation heave at the end of the game was broken up.

Josh Woodrum went 16 of 33 for 182 yards with no touchdowns and a pick for the Flames. D.J. Abnar had 21 carries for 54 yards while Darrin Peterson caught 5 passes for 103 yards. The Flames finished with only 246 yards of total offense against Villanova.

John Robertson went 8 of 19 for 217 yards with a touchdown and no picks. He also ran 18 times for 100 yards and a touchdown, but also lost 2 fumbles that led to 10 Liberty points. Kevin Monangal had 102 yards rushing on 20 carries. Kevin Gulyas caught 2 passes for 157 yards and a touchdown.

 

Richmond Spiders (9-4) at #7 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (11-1)

Coastal Carolina ran past Richmond in a mistake filled game from both teams. Coastal Carolina won 36-15 to reach the Quarterfinals for the second straight season.

The first drive for both teams saw them get inside the opponent’s 40 yard line, but they opted to punt to try and pin the other team deep. That worked for Coastal Carolina when they picked off Richmond’s Michael Strauss, however, they missed a 33 yard field goal to keep it scoreless. Richmond had the same result on their ensuing drive with the field goal being no good from 48 yards. The Chanticleers finally got on the board late in the first quarter with Alex Catron connecting on a 32 yard field goal. The first quarter ended 3-0 in favor of Coastal Carolina.

Coastal Carolina’s first drive of the second quarter appeared to be heading for a score until De’Angelo Henderson’s fumble at the three yard line gave the ball to the Spiders. Richmond would end up punting, but it was a bad punt that went only 13 yards and out at their own 26. The defense stood tall and forced another field goal that was good from 27 yards. Coastal Carolina held a 6-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Coastal Carolina made it 14-0 after Alex Ross completed a 13 yard touchdown pass to Craig Weick and they converted the two-point attempt.

The third quarter saw a huge uptick in points scored. First, Coastal Carolina scored on Andre Johnson’s 9 yard touchdown run. The Spiders responded on their second play of the half when Strauss and Brian Brown connected for a 76 yard touchdown pass. Those two also hooked up for the two-point attempt and Richmond trailed 21-8. The Chanticleers built the lead back up to 21 points on Henderson’s 50 yard touchdown run. The Chanticleers also went for two and got it to make it a 29-8 game just six minutes into the second half. Two drives later, Coastal Carolina was up when Alex Ross ran in for a one yard touchdown and they went up 36-8 at the end of three quarters.

Richmond had a lot of chances inside of Coastal Carolina territory in the final 15 minutes. The first drive ended in a lost fumble by Strauss. The second drive was a punt before the third drive ended at the Costal Carolina on a fourth and one play. The fourth drive for Richmond was a 15 yard touchdown pass from Strauss to Brown to make it 36-15. Their final drive was an interception in the Coastal Carolina end zone.

Michael Strauss went 27 of 54 for 402 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The Spiders ran 19 times for 54 yards as a team. Jacobi Green was the top rusher with 7 carries for 31 yards. Brian Brown caught 8 passes for 181 yards and 2 scores. Reggie Diggs caught 8 passes for 140 yards while Rashad Ponder had 9 catches for 82 yards.

Alex Ross went 22 of 41 for 171 yards with one touchdown. Ross also ran for 52 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries. De’Angelo Henderson had 19 carries for 134 yards and a touchdown while Andre Johnson ran for 58 yards and a score on 13 carries. The Chanticleers had 54 carries for 316 yards and 3 touchdowns as a team. Bruce Mapp was the top receiver with 7 catches for 59 yards.

 

South Dakota State Jackrabbits (9-4) at #2 North Dakota State Bison (11-1)

For the second straight week South Dakota State was involved in the game of the day. Unfortunately, the Jackrabbits were on the short end this week as they fell to the three-time defending FCS Champions North Dakota State, 27-24.

The Bison’s first drive ended in a touchdown with Carson Wentz throwing a 27 yard touchdown pass to RJ Urzendowski. That would be the only scoring for the first quarter as both teams struggled to move the ball close enough to even get field goal opportunities.

