Central Arkansas winning on a last-play Hail Mary on Saturday showed how top FCS teams will play to the end to try to secure a conference title and postseason bid.
Actually, the fact most of those scenarios are still up in the air in the 13 FCS leagues reflects even more on the late drama this season.
Super Saturday – the final full one of the regular season – is on the way across the FCS.
Before looking ahead to the finish line, however, we first want to look back at our takeaways from the Week 11 action (here’s the Top 25 scoreboard):
Find Them on the Dance Floor
One week after No. 2 Furman was the first team to clinch an automatic bid to the playoffs, top-ranked South Dakota State and unranked Nicholls raised the list of qualifiers to three.
South Dakota State won 34-0 at No. 22 Youngstown State to improve to 10-0 and secure the Missouri Valley Football Conference title and playoff bid in coach Jimmy Rogers’ first season. Mark Gronowski passed for three touchdowns, including two to Jaxon Janke.
Nicholls beat Lamar 37-24 to wrap up the Southland Conference bid. Jaylan Spears (177 yards, two touchdowns) and Collin Guggenheim (113) both went over 100 rushing yards for the second consecutive game. Coach Tim Rebowe’s squad is 5-4, but 6-0 in the Southland standings due to a forfeit win over Northwestern State that otherwise counts as a no contest.
Griz vs. Cats: Winner Takes All
ESPN’s “College GameDay” visited Montana State’s game against rival Montana last November, but next Saturday’s “Brawl of the Wild” has a better scenario this season. The winner in Missoula will claim an outright Big Sky championship and the conference’s automatic bid to the FCS playoffs.
Third-ranked Montana (9-1, 6-1) won 34-10 at Portland State as quarterback Clifton McDowell scored three times on the ground. Fifth-ranked Montana State (8-2, 6-1), a defending conference co-champion, whipped Eastern Washington 57-14 as Sean Chambers totaled five touchdowns on just nine combined passes and runs.
The host Grizzlies don’t have a Big Sky title since 2009 due to them vacating a shared title with the Bobcats in 2011 (the NCAA ruled two years later boosters had provided extra benefits to some UM players).
Idaho had been in a first-place tie with the two Montana schools, but the No. 4 Vandals lost at Weber State 31-29. Wildcats linebacker Winston Reid helped fuel the upset.
Howard Exacts Revenge Against NCCU
At MEAC preseason media day in July, North Carolina Central coach Trei Oliver stirred the waters with Howard, which shared the 2022 conference title even though the Eagles won the head-to-head meeting 50-21. When asked on stage about the co-championship rings worn by two Bison players, Oliver joked, “What rings? Those were class rings?”
The Bison didn’t forget the jab, and they certainly didn’t forget last year’s score when they went out and a posted a 50-20 win over the No. 7 Eagles. On his team’s final scoring drive, coach Larry Scott even had his team go for a first down on a fourth-down play and they converted a two-point conversion to get to 50 points. Overall, quarterback Quinton Williams accounted for 292 yards of total offense and four touchdowns, and the defense had four sacks.
Due to their head-to-head win over NCCU, Howard (5-5, 3-1) will earn the MEAC’s bid to the Celebration Bowl if they defeat Morgan State next Saturday.
Four Share CAA Lead After Richmond Knocks Out Elon
The five-team logjam atop CAA Football was guaranteed to be decreased by at least one team, but that’s all that happened with Richmond beating Elon to cut the tie to a quartet.
Quarterback Kyle Wickersham had three total touchdowns in Richmond’s 38-24 win; Khalil Dorsey had what amounted to a 105-yard interception return for a TD in Delaware’s 45-7 rout at Campbell; Rayjoun Pringle caught 79- and 63-yard TDs from Connor Watkins in Villanova’s 33-10 win over Towson; and Reese Poffenbarger threw four TD passes in Albany’s 38-20 victory at Stony Brook.
The final schedule: Delaware (8-2) will host Villanova (8-2), with the winner earning at least a share of the title; Albany (8-3) will welcome in Monmouth; and Richmond (7-3) plays at rival William & Mary.
UT Martin Wins Title, Eyes Playoffs
UT Martin let out a year’s worth of frustration in defeating Southeast Missouri 41-14 to clinch at least a share of the inaugural Big South-OVC Football Association championship.
Both programs tied for the Ohio Valley Conference title a year ago, but SEMO won a coin flip to advance to the FCS playoffs, with UT Martin later denied an at-large bid.
