Cinderella’s carriage desperately needs a new serpentine belt because the squealing noise is not allowing FCS teams to slip into FBS stadiums undetected and pull away with an upset.
The money games against FBS opposition often highlight the early season FCS schedule, but in the first full week of the 2023 college football season, the frequent March to losses created the Madness. Subdivision teams went 0-42 against the larger-school Division I programs.
Yes, that is not a misprint.
Nonetheless, here are some takeaways from the FCS action across the extended Labor Day weekend:
CAA vs. FBS: Trio of Close Calls
Three teams in the rebranded Coastal Athletic Association put scares into FBS opponents, including No. 21 Rhode Island’s particularly entertaining, 42-35 loss at Georgia State. Kasim Hill was the only FCS quarterback to reach 400 passing yards (408), and he had a hand in every Rams’ touchdown, passing for four and rushing for one.
UAlbany failed to hold on to a fourth-quarter lead in its 21-17 loss at Marshall. Maine never led in its 14-12 defeat at FIU.
Take a Curtain Call: Nine Coaches Win Debuts
Nine of the 27 first-year FCS coaches guided their teams to season-opening victories.
The winners: Cal Poly’s Paul Wulff (27-10, San Diego); Central Connecticut State’s Adam Lechtenberg (44-0, American International); Charleston Southern‘s Gabe Giardina (13-10, North Greenville); Houston Christian’s Braxton Harris (66-0, Trinity); Jackson State’s T.C. Taylor (37-7, South Carolina State); Sacramento State’s Andy Thompson (38-24, Nicholls); South Dakota State’s Jimmy Rogers (45-10, Western Oregon); VMI’s Danny Rocco (12-7, Davidson); and Weber State’s Mickey Mental (35-10, Central Washington)
No. 2 Bison Run Past Eastern Washington
The U.S. Bank Stadium roof in Minneapolis, let alone the sky, did not fall on North Dakota State as it opened the season with a 35-10 win over Eastern Washington in the FedEx Ground FCS Game of the Week. The offseason talk that surrounded the FCS dynasty program often focused on the negative, but the Bison still entered the season with a No. 2 national ranking, and maybe a little extra motivation.
They hammered the Eagles with 39 carries for 337 yards, with backup quarterback Cole Payton (104 yards, touchdown) and top running back TaMerik Williams (93, TD) leading the ground assault, and starting signal caller Cam Miller accounting for three TDs. The win was coach Matt Entz’s 50th in leading the Bison.
(Here’s the full Stats Perform FCS Top 25 Poll scoreboard)
Big South-OVC, UAC Get it Going
Just like that, a new FCS league got rolling along with Eastern Illinois posting the highlight of the Big South-OVC Football Association’s opening schedule. The Panthers entered as a road underdog, but beat Indiana State 27-0 for their first shutout since 2016. Tyris Harvey (19 yards) and Nijhay Burt (67) scored on pick-sixes in the final minute of the first half to demoralize the Panthers’ MVFC opponent.
The FCS partnership between the ASUN and Western Athletic Conference entered its third season, but as the rebranded United Athletic Conference. Among the opening results, Abilene Christian downed Northern Colorado 31-11 behind a decisive offensive advantage (493 yards to 190) and Xavier Wishert’s two rushing TDs, while North Alabama pulled a 41-27 upset of Chattanooga as Noah Walters threw three of his four TD passes to wide receiver Takairee Kenebrew.
Stock Up, Stock Down
Stock Up: Morgan State posted perhaps the biggest surprise of the weekend with a 17-10 win at No. 18 Richmond, an FCS playoff qualifier last season. The Bears, who were 4-7 in coach Damon Wilson’s first season a year ago, ended the Spiders’ 17-game winning streak in home openers. Jabriel Johnson’s 10-yard touchdown with 6:24 left broke a 10-10 tie, and linebacker Erick Hunter had 11 tackles, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble.
Stock Down: Despite Morgan State, it wasn’t all good news for the MEAC, as two members were among the three FCS teams that lost to Division II opponents. Delaware State fell to Bowie State 22-11 and Norfolk State lost to Virginia State 33-24, marking the first time an FCS conference suffered multiple losses to sub-Division I opponents in the same week since the Northeast and Southland in the second week of the 2019 campaign. Additionally, Mississippi Valley State from the SWAC fell to Central State 24-21 in Chicago.
News and Notes
Top-ranked South Dakota State opened defense of its 2022 FCS championship by scoring six first-half touchdowns in a 45-7 rout of Division II Western Oregon. Safeties Tucker Large and Colby Huerter scored on 64- and 54-yard interception returns, respectively. … Third-ranked Montana State routed Utah Tech 63-20. Scott Humphrey rushed for 114 yards and three TDs, and the Bobcats racked up 638 offensive yards. … In one of the bigger nonconference matchups, Southern Illinois handled Austin Peay 49-23. Nic Baker passed for three touchdowns and the Salukis forced three turnovers as part of a 15-minute, 20-second advantage in time of possession. … Four conference games served as season openers. In CAA Football, No. 4 William & Mary beat Campbell 34-24 (Bronson Yoder rushed for 124 yards and two TDs; Campbell’s CJ Tillman finished with 19 tackles) and No. 22 Delaware blasted Stony Brook 37-13 (Ryan O’Conner passed for 346 yards and a TD). In the SWAC, Prairie View A&M scored the final 20 points, including Carlos Villagomez’s 35-yard, walk-off field goal in overtime, for a 37-34 win at Texas Southern in the Labor Day Classic, while Florida A&M upended Jackson State 28-10 in the Orange Blossom Classic, ending the Tigers’ 21-game winning streak over conference opponents, as Jeremy Mousa passed for a pair of touchdowns. Additionally, Alabama State edged fellow SWAC member Southern, but the game did not count toward conference records. … All hail Weber State’s Abraham Williams. He had a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown in a 35-10 win over Central Washington, his fifth in the Wildcats’ last nine games since October. … Sacramento State has switched coaches, but not from a two-quarterback system. South Dakota transfer Carson Camp got the start at Nicholls before Kaiden Bennett came off the bench to account for 259 yards of total offense and three TDs in the No. 10 Hornets’ 38-24 win at Nicholls. … Holy Cross running back Jordan Fuller scored five touchdowns on only 14 touches to lead the fifth-ranked squad past Merrimack 42-20. That’s the most for a Crusader since the legendary Gordie Lockbaum had six against Dartmouth in 1986. Linebacker Jacob Dobbs also had 20 tackles, the most among FCS players. … Seventh-ranked UIW scored 51.5 points per game last year – the second-highest single-season average in FCS history – but a 28-14 loss at UTEP marked its lowest point total since the final game of the spring 2021 season (a 42-14 loss to Sam Houston). … Samford’s Michael Hiers passed for 375 yards and five touchdowns as the ninth-ranked Bulldogs cruised past Division II Shorter 69-14. … Davidson has led the FCS in rushing yards per game in each of the last three seasons, but VMI held the Wildcats to 101 yards on 39 carries while posting a 12-7 win. Eric Rankin and Evan Eller led VMI’s defense with 14 and 11 tackles, respectively, while Collin Ironside connected on a game-winning, 25-yard TD to VJ Johnson with 51 seconds left. … Illinois State shut out Dayton 41-0. Lavoise-Deontae McCoy recovered a fumble in the UD end zone, which gave the Redbirds a defensive touchdown in each of coach Brock Spack’s 15 seasons. … Portland State surrendered its most points ever in a game, falling to Oregon 81-7.