The Bison made it 14-0 early in the second quarter when Wentz ran for a 27 yard touchdown. The Jackrabbits needing a response got one from their go to guy. Zach Zenner ran for a 17 yard touchdown to make it 14-7 in favor of North Dakota State. The Jackrabbits forced a punt from the Bison and Je Ryan Butler returned that punt 80 yards to the NDSU 11 yard line. Three plays later, Zenner ran in from 4 yards out to tie the game at 14. That would be the score at the halftime break.

The Jackrabbits took their first lead of the game on their first possession of the second half. Justin Syrovatka hit a 33 yard field goal to make it 17-14. The Bison responded with a 42 yard field goal of their own to knot the game at 17. That is how the third quarter would end and set the game up for a wild finish.

The Bison took a 20-17 lead on their first fourth quarter possession with Adam Keller hitting a 29 yard field goal. The Jackrabbits responded with a touchdown when Austin Sumner hit Jake Wieneke for a 3 yard score. That made it 24-20 SDSU, but there was plenty of time left for the Bison to rally. The Bison marched down the field and took the lead back with a 12 yard touchdown pass from Wentz to Urzendowski. On the ensuing drive, Sumner was picked by Tre Dempsey to seal the victory for the Bison.

Austin Sumner went 13 of 22 for 132 yards with a touchdown and a pick. Zach Zenner had 32 carries for 133 yards and 2 touchdowns. Jason Schneider had 3 catches for 59 yards. The Jackrabbits totaled 275 yards of offense against the Bison.

Carson Wentz went 14 of 25 for 235 yards with 2 touchdowns. He also had 13 carries for 70 yards and a touchdown. John Crockett carried the ball 23 times for 102 yards. RJ Urzendowski led the Bison with 4 catches for 109 yards and 2 touchdowns.

 

Quarterfinal Matchups

#8 Chattanooga Mocs (10-3) at #1 New Hampshire Wildcats (11-1) – 8 PM ET on ESPN2

#5 Illinois State Redbirds (11-1) at #4 Eastern Washington Eagles (11-2) – 4:00 PM ET on ESPN3

Sam Houston State Bearkats (10-4) at #6 Villanova Wildcats (12-2) – 1 PM ET on ESPN3

#7 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (12-1) at #2 North Dakota State (12-1) – 12 PM ET on ESPN.

 

Chattanooga at New Hampshire will be played on Friday evening. The remaining three games will be on Saturday.

 

Be sure to check out the predictions for the quarterfinal games later this week.

2014 FCS Playoffs Round 2 Predictions

Vernon Adams leads Eastern Washington against fellow Big Sky member Montana on Saturday (AP Photo)
Vernon Adams leads Eastern Washington against fellow Big Sky member Montana on Saturday (AP Photo)

2014 FCS Playoffs Round 2 Predictions

Eight games were played last week in the first round of the 2014 FCS Playoffs and eight more will be played in the second round this Saturday. Last week produced a 5-3 record based on the predictions of round one by missing Sam Houston State, Liberty, and South Dakota State. Here are the 2014 FCS Playoffs Round 2 Predictions.

 

Fordham Rams (11-2) at #1 New Hampshire (10-1) – 1 PM ET

As expected, Fordham took care of Sacred Heart in the first round and get the top seeded New Hampshire Wildcats in the second round. The Wildcats only loss was to Toledo 54-20, a MAC team that will go bowling at season’s end. The defense has been very good for New Hampshire and they will be tested by Mike Nebrich’s passing attack. Fordham faced another Colonial football team in Villanova during week two and got pasted 50-6. New Hampshire shuts down Fordham to win 27-10 and moves on to the quarterfinals. 

 

Indiana State Sycamores (8-5) at #8 Chattanooga Mocs (9-3) – 1 PM ET

Indiana State was impressive in their comeback win in round one at Eastern Kentucky. They were 16 points down and scored the final 36 points to win 36-16. Now they face the high-powered Chattanooga team that had losses to Central Michigan (20-16), Jacksonville State (26-23 in OT), and Tennessee (45-10). In the 9 wins for the Mocs, they have scored at least 31 points. That streak continues, but Indiana State certainly can make it close. Chattanooga wins 35-27 and moves on to play in the quarterfinals.

