Florida A&M ended Jackson State’s SWAC dominance and Western Carolina hammered Samford in the first Southern Conference game last weekend.
Tennessee State gave Gardner-Webb the boot in the first crossover gamer of the inaugural Big South-OVC Football Association.
Stonehill and Wagner … both sitting atop the early Northeast Conference standings?
FCS schedules are moving toward conference play, and early results suggest it’s about to get even wilder and wackier.
Here are some takeaways from the Week 3 action across the FCS:
North Dakota State is Revving Up
The Bison are back.
OK, so North Dakota State’s FCS dynasty program never really went away, even though it was only the national runner-up last season, finishing 12-3 with a loss to Arizona and two to South Dakota State, including 45-21 in the title game in Frisco, Texas.
Coach Matt Entz’s No. 2-ranked team – yes, still behind SDSU – was expected to be 3-0 through the non-conference schedule, but it’s looked really strong in doing so, most recently overwhelming a talented Central Arkansas squad 49-31 to build on wins over Eastern Washington (34-10) and Maine (44-7). Against UCA, quarterback Cam Miller completed 18 of 19 passes for 200 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed for a pair of scores.
The defense has fortified after graduation and transfer losses, and the Bison have yet to commit a turnover while posting a plus-seven margin.
(Here’s the full Stats Perform FCS Top 25 scoreboard)
Salukis Wins Thriller Over Rival
For the second consecutive season in the “War for the Wheel,” the visiting team had a game-winning touchdown pass in the back of the home team’s end zone with 11 seconds left.
This time, No. 15 Southern Illinois slipped past No. 13 Southeast Missouri 26-25 in the 91st meeting of the rivalry. Nic Baker found Izaiah Hartrup for the TD, erasing the Salukis’ 25-20 deficit.
Baker wound up 37 of 51 for 458 yards (404 in the second half) and three TDs with two interceptions in the FedEx Ground FCS Game of the Week. The Salukis improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2014, and it includes an FBS win over Northern Illinois.
Sac State Beats Stanford, Former Coach
The FCS vs. FBS storyline was one of the juiciest this season, and No. 8 Sacramento State delivered with a 30-23 win against Stanford and the Hornets’ former coach, Troy Taylor, who led them to Big Sky titles in 2019, ’21 and last year.
It marked the second consecutive season the Hornets (3-0) posted an FBS win, and the fourth time since 2011. It also was the fourth by an FCS team this season, and the second involving a Big Sky team – the other being Idaho, which the Hornets face next Saturday.
Quarterback Kaiden Bennett accounted for 379 yards of total offense and had both a TD pass and run while directing an offense that was a combined 12 of 17 on third- and fourth-down conversions. Linebacker Armon Bailey and safety Cameron Broussard shared game-high honors with 11 tackles each.
Ivy League Has Another Winning Start
Ivy League teams went 5-3 to make it seven straight seasons in which they’ve combined to finish above .500 in season openers. Cornell (23-20, Lehigh), Penn (20-6, Colgate), Brown (29-25, Bryant) and Princeton (23-12, San Diego) won on the road, while Harvard opened its 150th season at home, forcing four turnovers in a 45-13 rout of St. Thomas.
The losses also were noteworthy. Defending Ivy champ Yale didn’t have answers for Holy Cross quarterback Matthew Sluka (373 yards of total offense, six total touchdowns) in falling 49-24 to the No. 6 Crusaders. Columbia coach Mark Fabish, who’s succeeded the legendary Al Bagnoli, lost 24-3 at Lafayette, while Dartmouth, under Sammy McCorkle with Buddy Teevens out on medical leave, fell 24-7 at No. 11 New Hampshire. The Big Green’s defeat ended a 12-game winning streak in season openers, which had been the FCS active high.
Eastern Kentucky Honors Kidd, But Falls to Catamounts
Eastern Kentucky found various ways to honor legendary coach Roy Kidd, who passed away at age 91 this past week, but Western Carolina pulled out a 27-24, road win in the rain against the Colonels. Branson Adams caught a game-winning, eight-yard touchdown pass from Cole Gonzales with 25 seconds remaining.
Kidd was EKU’s coach from 1964 to 2002, and led the Colonels to 314 wins, 16 Ohio Valley Conference title seasons, and two FCS championship and two national runner-up campaigns.
