It may feel as if the FCS regular season is unofficially the South Dakota State Invitational, but take solace in the great conference races that abound across the nation.
While the top-ranked Jackrabbits handled rival North Dakota State 33-16 in the Dakota Marker rivalry game, three teams that were alone in first place entering the weekend surrendered it – Delaware in CAA Football, Lafayette in the Patriot League and Southeast Missouri in the Big South-OVC Football Association – and three others fell from a share of the lead – Howard (MEAC), Princeton (Ivy) and UIW (Southland) – quite the wild start to a potential November to remember.
Here are our takeaways from the Week 10 action:
Just Call Them Stingy Dakota State
Gronowski. Davis. Janke. Greenfield. McCormick.
Due to an offense overflowing with All-Americans, South Dakota State’s defensive excellence has been a bit overshadowed this season, but it shouldn’t be. The Jackrabbits’ 33-16 win over No. 11 North Dakota State in the FedEx Ground FCS Game of the Week was another showcase for a unit that entered the weekend ranked first in the FCS in fewest yards and points allowed per game.
SDSU forced three turnovers, only one fewer than NDSU had committed in its first eight games combined. It matched the number the ‘Rabbits had against the Bison in the 2022 national championship game.
Jason Freeman led the defense with a game-high 12 tackles and an interception. Fellow linebacker Adam Bock continued his return to health, surpassing 300 career stops.
Incredibly, SDSU has won five straight games (four Dakota Marker games) against NDSU and handed the Bison over half of their losses since 2016 (seven of 13).
(Here’s the full Week 10 Top 25 scoreboard)
Furman First Into the Playoffs
Second-ranked Furman became the first team to punch its ticket to the FCS playoffs, rallying to a 17-14 win at No. 14 Chattanooga to clinch at least a share of its record 15th Southern Conference championship.
The Paladins (8-1, 6-0) lost standout quarterback Tyler Huff to a shoulder injury in the first half, but redshirt freshman Carson Jones threw for a pair of touchdowns in the second half, including a go-ahead nine-yard score with 1:44 left.
They’ve qualified for the playoffs for the second consecutive year and the fourth time in coach Clay Hendrix’s seven seasons.
Traffic Jam Atop CAA Football
It’s appropriate the largest conference in FCS history – the 15-team CAA Football – has a five-way tie for first place heading into the final two weeks of the regular season.
Elon upset No. 5 Delaware 33-27 to cause the traffic jam, with those two teams joined by UAlbany, Richmond and Villanova at 5-1 each. Matthew Downing passed for 352 yards and three touchdowns in the Phoenix’s win.
UAlbany (7-3), the only FCS team to be playing 12 regular-season games, doesn’t have a remaining head-to-head matchup within the quintet. Elon travels to Richmond next Saturday and Delaware hosts Villanova on Nov. 18.
Big South-OVC, UAC Providing Thrills
The new FCS conferences are giving everybody their money’s worth.
In the inaugural Big South-OVC Football Association, preseason favorite Southeast Missouri was caught looking ahead to a huge trip to UT Martin next Saturday when it lost 21-20 at home to a Robert Morris squad that didn’t have a conference win.
In the last two weeks, UT Martin lost first place to SEMO with a 38-34 defeat at Gardner-Webb, but regained it with SEMO’s loss and a 44-41 overtime survival at Tennessee Tech. Gardner-Webb also needed OT to win 45-44 at Bryant, with it all leaving UT Martin at 4-1 and both SEMO and G-W are 3-1.
Austin Peay sits atop the United Athletic Conference standings after winning 33-30 in overtime at Eastern Kentucky in a matchup of 3-0 teams. Each of AP’s conference wins has been close, and the Governors (7-2, 4-0) appear on a collision course with Central Arkansas (6-3, 3-1) on Nov. 18.
Stock Up, Stock Down
Stock Up: Two weeks after five teams were part of a 2-1 tie atop the Ivy League standings, Harvard (7-1, 4-1) sits alone in first place. Princeton’s 23-21 loss at Dartmouth opened the door for the Crimson, who won 38-24 at Columbia to become the 10th Division I program with 900 all-time victories (they trail eight FBS programs and Yale).
Stock Down: UIW created a precarious spot in falling 45-32 to Nicholls and into second place in the Southland Conference. The Cardinals surely have to beat Houston Christian on Nov. 18 to be alive for a playoff bid, but a 9-2 resume would still include a forfeit win against Northwestern State, a basically meaningless rout of NAIA member North American, and a lack of signature wins (their only victories against winning teams are 5-4 Abilene Christian and Lamar).
News and Notes
Safety Keenan Leachman scored on a 27-yard fumble return and an 88-yard interception return as Alcorn State (6-3, 4-1) beat Southern 44-21 to take sole possession of first place in the SWAC West Division. The division winner will play at East Division champion Florida A&M in the conference championship game on Dec. 2. … Davidson and Drake remained in a tie for first place in the Pioneer Football League, but the way they both reached 6-0 was starkly different: Davidson rushed for a season-high 483 yards in a 61-41 win at Stetson, while Drake’s defense limited Marist to 246 yards in a 10-3 victory. … No. 6 Montana State beat Northern Arizona 45-21 for its 25th straight home victory, tying for the 10th-longest streak in FCS history. … No. 9 South Dakota and No. 10 Southern Illinois are both top-10 nationally in scoring defense, and they lived up to it in USD’s 14-7 triumph in the MVFC. Coyotes rush linebacker Brendan Webb collected a program-record four sacks and deflected a pass on fourth-and-goal in the final seconds, which teammate Blake Holden intercepted. … Illinois State coach Brock Spack earned his 100th career win after the Redbirds slipped past Missouri State 36-35. The Bears thought they had a fourth-down stop on ISU’s final drive, but the spot of the ball was changed after replay, and gave the Redbirds a first down. After Wenkers Wright rushed for a touchdown to pull the Redbirds within 35-34 with 38 seconds left, a potential two-point pass to him was ruled incomplete, but after replay, the call was changed into a successful catch. … North Dakota’s Tommy Schuster passed for five touchdowns in a 45-31 win at Murray State, pushing his career total to a school-record 61. … A pair of freshmen had the week’s biggest rushing performances – South Carolina State’s Jawarn Howell (27 carries, 283 yards, three TDs) in a 27-24 win over Howard in the MEAC, and Penn’s Malachi Hosley (21-26-2) in a 23-8, Ivy League victory over Cornell. Hosley scored on a 96-yard run – the longest offensive play in Quakers history. … Duquesne (6-3, 5-0) clinched at least a share of the Northeast Conference title by defeating Wagner 34-26. Edward Robinson rushed for two TDs and the defense scored twice as well. … Brady Hutchison’s 13-yard, over-the-shoulder TD catch from Jake Stearney in OT lifted Colgate to a 37-34 upset at No. 20 Lafayette (7-2, 3-1) in the Patriot League. … All three FCS teams taking on FBS opponents lost: North Carolina 59, Campbell 7; Sam Houston 24, Kennesaw State 21; and UMass 31, Merrimack 21. … Montana coach Bobby Hauck became the Big Sky’s all-time leader in wins (124) after No. 4 Montana pounded No. 7 Sacramento State 34-7.