 

Northern Iowa Panthers (9-4) at #5 Illinois State Redbirds (10-1) – 2 PM ET

This game is a rematch of November 1’s game that saw Northern Iowa win 42-28 at home over Illinois State. Now the Redbirds are at home where they went 7-0 including a win over South Dakota State. In the November 1 game, Northern Iowa scored two special teams touchdowns and had a pick six with 50 seconds left to seal the win. It is hard to imagine the Redbirds imploding like that again this weekend. Illinois State wins 41-31.

 

Montana Grizzlies (9-4) at #4 Eastern Washington Eagles (10-2) – 4:30 PM ET

This game is yet another rematch of a regular season game. Eastern Washington, at home, beat Montana 36-26 in an air raid between the two teams. This Saturday has a chance for snow in the morning, but the weather is expected to be fine by game time. This should be another shootout between quarterbacks with Vernon Adams and Jordan Johnson slinging the ball around as they please. Eastern Washington’s losses were to Washington (59-52) and Northern Arizona (28-27). Eastern Washington wins a thriller 52-48.

 

Sam Houston State Bearkats (9-4) at #3 Jacksonville State Gamecocks (10-1) – 2 PM ET

This is a tough game to pick. Both teams are on impressive win streaks with Sam Houston State at 6 wins and Jacksonville State at 10. Jacksonville State has been seeded at three for a reason – they are very good. However, their fellow conference member Eastern Kentucky did not look great last week blowing a 16 point lead and losing. The Bearkats defense will keep this close and pull the upset. Sam Houston State wins 27-24 in overtime over Jacksonville State.

 

Liberty Flames (9-4) at #6 Villanova Wildcats (10-2) – 4:30 PM ET

Liberty shocked James Madison last week in the opening round. They face Villanova in the second round and this is where their season ends. Villanova has two losses this year, both by a single point. They lost a hear-breaker to Syracuse in double overtime 27-26 and 10-9 to Richmond, a fellow FCS playoff team. Villanova will be too much on offense and defense on their way to a 41-3 victory.

 

Richmond Spiders (9-4) at #7 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (11-1) – 1 PM ET

Richmond dispatched Morgan State with ease in the opening round while Coastal Carolina’s resume was boosted by the fact that Liberty, who beat them in the regular season finale, came back to beat James Madison in the first round. It is worth noting that Richmond beat Liberty earlier the season 46-39 in double overtime. Both teams can score or play defense, though the former seems more likely in round two. In a close game, Coastal Carolina pulls out the 45-42 win.

 

South Dakota State Jackrabbits (9-4) at #2 North Dakota State Bison (11-1) – 3:30 PM ET

These two teams played on November 1 will North Dakota State using a big second half to win 37-17 over South Dakota State. The Bison trailed 10-6 at the halftime, but their rushing attack came alive and they were able to move the ball with ease in the final 30 minutes. Also in that game, Zach Zenner had 96 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries for the Jackrabbits. This should be a very good game, but the Bison hang on for the 28-21 win and move on to the quarterfinals to continue their defense of three straight FCS Championships.

 

Quarterfinals Matchup Predictions

Based on the predictions above, the quarterfinals would look as follows:

#8 Chattanooga Mocs at #1 New Hampshire Wildcats

#5 Illinois State Redbirds at #4 Eastern Washington Eagles

Sam Houston State Bearkats at #6 Villanova Wildcats

#7 Coastal Carolina Chanticleers at #2 North Dakota State Bison

2014 FCS Playoffs First Round Wrap Up

Zach Zenner ran for 252 yards to help South Dakota State to the second round of the FCS Playoffs (Kelly Gorham / AP Photo)
Zach Zenner ran for 252 yards to help South Dakota State to the second round of the FCS Playoffs (Kelly Gorham / AP Photo)

 

The 2014 FCS Playoffs First Round featured 8 exciting games. There were surprises, some blowouts, and some expected results. Below is a look at what happened in all 8 games. The second round matchups for the 2014 FCS Playoffs can be found at the bottom of the page.

 

Sacred Heart Pioneers (9-2) at Fordham Rams (10-2)

 As expected, Fordham took care of Sacred Heart in the first round matchup. Fordham won 44-22 by putting up 20 second half points.

