When the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League, which struggles the most out of conference among the 15 FCS leagues, produces the most interesting weekend of results, it’s a good sign for the fun taking place across the Division I subdivision.
The title races are taking shape, and they appear as wild and wacky as ever with six full weeks remaining in the regular season.
Highlighting some of the bigger storylines of Week 6 in FCS college football, here are 10 takeaways:
No. 1 NDSU, No. 2 SDSU Ready for Showdown
Top-ranked North Dakota State made it interesting, but held on to beat Indiana State 31-26, while No. 2 South Dakota State handled South Dakota 28-3, heading into next Saturday’s Missouri Valley Football Conference showdown inside the Fargodome. For the defending FCS champion Bison, TaMerik Williams only needed 13 carries to set career high of 145 yards and three touchdowns. Isaiah Davis fueled SDSU with the 10th 100-yard performance (108) of his 23-game career, scoring three TDs. The Jackrabbits have beaten NDSU in each of the last two seasons.
Big Sky Flexing Its Muscle
Presumably, NDSU and SDSU will remain 1-2 in Monday’s new Stats Perform FCS Top 25, but the next four spots will be Big Sky teams, and Montana (5-0, 2-0), Montana State (5-1, 3-0), Sacramento State (5-0, 2-0) and Weber State (5-0) could be ordered in any way and be correct. With Montana idle, Montana State beat Idaho State 37-6 to match the program record with a 16th straight home win. Quarterback Sean Chambers rushed for three touchdowns to extend his FCS lead to 15 this season, and the defense forced six turnovers. Sac State remained the only FCS team yet to trail in a game while routing Northern Colorado 55-7, and Weber State (5-0, 2-0) topped Eastern Washington 45-21, which surely will knock the Eagles from the national rankings – a rarity, of course.
DeMorat, Scott: Another Week, Another Spectacular Performance
Quarterbacks Tim DeMorat of Fordham and Lindsey Scott Jr. of No. 10 UIW remained unstoppable in their respective team’s win. DeMorat, the FCS’ leading passer, threw for 499 yards (the second-most of his season and career) and four touchdowns as the Rams (5-1, 2-0) beat Lehigh 40-28 in the Patriot League. While DeMorat passed for 340 yards and three TDs in the second half, that didn’t compare to Scott’s first half in UIW’s 56-17 rout of Lamar in the Southland. He completed 23 of 26 passes for 401 yards and seven touchdowns – the latter matching the FCS record for a half and the UIW game mark. Scott sat out the second half as the Cardinals improved 5-1 and 2-1.
Heated Exchange After Jackson State Win
Jackson State earned the 500th win in program history by defeating Alabama State 26-12, but what was most memorable occurred between the head coaches after the SWAC game. As JSU’s Deion Sanders and ASU’s Eddie Robinson Jr. shook hands, Sanders appeared to lean in for an embrace, but Robinson halted him by putting his left hand on Coach Prime’s chest and then stormed off. Sanders had been feisty with his public comments leading up to the game and had his backup quarterback throw a pass with a minute to go and the game considered out of reach.
“He ain’t SWAC. I’m SWAC, he ain’t SWAC,” Robinson said afterward.
“You’re not going to come here and disrespect me and my team and my school and then want to bro-hug. Shake my hand and get the heck along.”
St. Thomas Takes Down Davidson in PFL
St. Thomas isn’t eligible for the FCS playoffs in the second season of a four-year reclassification from Division III, but it can win the PFL, which looks increasingly possible after a 27-16 win over two-time defending champion Davidson. Cade Sexauer passed for three touchdowns and defensive back Luke Glenna racked up 22 tackles for the Tommies (4-1, 2-0), whose biggest FCS win to date was their 24th in a row at home since 2017. They’re sitting atop the standings with Valparaiso, who’s off to a 2-0 league start for the first time since 2003.
Butler Did It!
Butler reversed a 31-0 loss last weekend to post a shutout of Dayton by the same score, ending the Flyers’ streak of consecutive games with points at 501 (the streak was eight days shy of lasting 46 years). Quarterback Bret Bushka was 25 of 29 for 338 yards and three touchdowns, also scoring on a TD run. Kody Leach’s interception in the Butler end zone with 5:40 left helped preserve the shutout. The Bulldogs (3-2, 1-1 PFL), under first-year coach Mike Uremovich, have matched last season’s win total.
Stock Up, Stock Down
Stock Up: Penn is one of eight unbeaten FCS teams following a 59-28 win at Georgetown. Aidan Sayan (four TD passes) and Trey Flowers (149 rushing yards, two TDs) powered the offense as the Ivy League squad improved to 4-0 under coach Ray Priore, which is one more win than all of last season. (Also of note in the non-league matchup, Georgetown’s Mason Gudger became the second player in Patriot League history to return two kickoffs for touchdowns – 94 and 89 yards – in the same game)
Stock Down: Missouri State hopes to regroup during a much-needed bye week, but the assignment ahead is obvious – the Bears, who were ranked No. 5 in the preseason, have to win all five of their final MVFC games to have a chance for a third straight playoff appearance. The Bears (2-4, 0-3) have lost four straight games, including 38-21 to Southern Illinois when the Salukis piled up all of their points in the second and third quarters.
