FCS Football Review: Week 8 Takeaways
If Michael Myers is asked to play in a conference game next weekend, he just may decide to sit out Halloween.
As the closing weeks of the regular season gain in importance, conference games have been scary tough.
This weekend, eight teams in the Stats Perform FCS Top 25 were treated worse than a Haddonfield resident, raising the total of ranked teams that have suffered losses in just the last three weeks to 25.
Here are 10 takeaways from the Week 8 action:
Eastern Washington defeat felt nationwide
Weber State’s 35-34 upset of second-ranked Eastern Washington had major ramifications, the biggest perhaps unbeaten powers Sam Houston and North Dakota State gaining a clear path to the top two seeds in the FCS playoffs (which guarantee home-field advantage through the semifinals). Weber State (3-4, 2-2), the four-time defending Big Sky champ, ended EWU’s FCS-high 20-game home winning streak and gave Montana State sole possession of first place. Kris Jackson rushed for three touchdowns in the win, while the defense limited Eagles All-America quarterback Eric Barriere to 19 of 39 passing for a season-low 245 yards, although he had 85 rushing yards and three total touchdowns, and became the conference’s all-time leader in total offense (13,558 yards). Southeastern Louisiana quarterback Cole Kelley got a boost against Barriere in the competition for the Walter Payton Award, which Kelley won in the spring season while Barriere was the runner-up.
Cook gets his kicks out of UNI upset
Eastern Washington wasn’t the only top 10 team to get picked off in conference play as sixth-ranked South Dakota State (5-2, 2-2) fell 26-17 to No. 20 Northern Iowa (4-3, 2-2). UNI’s Matthew Cook was 4 of 4 on field goal attempts, becoming the first FCS kicker this season to connect on a pair of 50-yarders (career-high 55 and 51) in the same game. Since his debut in 2019, Cook’s 79.3 field-goal percentage (46 of 58) is the third-best among FCS kickers to Ethan Ratke of James Madison and Jose Pizano of Missouri State.
Lindsey becomes winningest San Diego coach
Dale Lindsey became San Diego’s all-time winningest coach (72 victories) with a 69-28 rout of Presbyterian in the Pioneer Football League. The 78-year-old Lindsey, the oldest Division I coach, is 72-25 since taking over with the 2013 season, a .742 winning percentage which is eighth-best among FCS programs with more than 50 wins in that time. His four losses this season are the most of his career, but USD (4-4, 4-1) has bounced back with a three-game winning streak. Quarterback Mason Randall accounted for four touchdowns as the Toreros matched the program record for points in a game.
In seventh game, Lehigh scores first touchdown
Lehigh finally scored its first touchdown of the season – in fact, four in its seventh game – but fell 35-28 at Fordham in the Patriot League. The Mountain Hawks, who had scored only three field goals in their first six games, were the first FCS team to go that long without a touchdown since Savannah State had a six-game stretch in 2003. Lehigh’s Zaythan Hill capped the game’s opening drive with a 28-yard scoring run and went on to carry the ball 27 times for 159 yards and three TDs. Fordham rallied to the win with 21 unanswered points in the final 13 minutes, 3 seconds, with quarterback Tim DeMorat’s fifth overall TD – a 2-yard run with 1:45 left – the game-winner.
After eye-catching weekend, Princeton is lone Ivy unbeaten
The Ivy League entered the weekend with three 5-0 teams for the first time since 1968, but only one unbeaten remained after No. 25 Dartmouth fell 19-0 to Columbia and No. 22 Princeton outlasted Harvard 18-16 in five overtimes. Dartmouth (5-1, 2-1) hadn’t been shut out since 2011, but Columbia (5-1, 2-1) posted one of the signature wins of the Al Bagnoli era – its first shutout since 2009 while limiting the Big Green to their second fewest offensive yards (262) in 42 games. Princeton (6-0, 3-0) survived in the fifth OT on Jacob Birmelin’s two-point catch from Cole Smith followed by the Crimson (5-1, 2-1) throwing an incompletion on their attempt.
Sam Houston, McNeese celebrate 200
Top-ranked Sam Houston and McNeese are no longer in the same conference as rivals, but the number 200 played a big part of their wins. The defending FCS champion Bearkats (6-0, 4-0) extended their lead in the AQ7 by hammering Jacksonville State 42-7 in the 200th all-time game at Bowers Stadium, where they are 151-48-1 (.758) since it opened in 1986 in Huntsville, Texas. Ramon Jefferson had his fourth 100-yard rushing game of the season and scored two touchdowns, while NFL cornerback prospect Zyon McCollum collected his 12th career interception. McNeese, which has a 27-13-1 all-time lead in matchups against Sam Houston, knocked No. 16 UIW out of first place in the Southland 28-20, notching its record 200th all-time win in the conference. McNeese harassed UIW standout Cameron Ward with 10 sacks and three interceptions.
ETSU wins late in sizzling SoCon race
Welcome to another episode of “As the SoCon Turns,” featuring No. 14 ETSU. In one of the deeper conference races in the FCS, Mercer (5-2, 4-1) handled Wofford 45-14 and Chattanooga (4-3, 3-1) routed Samford 55-13, but co-leader ETSU (7-1, 4-1) continued to be in close games, edging Furman 17-13 when Tyler Riddell connected with Malik Murray in the back of the end zone for a 3-yard touchdown at the 0:09 mark. Incredibly, 15 of the Bucs’ last 16 conference games have been decided by one possession (eight or fewer points). VMI (5-2, 3-1), the defending champ, was idle, meaning the top four teams are separated by a half game in the standings.
MEAC race taking shape
Following other FCS conferences, the MEAC race finally began to take more shape, and it looks quite like the conference’s preseason poll. South Carolina State, the favorite, is the early leader at 2-0 after holding off Delaware State 13-7 in a defensive slugfest, but Norfolk State and North Carolina State are right behind after capturing their conference openers. Norfolk State quarterback Juwan Carter set the school record with 21 straight completions as the Spartans topped Howard 45-31 for their fifth straight victory – their longest win streak since 2011. Davius Richards had a career-high four TD passes to carry North Carolina Central past Morgan State 28-17.
Bryant eyeing first NEC title, playoff bid
Incredibly, the Northeast Conference has sent seven different schools to the FCS playoffs since it gained an automatic bid in 2010. Could Bryant be next? The Bulldogs (5-3) have never won the NEC title, but after being picked fourth in the conference’s preseason poll, they’re tied for first with Sacred Heart at 3-1 each, just ahead of Duquesne and Saint Francis at 2-1 each. Coach Chris Merritt’s squad has already played those other three schools, including wins over Sacred Heart and Saint Francis, leaving arguably the most favorable remaining schedule. The Dawgs handled Wagner 31-10 as freshman quarterback Zevi Eckhaus accounted for three touchdowns and senior linebacker Joe Andreessen had two of the defense’s three second-half interceptions.
Tennessee State a pleasant surprise behind George
Deion Sanders and No. 24 Jackson State tend to grab the spotlight among HBCU programs, but how about this year’s big-name hire, Eddie George of Tennessee State? The Tigers (4-3, 2-1 Ohio Valley Conference) won 28-0 at Eastern Illinois for both their first shutout and three-game winning streak since 2017. Quarterback Geremy Hickbotton accounted for three touchdowns and running back Devon Starling rushed for 122 yards and a score, while the defense had four sacks and four takeaways. George is a first-time coach, although the 1995 Heisman Trophy winner played most of his NFL career in Nashville, where Tennessee State is located.