Fordham took advantage of an early turnover by Sacred Heart by throwing a 1 yard touchdown pass from Mike Nebrich to Tebucky Jones Jr. They doubled their advantage with a 50 yard connection from Nebrich to Brian Wetzel. Sacred Heart cut into the lead with a field goal followed by a 10 yard touchdown pass from RJ Noel to Tyler Dube. The extra point was missed an Fordham held a 14-9 lead at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter had a series of miscues featuring both teams. First, Sacred Heart had a 23 yard field goal blocked, then Fordham fumbled on their own 42 yard line. RJ Noel then threw an interception in the end zone before Nebrich responded with a pick of his own. Sacred Heart ended the series of follies with a bobbled snap on a punt that set up a 25 yard field goal for Fordham. Sacred Heart responded with a 2 yard touchdown pass from Noel to Dube. With less than 10 seconds left Fordham went up 24-16 with a 14 yard touchdown pass from Nebrich to Wetzel.

Fordham’s first offensive play of the third quarter resulted in Nebrich hitting Jones Jr. for a 97 yard touchdown. Fordham added a 23 yard field goal after another bobbled snap on a punt by the Pioneers. Sacred Heart scored their final points on the following drive with a 22 yard touchdown run from Keshaudas Spence. Both quarterbacks traded interceptions in the opponent’s territory to end the third quarter. Fordham led 34-22 with 15 minutes to play.

Fordham added another field goal and a 26 yard touchdown run from Chase Edmonds in the fourth quarter to win 44-22.

RJ Noel went 19 of 40 for 206 yards with 2 touchdowns and an interception for Sacred Heart. Sean Bell had 15 carries for 112 yards while Keshaudas Spence had 10 carries for 54 yards and a touchdown. Tyler Dube led the Pioneers with 7 catches for 98 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Mike Nebrich had a stellar day through the air with 423 yards, 4 touchdowns, and 2 interceptions on 29 of 50 passing. Chase Edmonds had 91 yards and a touchdown on 24 rushing attempts. Brian Wetzel caught 8 passes for 166 yards and 2 touchdowns and Tebucky Jones Jr. caught 8 passes for 139 yards and 2 touchdowns.

 

Indiana State Sycamores (7-5) at Eastern Kentucky Colonels (9-3)

Indiana State trailed 16-0 early in the second quarter, but rallied to score the final 36 points in a 36-16 win over Eastern Kentucky. Indiana State quarterback Mike Perish threw for 407 yards to spark the Sycamores to the second round.

The game started poorly for the Sycamores. They went for it on fourth and one from their own 44, but came up short on their rushing attempt. Eastern Kentucky turned that into a field goal for a 3-0 lead. Another field goal by Eastern Kentucky was followed up by a 17 yard touchdown run from Dy’Shawn Mobley. The Colonels led 13-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Mike Perish threw an interception early in the second quarter, which was turned into a third field goal from Andrew Lloyd. That made it 16-0 and it would be the final points scored by Eastern Kentucky. The Sycamores got on the board with 2 seconds left with Perish hitting Robert Tonyan Jr. for a 4 yard touchdown pass. That made it 16-7 at halftime.

Indiana State’s first possession of the second half yielded a 48 yard field goal from Eric Heidorn, but the second possession yield the lead. Perish connected with Kyani Harris for a 57 yard touchdown and a 17-16 lead. Another punt by the Colonels turned into a touchdown for the Sycamores offense. Perish hit Gary Owens for a 38 yard touchdown and a 24-16 lead. However, the big blow came on the next drive for Eastern Kentucky’s offense. Mark Sewall intercepted Bennie Coney’s pass and returned it 48 yards for a touchdown to make it 31-16 at the end of three quarters.

The fourth quarter opened up with both teams squandering chances. First, Eastern Kentucky failed to convert a fourth and 7 on the Indiana State 33 yard line. Next, Perish threw his second pick of the day in the Colonels’ end zone to take points off the board. The Colonels turned around and threw a pick of their own on the next drive before Indiana State failed to punch the ball in on fourth and goal from the one. The Sycamores defense would force a safety after failed fourth and goal attempt at the one. ISU added a 30 yard field goal to cap the scoring at 36-16.

