Top-ranked Sam Houston wins by one point. Third-ranked James Madison by two. Fifth-ranked North Dakota State by six. Sixth-ranked Eastern Washington by six over fourth-ranked Montana.
Yup, it’s conference season.
Many of the big FCS games lived up to their billing in another weekend of memorable results.
Here are 10 takeaways from the Week 5 action:
Eagles soar with Barriere and defense
Eastern Washington’s 34-28 win over Montana on ESPN2 felt like an instant classic. As the Eagles (5-0) matched their best start since 1984 and the longest active home winning streak in the FCS (19), quarterback Eric Barriere surpassed 400 passing yards in a game (422) for the eighth time in his career, with help from wide receivers Talolo Limu-Jones (231 receiving yards) and Andrew Boston (80 yards, two touchdowns). The win underscored the improvement of the defense, which allowed 358 yards to drop its season average to 382.8 – the lowest since the Eagles’ 2010 FCS championship season. Linebackers Ty Graham and Jack Sendelbach had 12 tackles each and rank 1-2 on the team this season.
Bearkats are clutch again
Playing without All-America quarterback Eric Schmid, Sam Houston survived Stephen F. Austin 21-20 by scoring 15 points in the fourth quarter, including Trappe Pannell’s 4-yard touchdown run and Christian Pavon’s go-ahead PAT with 2:37 left. SFA’s Chris Campos, who entered the week as the leading scorer among FCS kickers, missed a late, 51-yard field goal attempt. The top-ranked Bearkats (4-0) have been clutch during their FCS-leading 15-game winning streak, including four postseason wins and seven overall by eight points or less.
Grambling breaks Glass, Alabama A&M win streak
Defending SWAC champion Alabama A&M’s second-longest winning streak in the FCS ended at nine, 37-28 to a Grambling State squad that had lost eight of its nine previous games (A&M’s streak included one forfeit win in the spring season). The host Tigers fell behind 14-0 on Aqeel Glass’ first two of four touchdown passes, but converted three turnovers in a six-minute span of the second quarter into touchdowns, ultimately scoring 34 unanswered points. Glass had a career-high four interceptions.
Group of returning programs has played well
Out of this year’s 128 FCS programs, 27 (including St. Thomas when it was still in Division III) did not play a game during the 2020-21 academic year due to the pandemic. The cohesive play has probably been ahead of schedule while the teams have posted a combined 47-59 (.443) record this season. Eleventh-ranked Montana State (4-1, 2-0 Big Sky) is the lone team ranked in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25, but three Ivy League teams are 3-0 – Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton.
Nicholls says, ‘Great Scott!’
So much of the attention with Southland quarterbacks rests with reigning Walter Payton Award winner Cole Kelley of Southeastern Louisiana and Jerry Rice Award winner Cameron Ward of UIW, but Nicholls senior Lindsey Scott Jr. is pushing his name to the front of the conversation. In a 48-17 win over Houston Baptist, he racked up 183 passing yards, a career-high 143 rushing yards and three total touchdowns. It was his third straight game over 100 passing yards and 100 rushing yards, making him the first FCS player to do so since Campbell’s Daniel Smith (now Villanova’s starting quarterback) from Sept. 22 to Oct. 6, 2018. With the win, Nicholls coach Tim Rebowe became the school’s all-time leader with 40.
Bison as stingy as ever
Credit both defenses in No. 5 North Dakota State’s 16-10 rivalry win upstate at No. 10 North Dakota. But here’s a scary thought about the Bison defense under coordinator David Braun: It’s allowed only 23 points in a 4-0 start. At no point during the last 10 seasons, which includes eight national championships, has the Bison allowed as few points during a four-game stretch in the same season (however, it occurred in four games over the 2011 and ’12 seasons). In the second half against UND, safety Dawson Weber had a key interception and the Bison twice came up with stops on fourth downs. The 5.8 points allowed per game rank second in the FCS to Princeton’s 2.3.
Kennesaw State runs past Jacksonville State
Kennesaw State is often maligned for not having strong nonconference schedules, but this year’s has been the toughest in the Owls’ seven-season history. Included is a Top 25 win after the FCS’ No. 20 squad (3-1) nearly had a 14½-minute advantage in time of possession while dominating No. 17 Jacksonville State 31-6, with quarterback Xavier Shepherd rushing for 124 yards and three touchdowns. Coach Brian Bohannon’s 55th career win gave him sole possession of second place in Big South history. The Owls now shift to the largest conference schedule in Big South history (seven games), having won 17 of their last 19 matchups since 2017.
JMU’s Ratke: One streak over, two continue
James Madison kicker Ethan Ratke’s final extra point attempt in the No. 3 Dukes’ 23-21 escape at No. 25 New Hampshire was blocked, ending his streak of 86 made in a row and his first miss since a 2019 win over UNH. However, he made a field goal to push his streak to 22 in row since the 2019 FCS championship game and closer to the FCS record, set by Northern Iowa’s Brian Mitchell with 26 straight over the 1990 and ’91 season. Ratke, the FCS’ all-time scoring leader among kickers, also has a field goal in 25 straight games. Nevada’s Tony Zendejas made one in an FCS-record 33 straight games in 1981-83.
MEAC puts it together
This was the week for the … MEAC? Yet to have a week with more than two wins, the shrinking conference went 4-2, including a pair of wins against programs that departed the conference in recent years: preseason favorite South Carolina State beat Bethune Cookman (SWAC) 42-35 and Norfolk State won 47-44 in overtime at Hampton (Big South). In addition, two MEAC teams stopped NEC opponents: Howard beat Sacred Heart 22-17 for coach Larry Scott’s first win and Delaware State worked two OTs to edge Wagner 33-27. D-State’s Sy’veon Wilkerson carried the ball a school-record 40 times – four more than the previous high – for 169 yards and one touchdown.
Can you top this? Nope
The offensive highs of the week went to Morehead State’s Mark Pappas, school-record 481 passing yards plus six TD passes in a 45-38 overtime win over Dayton; Mercer’s Fred Davis, school records with 276 rushing yards and five rushing TDs in a 45-42 win over Samford; and Eastern Washington’s Talolo Limu-Jones, 231 receiving yards in the 34-28 win over Montana.