UNH Sits Alone Atop CAA Standings After Delaware Defeat
It doesn’t seem to make sense in CAA Football that New Hampshire (4-2, 4-0), picked ninth in the preseason poll, is atop the standings and Elon (5-1, 3-0), picked sixth, is sitting second, but it actually does in the largest FCS conference, where it’s more a war of attrition as teams knock each other off, and the unbalanced scheduling can play a big factor. In the FedEx Ground FCS Game of the Week, William & Mary (5-1, 2-1) handled Delaware (5-1, 2-1) its first loss 27-21 as Bronson Yoder rushed for 114 yards and a touchdown, and the defense had two fumble recoveries.
Hard to Slow Monmouth Running Backs
To say Monmouth has depth at running back is an understatement. Juwon Farri entered the season well over 2,000 career rushing yards yet is finding it hard to get carries. As the Hawks (4-2, 2-1) beat Albany 38-31 in the CAA, Jaden Shirden rushed for 160 yards and two touchdowns to add to his FCS-leading totals in rushing yards (932), rushing yards per game (155.3) and yards per carry of more than 35 attempts (9.6). Owen Wright had 100 yards worth of touchdown runs – a 1-yarder and, yes, a 99-yarder – to up his season total to 12 on 41 carries. One of his two receptions also went for a TD this season, which means he has scored 13 times on just 43 scrimmage touches.
News and Notes
Kennesaw State is the favorite to become Conference USA’s 10th member, effective in 2024, ESPN’s Pete Thamel reported. The eighth-year program is an ASUN member, having played in the Big South until this season. … No. 9 Holy Cross’ 57-0 win over Bucknell was its largest shutout win since the Crusaders beat Fort Totten 60-0 on Oct. 10, 1942. … No. 13 Samford (5-1, 3-0) beat Wofford 28-14 in the Southern Conference, handing the Terriers their 16th straight defeat and the first under interim coach Shawn Watson, who replaced Josh Conklin this past week. Samford QB Michael Hiers passed for two touchdowns, giving him 16 against just two interceptions this season. … Similarly, Mercer quarterback Fred Payton had three more TD passes in a 49-6 rout of Western Carolina, giving him 16 without an interception this season. … Yale’s 24-21 victory over two-time defending Ivy League champion Dartmouth handed the Big Green their first three-game losing streak since 2011. Tre Peterson rushed for 173 yards and a touchdown and quarterback Nolan Groom accounted for 260 yards and two scores as the Bulldogs improved to 3-2 and 2-0 in the league. … While Stonehill (3-0) was on a bye after a big win over Duquesne last weekend, the other two first-year FCS programs earned impressive victories. Texas A&M-Commerce (3-2) took down No. 19 Southeastern Louisiana 31-28 in its first Southland game as Eric Rodriguez passed for 374 yards and four touchdowns. Ohio Valley Conference member Lindenwood (3-2) won 52-49 on The Stripes at Central Arkansas. After the teams were tied 49-49 through three quarters, Logan Seibert accounted for the only points in the fourth – a 36-yard field goal with 9:47 to go. Quarterback Cade Brister had a monster game with 475 yards of total offense and seven total touchdowns (five rushing, two passing) … No. 18 UT Martin pulled away from Murray State 45-24 to remain atop the OVC standings. Thanks to quarterback Dresser Winn, the Skyhawks (4-2, 3-0) had two of the week’s top three performances in receiving yards (DeVonte Tanksley with 220 and Colton Dowell with 168). In addition, the defense had five interceptions. … The SWAC West Division race opened up after Southern beat Prairie View A&M 45-13 behind Besean McCray (360 yards of total offense, four total TDs). Prairie View had been 3-0 in the SWAC. … Scoring three touchdowns in the final five minutes, Marist topped Stetson 45-31 in the PFL for coach Jim Parady’s 149th career win. … Maine’s Jordan Stevens earned his first coaching win, 31-24 at Hampton. That leaves Idaho State’s Charlie Ragle, LIU’s Ron Cooper and Western Illinois’ Myers Hendrickson as the only first-year coaches without a win this season. … Southern Utah’s Jake Gerardi owns three of the four longest punts in the FCS this season with his 73-yarder against Tarleton adding to a 72-yarder against Western Illinois and a 71-yarder against St. Thomas. … Chris Campos’ walk-off, 51-yard field goal lifted Stephen F. Austin past Abilene Christian 41-38. He’s 10 of 11 on field goals this season and 43 of 54 (79.6 percent) in his career.