Mike Perish went 41 of 57 for 407 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 picks. Buck Logan led the Sycamores with 10 carries for 33 yards. The receiving yards were well distributed with Kyani Harris leading the receivers with 5 catches for 91 yards and a score. A.J. Johnson had 7 catches for 71 yards and Jamar Brown had 6 catches for 63 yards.

Bennie Conley went 15 of 34 for 200 yards with no touchdowns and 2 picks for Eastern Kentucky. Dy’Shawn Mobley had 22 carries for 96 yards and a touchdown. Jeff Glover was the top receiver with 74 yards on 4 catches.

 

Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (8-4) at Northern Iowa Panthers (8-4)

Northern Iowa scored 23 first quarter points and cruised home from there to defeat Stephen F. Austin 44-10 in the first round of the 2014 FCS Playoffs.

Northern Iowa’s first play from scrimmage was a 73 yard touchdown run by David Johnson and the defense would give the offense another boost on SF Austin’s first drive. On third and 11, Deiondre’ Hall picked off a pass and brought it back to SFA’s 9 yard line. That would result in a 10-0 lead after a 30 yard field goal from Michael Schmadeke. Another turnover by the Lumberjacks resulted in a 36 yard field goal. After a punt by SFA, Northern Iowa had to settle for a third field goal of the first quarter to take a 16-0 lead. The Panthers finally got a second touchdown late in the first quarter with Johnson punching in his second from a yard out and give Northern Iowa a 23-0 lead.

It took until midway through the second quarter for SFA to score, but they got a 32 yard touchdown run from Gus Johnson after a lost fumble from UNI’s David Johnson. The following drive resulted in redemption for David Johnson – he took a pass from Brion Carnes 70 yards to the house and a 30-7 lead. That score would hold up until halftime.

In the third quarter, David Johnson scored his fourth touchdown of the day with a 6 yard touchdown run. The defense continued to suffocate the Lumberjacks, as the score after three quarters was 37-7.

Brion Carnes ran for a 22 yard touchdown for the Panthers before SFA hit a 31 yard field goal to cap the scoring.

It was not a good day for the Stephen F. Austin quarterbacks. Zach Conque went 15 of 26 for 83 yards and an interception with Hunter Taylor going 7 of 13 for 50 yards. Gus Johnson was the majority of the offense with 20 carries for 82 yards and a touchdown. Johnson also was the leading receiver with 37 yards and 4 catches.

Brion Carnes completed only 5 of 18 passes, but that was for 208 yards and a touchdown. He also ran 6 times for 46 yards and touchdown. David Johnson had 23 carries for 152 yards and 3 touchdowns while also catching 2 passes for 84 yards and another score.

 

San Diego Toreros (9-2) at Montana Grizzlies (8-4)

Montana dominated San Diego in every facet of the game on their way to a 52-14 destruction of the Toreros.

The Grizzlies did not score until their second possession of the game when Jordan Johnson connected with Jamaal Jones for a 22 yard touchdown pass. Johnson connected with Jordan Canada on the next drive for a 3 yard touchdown and a 14-0 lead for Montana.

After a three and out for San Diego, their punt was returned 60 yards for a touchdown by John Nguyen to make it 21-0. A fumble by San Diego on their next possession was turned into a 41 yard field goal and a 24-0 lead. It would be 38-0 at halftime after Johnson to Jones for the second time from 30 yards out and Canada’s 17 yard touchdown run.

Montana’s first drive of the second half resulted in an 18 yard touchdown pass from Shay Smithwick-Hann to Joshua Janssen. San Diego went for it on fourth down on their next two drives despite being inside their own 40 yard line. Neither time did they convert and the latter set up a touchdown for Montana.

That touchdown came early in the fourth quarter with Smithwick-Hann hitting Kevin Berland for a 12 yard score. San Diego would score their first points two drives later when Dallas Kessman connected with Justin Priest for a 27 yard touchdown. The ensuing kickoff was fumbled by the Grizzlies and San Diego turned that into another touchdown. Trey Wheeler hit Justin Priest for an 11 yard touchdown.