This time in the FedEx Ground FCS Game of the Week, UT Martin (8-2, 5-1) rolled behind Kinkead Dent’s three touchdown passes and running back Narkel Leflore’s career performance (15 carries, 147 yards, two TDs).
If Gardner-Webb (6-4, 4-1) beats Charleston Southern, it will earn a share of the Big South-OVC title with UT Martin and secure the auto bid due to a head-to-head win. Regardless, coach Jason Simpson’s Skyhawks would complete a playoff resume with an out-of-conference win against Samford.
Stock Up, Stock Down
Stock Up: Merrimack beat Central Connecticut State 35-24, then got an unexpected surprise when Duquesne suffered its first Northeast Conference loss, falling 33-28 at home to Stonehill. That means the Warriors (5-5, 4-2) will earn the NEC’s automatic bid to the FCS playoffs in their first year of eligibility if they defeat Duquesne (7-3, 5-1) at home next Saturday.
Stock Down: Northern Iowa was riding high with three straight wins and six over seven games since an 0-2 start, but a 35-16 dud at Missouri State – the Bears bottled up Panthers quarterback Theo Day – dropped them to 6-4 and likely needing a win over MVFC power North Dakota State to advance to the playoffs. The Panthers have lost eight straight meetings with the Bison.
News and Notes
Incredibly, Monmouth boasts the FCS leaders in rushing yards (Jaden Shirden, 1,429, 142.9 per game) and receiving yards (Dymere Miller, 1,243, 124.3 per game) with one full week remaining in the regular season. Miller jumped to the top by setting the school record with 333 yards (on 11 receptions and with two touchdowns) in a 31-24 loss to New Hampshire. UNH freshman quarterback Matt Vezza stepped in for starter Max Brosmer in the middle of the winning drive, connecting on a 38-yard TD to Myles Thomason with 2:18 to break a 24-24 tie. … While Central Arkansas won on the final play of its 27-24 win over Eastern Kentucky via Jarrod Barnes’ 46-yard catch off a deflected pass from Will McElvain, Austin Peay clinched at least a share of the United Athletic Conference title. The Governors (8-2, 5-0) beat Utah Tech 30-17, making it eight straight wins as they get set to host UCA for the conference’s automatic playoff bid. … Harvard (8-1, 5-1) outlasted Penn 25-23 in three overtimes to clinch at least a share of its 18th all-time Ivy League title. Crimson coach Tim Murphy earned his 10th Ivy title, tying Yale’s Carm Cozza for the most in league history. … Drake defensive end Finn Claypool finished with five tackles for loss and three sacks in a 16-14 win over Presbyterian, which when combined with Davidson’s 47-17 loss at Morehead State (Bryce Patterson passed for six TDs in that upset), clinched a share of the Pioneer Football League title. The Bulldogs (7-3, 7-0) will end the regular season at Butler, seeking to clinch the program’s first FCS playoff bid. … Jamar Curtis rushed for 204 yards and a touchdown as Lafayette (8-2, 4-1) downed Fordham 24-16 to move into a first-place tie with Holy Cross in the Patriot League. If the Leopards beat rival Lehigh in the 159th renewal of college football’s most-played series, they will clinch an automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. … Holy Cross (6-4) suffered its second three-point loss to an FBS opponent – 17-14 at Army – despite quarterback Matthew Sluka rushing for 171 yards and passing for 156 yards and two TDs. The Crusaders next face Georgetown, which scored a touchdown in the final two minutes to force overtime at Bucknell and won 50-44 on Joshua Stakely’s one-yard run. The Hoyas (5-5) are seeking just their second winning season since 2000. … Tennessee State defensive end Terrell Allen entered as the FCS leader in tackles for loss (24.5) and sacks (14.5), but was held without both during a 30-17 loss at Eastern Illinois. … Tarleton, which is ineligible for the playoffs, ended its season with a 31-30 win at Abilene Christian and an 8-3 record. The Texans had three games decided by one point and another game decided by two points, going 3-1 in those contests. … There were two matchups of winless teams. In the MVFC Indiana State (1-9) posted a 27-6 win over Western Illinois (0-10) as Justin Dinka rushed for 147 yards and two TDs. In the SoCon, Wofford (1-9) posted an 11-3 win over The Citadel (0-10), limiting the Bulldogs to 234 yards and forcing three turnovers.