Stock Up, Stock Down
Stock Up: Campbell has gone from a respectable, 34-24 loss to No. 4 William & Mary in its season opener to posting two straight road wins – a 56-7 blowout of The Citadel and a 45-31 win over Monmouth for its first-ever CAA Football triumph – one season after going 1-5 in away games. Naquari Rogers rushed for 152 yards and three touchdowns in the win over Monmouth.
Stock Down: The Southland Conference has been strong in recent years, including Sam Houston winning the 2020 FCS championship in spring 2021, but six of the eight teams remain winless and only No. 10 UIW (2-1) has a winning record. Collectively, they’ve opened the season with a 3-19 mark.
News and Notes
Portland State surely could have surpassed its Division I single-game record 105 points against Delaware State in 1980, but it hit the brakes after taking a 91-0 lead through three quarters against NAIA North American, and didn’t score again. Incredibly, coach Bruce Barnum matched the score by utilizing 91 players in the blowout. The point total was a Big Sky record as PSU was not a member of the conference in 1980. … Montana managed under 200 yards, but the No. 12 Grizzlies (3-0) avoided an upset in defeating Ferris State 17-10. The visiting Bulldogs, who are the two-time defending Division II national champions, had won their previous 28 road games. … Eastern Illinois ended a five-game losing streak to Illinois State, 14-13 in the 111th “Mid-America Classic.” ISU (2-1) went ahead 13-7 on Mason Blakemore’s 12-yard touchdown run with 4:04 left, but missed the PAT, opening the door for the upstart Panthers (2-1) to pull out the win on Pierce Holley’s second scoring pass to Justin Thomas (a 25-yarder) and Julian Patino’s PAT with 30 seconds left to go. … In the 98th “Battle of the Real HU,” Hampton edged Howard 35-34, overcoming a 31-14 deficit in the final 21 minutes. Quarterback Christopher Zellous accounted for three TDs in the game. … Top-ranked South Dakota State hammered Drake 70-7 at Target Field in Minneapolis to improve to 3-0 and run its winning streak to an FCS-leading 17 games. Mark Gronowski threw TD passes to five different receivers. … Third-ranked Montana State made it 22 straight home wins with a 57-20 cruise past Stetson. Scottre Humphrey rushed for three TDs. … Fourth-ranked William & Mary (3-0) limited Charleston Southern to 77 yards and without an offensive touchdown in a 15-7 win. Defensive end Nate Lynn had seven tackles, two tackles for loss and a strip sack that resulted in a safety. … Tennessee State upset Gardner-Webb 27-25 in the Big South-OVC. James Lowery kicked a 50-yard field goal with nine seconds left to provide the winning margin. … Jeff Caldwell’s fourth TD catch with 1:13 left lifted Lindenwood past Western Illinois 43-40. … Davidson quarterback Coulter Cleland’s five TD passes in a 49-21 win at Marist were the most by a Wildcat since Jonathan Carkhuff had the same number in 2011. … Mike DiLiello set an Austin Peay single-game record with 441 passing yards and accounted for six TDs in a 63-3 romp over ETSU. … Wagner’s 17-10 win over Sacred Heart in an NEC opener was just the Seahawks’ second win in their last 34 games. Junior Wily had a pick-six in the victory. … In a matchup of 0-2 teams, Eastern Washington topped No. 19 Southeastern Louisiana 40-29 for its first win. Tuna Altahir’s one-yard run with 1:34 left erased EWU’s 29-26 deficit, and the Eagles scored again on the next offensive play when cornerback Marlon Jones Jr. returned a pick-six. Kekoa Visperas’ 349 passing yards powered the Eagles to a 530-293 advantage in total yards. … Ian Williams’ 19-yard field goal with 21 seconds left lifted No. 7 Furman past FBS-bound Kennesaw State 31-28. Paladins quarterback Tyler Huff had 316 yards of total offense and rushed for four TDs. … Utah Tech scored 27 points in the second quarter en route to a 50-36 win at Northern Arizona, ending a 14-game losing streak to Big Sky teams. … Chattanooga running back Ailym Ford’s 126 rushing yards in a 48-3 win over The Citadel gave him 19 career games over the century mark. … Richmond linebacker Tristan Wheeler had nine tackles to surpass 400 in his career during the Spiders’ 38-6 win over Delaware State.