The Toreros struggled to move the ball all game long. They managed to gain only 158 yards of total offense and converted 2 of 13 third down. Trey Wheeler was their best passer going 4 of 4 for 41 yards with a touchdown. Keith Williams went 6 of 18 for 34 yards as the starter. Dallas Kessman was the top rusher with 30 yards on 10 carries. Justin Priest had 2 catches for 38 yards and 2 touchdowns.

Jordan Johnson went 13 of 20 for 153 yards and 3 touchdowns. Jordan Canada ran 17 times for 105 yards and a touchdown while Lorenzo Logwood had 17 carries for 59 yards. Jamaal Jones caught 6 passes for 93 yards and 2 touchdowns.

 

Southeastern Louisiana Lions (9-3) at Sam Houston State Bearkats (8-4)

A de facto Southland Championship game turned out to a thriller, as Sam Houston State rallied for the 21-17 win over Southeastern Louisiana.

Southeastern Louisiana got on the board right away with a 25 yard field goal. That was set up by a lost fumble on the opening kickoff by the Bearkats’ Ridgeway Frank. The Bearkats struggled to move the ball in the first quarter getting only as far as their 47 yard line. Outside of the early field goal, Southeastern Louisiana did not threaten until late in the first quarter.

That drive to end the first quarter spilled over to the second quarter where Bryan Bennett ran 9 yards for a touchdown and gave the Lions a 10-0 lead. The Bearkats had an excellent drive in response, but their fourth and goal play ended in disaster, as they lost 5 yards. The last two minutes ended with multiple turnovers. First, Jared Johnson threw a pick to the Lions’ Micah Eugene. The Lions turned around and lost a fumble on the next series. However, Johnson’s desperation heave into the end zone was picked and the score remained 10-0 at halftime.

It took until midway through the third quarter, but Sam Houston State got on the board with a 3 yard run from former Texas Longhorn Jalen Overstreet. Later in the third quarter, a poor punt put Sam Houston State at the Southeastern Louisiana 32 yard line. On the next play, a trick play by the Bearkats led to an interception and possible points being kept off the board. The Bearkats caught a break late in the third quarter when the Lions fumbled the punt return at their own 4 yard line. The third quarter ended with Southeastern Louisiana holding a 10-7 lead.

The first play of the final quarter was a 1 yard touchdown from Donavan Williams. That gave the Bearkats a 14-10 lead, but it would not last for long. The Lions marched right down the field and took the lead back at 17-14 with Bryan Bennett’s 2 yard touchdown run. The Lions looked to extend their lead on the following drive, but Michael Wade blocked the field goal to spark the offense. That led to Williams punching the ball in from 5 yards out for a 21-17 lead. The Lions were unable to get the ball into Sam Houston State territory for the remainder of the game and fell by that 21-17 score.

Bryan Bennett went 17 of 48 for 181 yards and also had two rushing touchdowns. Kody Sutton had 42 yards on 13 carries. Devante Scott had 5 catches for 53 yards. Southeastern Louisiana had 305 yards of total offense, but went 7 of 24 on third down.

Jared Johnson went 12 of 32 for 119 yards with 2 interceptions. He managed to lead the team in rushing with 63 yards on 17 carries. Jalen Overstreet had 50 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries. LaDarius Brown caught 3 passes for 51 yards.

 

Liberty Flames (8-4) at James Madison Dukes (9-3)

Perhaps the upset of the day lies in this game where Liberty beat James Madison 26-21. The Flames trailed 21-10 at halftime, but scored the last 16 points to pull the upset.

Liberty started the game with the ball and managed to get down the JMU 22 yard line. A lost fumble cost them a chance at points, but the Dukes could not make them pay. Liberty would take the lead on the next drive with a 26 yard field goal from John Lunsford. James Madison responded with a solid drive, but their fourth and three attempt at the Liberty 15 yard line came up short. Liberty led 3-0 at the end of the first quarter.

