10 takeaways from FCS Week 9
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - It was appropriate the best matchup of the FCS regular season occurred Saturday because the best schedule was on tap.
It was a spotlight day for the subdivision as ESPN's iconic "College GameDay" pregame show descended on South Dakota State, where No. 1 North Dakota State's win over the host Jackrabbits lived up to the mammoth pre-game billing.
South Dakota State wasn't the only team to suffer its first conference loss. Bethune-Cookman (MEAC), Chattanooga (Southern), Southern (SWAC) and UT Martin (Ohio Valley) also fell as great matchups abounded.
Here are 10 takeaways from Week 9 of the FCS season:
- It was easy to feel sore just watching the STATS FCS Game of the Week as No. 1 North Dakota State and No. 3 South Dakota State added to Dakota Marker lore with a bone-jarring matchup. Adam Cofield's 71-yard touchdown run with 2:32 left was the difference in the Bison's 23-16 road win and put them on the inside track toward a ninth straight Missouri Valley Football Conference title. The 8-0 Bison are up to 29 straight wins and would tie their FCS-record 33 in a row (2012-14) by winning their final four regular-season games. The game was so physical that SDSU was down to its third-string quarterback, Keaton Heide, by the fourth quarter, and his TD run tied the game 16-16.
- South Dakota State may have received a bigger spotlight than ever from hosting the ninth "College GameDay" visit to an FCS game, and it was a huge success given the large, enthusiastic crowd in Brookings. The negative was it took about 45 minutes of air time before substantial attention switched from FBS games to the Dakota Marker rivalry and the only two teams to reach at least the national semifinals the last two seasons. Oh, by the way, Lee Corso correctly picked North Dakota State to win the game.
- The other FCS team in North Dakota is feeling overlooked, and with great reason. The North Dakota Fighting Hawks (5-3) have been low in national poll votes, but their 16-12 win over Montana State was their third over a team in the Top 25 (also Sam Houston State and UC Davis). Jayson Coley recovered Alex Cloyd's blocked punt in the MSU end zone for the game-winning touchdown with 4:21 to play. Coach Bubba Schweigert's program has faced a rugged schedule, but feelings have been mixed given its three FCS losses are by a combined 81 points.
- It would have been interesting to see if South Dakota State would have jumped to No. 1 with a win over North Dakota State. Well, No. 2 James Madison had little interest in the prospect. The Dukes (8-1) took another dominating step toward the CAA title by defeating No. 16 Towson 27-10. They had seven sacks (defensive end John Daka led with 2½) and turned a pair of takeaways into 10 points. Coach Curt Cignetti's squad gets a well-deserved bye before finishing a regular season in which it is unbeaten against FCS opponents.
- The SWAC took center stage with two huge matchups. Quarterback Felix Harper accounted for three second-half touchdowns as Alcorn State beat Southern 27-13 in a rematch of the 2018 conference championship game - and maybe of a preview of this year's matchup. The season's largest crowd (an announced 53,217 at Birmingham's Legion Field) watched the Magic City Classic go three overtimes before Alabama A&M edged rival Alabama State 43-41. Aqeel Glass connected with running back Jordan Bentley for a touchdown pass and the ensuing two-point conversion to open the third OT and the AAMU defense denied ASU on its two-point conversion attempt after pulled within two with a touchdown. The attendance was lower than usual due to rainy conditions.
- The Southern Conference had one of the wilder endings of the season because Chattanooga went for a two-point conversion and the win in overtime only to be denied on an end-zone pass in falling 35-34 at Wofford. That gives Wofford - yes, the Terriers are back - a share of first place with No. 14 Furman at 4-1 with Chattanooga only a half-game back at 3-1, and VMI, The Citadel and Samford all 3-2. That's six teams within one game of each other. Crazy.
- Eastern Washington, the 2018 FCS runner-up, finalized its playoff obituary with a 34-17 loss to No. 10 Montana and UC Davis will need some help following its bye week. Fourth-ranked Weber State hasn't fallen victim like the two other 2018 Big Sky tri-champs. By holding UC Davis All-American Jake Maier to a career-low 160 passing yards in a 36-20 road win, the Wildcats (6-2, 4-0) set up a first-place battle at No. 7 Sacramento State next Saturday. Coach Jay Hill's squad lost two FBS games by a combined 12 points and has gone on to average nearly 38 points against FCS opponents.
- While new Southland leader Central Arkansas is moving toward an FCS playoff bid, the other two teams that have beaten FBS programs this season are making runs toward one in the second half of the regular season. Southern Illinois, which hammered UMass in early September, had fallen to 2-4, but it has gotten back to .500 with back-to-back wins over Youngstown State and South Dakota by a combined 73-38. The Salukis, who have gotten a lift from running back D.J. Davis' return from injury, have three more winnable games before a likely loss to North Dakota State in the regular season finale, but 7-5 with an FBS win would be a solid playoff resume. The Citadel, which beat Georgia Tech, is looking even better at 5-4 after three straight wins, the latest 35-24 against Mercer. A win over Furman also stands out, but the Southern Conference team still needs two more wins in a tough finish to the schedule - road games against ETSU and Chattanooga and a home date versus Wofford.
- Kennesaw State has been criticized for a subpar nonconference schedule, but it basically can earn its way back to the playoffs over the next two weekends. The No. 6 Owls (7-1) are 2-0 in the Big South, but they're looking up in the standings at Monmouth and Campbell, who are both 3-0. Monmouth, behind the dangerous duo of all-time leading passer Kenji Bahar and running back Pete Guerriero, will travel to Kennesaw next Saturday for the usual biggest game of the conference season. Unless, that is, the Owls' trip to Campbell on Nov. 9 turns out to be bigger.
- So when do we start paying attention to Robert Morris? The Colonials entered the season with a 14-game Northeast Conference losing streak plus 17 straight losses against Division I opponents and 18 in a row on the road, but after a 24-20 win over Bryant, they're 3-0 in conference - by a combined 15 points - and 4-4 overall in coach Bernard Clark's second season. They remained tied for first place with NEC heavyweights Duquesne and Central Connecticut State after George Martin connected with Garrett Houser a 75-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter. Jesse Nemerowicz became the school's all-time leading tackler (289) in the win.
Updated October 26, 2019