The first play of the second quarter was a 19 yard touchdown run for Liberty’s D.J. Abnar to make it 10-0. James Madison answered right away on their first play from scrimmage in the second quarter with Jauan Latney rumbling for a 73 yard touchdown run. Liberty had a solid drive halted on an interception and that was turned into a touchdown by James Madison. Vad Lee scrambled for a 9 yard touchdown run to give the Dukes a 14-10 lead. The next Liberty drive ended in the same fashion – with an interception. That too turned into a touchdown when Lee hit DeAndre’ Smith for a 16 yard touchdown pass. The Dukes led 21-10 at the break and appeared to be in control of the game.

Liberty’s first drive of the third quarter was what they need to stay in the game. Abnar ran for his second touchdown to make it 21-17. The next Liberty drive resulted in a great 56 yard field goal from Lunsford and the Flames trailed just 21-20 at the end of three quarters.

The fourth quarter was dominated by Liberty’s offense. They embarked on an 85 yard, 17 play drive that burned 11:01 off the clock and left only 2:53 for James Madison to score. Nicky Fualaau pounded the ball in from a yard out to give them a 26-21 lead. The two point conversion was no good and the Dukes faced a daunting task. James Madison managed to get Liberty 27 yard line, but Vad Lee’s fourth and 13 pass fell incomplete and Liberty held on for the win.

Josh Woodrum went 18 of 27 for 244 yards with no interceptions and 2 picks for Liberty. D.J. Abnar had 69 yards and 2 touchdowns on 17 carries. Gabe Henderson caught 7 passes for 92 yards while Dexter Herman grabbed 4 passes for 73 yards. The Flames had 397 yards of total offense and converted 10 of 17 third downs while holding a time of possession edge of nearly 2 to 1 (39:01 to 20:59)

Vad Lee went 18 of 35 for 139 yards with a touchdown and a pick. Lee also ran 15 times for 57 yards and a touchdown. Jauan Latney had 15 carries for 119 yards and a touchdown. Brandon Ravenel caught 7 passes for 54 yards.

 

Morgan State Bears (7-5) at Richmond Spiders (8-4)

In one of the more formful games of the day, Richmond dispatched Morgan State with a 46-26 win. Richmond’s Michael Strauss threw 4 touchdown passes in the victory.

Richmond wasted little time taking the lead with Strauss hitting Reggie Diggs for a 16 yard touchdown pass. An interception by Morgan State on their first drive was turned into a 1 yard touchdown run for Seth Fisher and a 15-0 lead for Richmond after converting a two-point conversion. Fisher added another one yard touchdown run on the next drive to make it 22-0 at the end of the first quarter.

Morgan State hit a 29 yard field goal to get on the board in the second quarter and actually made it 22-10 after a 3 yard touchdown run by Moses Skillon. That touchdown was set up by Strauss’ interception. Late in the quarter, Strauss hit Diggs for a second time, this one from 11 yards out to make it 29-10 at the break.

Morgan State turned the ball over on their first second half possession and the Spiders made them pay with Strauss hitting Fisher for a 22 yard touchdown pass. The Bears responded two drives later with a 46 yard touchdown pass from Skillon to Andrew King to make it 36-17 in favor of Richmond. Skillon would throw a pick on the next drive, which led to a 42 yard field goal for Richmond and a 39-17 lead at the end of three quarters.

Skillon threw his third interception early in the fourth quarter and Strauss threw his fourth touchdown pass as a result. He connected from 38 yards out with Rashad Ponder. Skillon came back and threw an 8 yard touchdown to Ladarius Spearman to make it 46-24.

Moses Skillon went 23 of 45 for 285 yards with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions. He also had 36 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Herb Walker Jr. ran 21 times for 120 yards to lead the Bears in rushing. The top receiver was Andrew King with 80 yards and a touchdown on 5 catches.

Michael Strauss went 22 of 32 for 272 yards with 4 touchdowns and an interception. Jeremiah Hamlin had 51 yards on 10 carries while Seth Fisher had 14 carries for 47 yards and 2 touchdowns. Reggie Diggs caught 8 passes for 132 yards and 2 touchdowns.

 

South Dakota State Jackrabbits (8-4) at Montana State Bobcats (8-4)

The game of the day was played in the worst conditions of the day. A snowstorm blanketed the field between South Dakota State and Montana State, but that did not stop the Jackrabbits from winning 47-40. Zach Zenner had 324 yards and 5 touchdowns on offense to lead South Dakota State into the second round.

It did not take long for Zenner to get going. On the second play from scrimmage, he ran 45 yards for a touchdown and a 7-0 South Dakota State lead. The Bobcats answered back with a 3 yard run from Chad Newell, but a botched extra point made it 7-6. On the next drive, Zenner would take a little swing pass 69 yards to the house and a 14-6 lead.

The Jackrabbits would settle for a 21 yard field goal early in the second quarter to take a 17-6 lead. After back-to-back punts, Montana State got back on the board with a one yard touchdown run from Newell. The Bobcats converted the two-point conversion to make it 17-14. However, the Jackrabbits responded immediately with Zenner running for a 7 yard touchdown. Montana State got a late touchdown with Dakota Prukop finding Mitchell Herbert for a one yard touchdown pass. However, in a recurring theme, the extra point was blocked and South Dakota State held a 24-20 lead at halftime.

The second half began with Montana State taking the lead on Newell’s third touchdown run from 12 yards out. Once again, the extra point snap was botched and the Bobcats only held a 26-24 lead. It took three plays for the Jackrabbits to respond and it was Zenner again. He ran 60 yards down the sideline and made a defender miss on his way to the end zone and a 31-26 lead for South Dakota State. The Bobcats had a chance to regain the lead, but a personal foul penalty put them in fourth and 20, which was not converted. The third quarter ended with South Dakota State hanging on to a 31-26 lead.

South Dakota State extended their lead to 37-26 on Austin Sumner’s 10 yard touchdown pass to Connor Landberg in the corner of the end zone. It almost did not happen when Sumner nearly threw a pick six, but the defender dropped the interception. A fumble by Montana State on their ensuing drive resulted in a 30 yard field goal for the Jackrabbits and a 40-26 lead. Chad Newell ran for another touchdown from 6 yards out to close it to 40-32 with two-point conversion failing.

Then came Zenner’s fifth touchdown. He broke a tackle 5 yard beyond the line of scrimmage and then outran the defense to end zone for a 69 yard touchdown. That made it 47-32. The Bobcats got a late touchdown from Newell from 5 yards out, which was his fifth of the game. Two point conversion was good and made it 47-40. The ensuing onside kick was originally recovered by the Jackrabbits’ Dallas Goedert, but he fumbled when he was hit going to the ground. Luckily for South Dakota State, Connor Landberg recovered the ball that was kicked up to him. That recovery allowed South Dakota State to run the clock out.

Austin Sumner went 19 of 28 for 249 yards with 2 touchdown passes. Zach Zenner ran wild with 252 yards rushing and 4 touchdowns on 23 carries. He also was the leading receiver with 2 catches for 72 yards and a score. Jake Wieneke had 4 catches for 57 yards while Jason Schneider caught 4 passes for 53 yards. The Jackrabbits put up 526 yards of total offense.

Montana State’s Dakota Prukop went 19 of 36 for 280 yards and a touchdown. Chad Newell had himself a game with 24 carries for 101 yards and 5 rushing touchdowns. Shawn Johnson had 8 carries for 37 yards, but did more damage in the passing game with 4 catches for 59 yards. Mitch Grabiel had 4 catches for 51 yards and the Bobcats rang up 462 yards of total offense.

 

Second Round Matchups and Schedule (All games on Saturday, December 6)

Fordham (11-2) at #1 New Hampshire (10-1) – 1 PM ET

Indiana State (8-5) at #8 Chattanooga (9-3) – 1 PM ET

Northern Iowa (9-4) at #5 Illinois State (10-1) – 2 PM ET

Montana (9-4) at #4 Eastern Washington (10-2) – 4:30 PM ET

Sam Houston State (9-4) at #3 Jacksonville State (10-1) – 2 PM ET

Liberty (9-4) at #6 Villanova (10-2) – 4:30 PM ET

Richmond (9-4) at #7 Coastal Carolina – 1:00 PM ET

South Dakota State (9-4) at #2 North Dakota State (11-1) – 3:30 PM ET

 

All eight of the games on Saturday, December 6 can be seen on ESPN3.