FCS Championship Recap
What a game! Congrats to Sam Houston State on winning this instant classic of a national title game. It was a heartbreaker for Jackrabbit fans, but for a neutral (and for Sam Houston fans) this was about as good a championship game as you can get. And not for nothing, both network TV broadcast FCS games this year were absolute thrillers. Will that really matter in the long run? Eh, probably not. But it certainly can’t hurt. At the end of the third quarter I was thinking, “Too bad Gronowski got knocked out of this one….it could’ve been a great game”. But after SDSU battled back in the 4th quarter I rescinded that thought. This game was perfect, just the way it was.
As I said, SDSU was handed a tough blow when their stud freshman QB came out of the game after throwing just two passes, but Isaiah Davis made up for his absence. While Keaton Heide was just 11-22 for 107 yards and a pick, Davis carried the ball 14 times for 178 yards and 3 TDs (including an enormous 85 yard run late in the contest). The game was close enough that Gronowski’s presence may have been the difference, but we’ll never know for sure. For the Bearkats, Eric Schmid was 20-37 for 209 yards and three TDs, and was the difference maker for SHSU. He also carried the ball for 54 yards, trailing running back Ramon Jefferson who amassed 96 yards on 16 carries. Jequez Ezzard caught ten passes for 108 yards and two scores for the Bearkats. Overall, the stats were very even. Both teams turned it over just once, and SDSU outgained Sam overall by just nine yards (362-353). Sam Houston did more damage through the air while South Dakota State did theirs on the ground. Overall, it was just a doozy of a game all the way up and down.
That said, it was looking rather pedestrian through three quarters. Without Gronowski, SDSU’s offense was one dimensional and Sam Houston was able to hold it in check most of the game. Sam Houston was not terribly explosive either. An early Bearkat fumble was turned into an SDSU TD as they were able to take advantage of a short field. Sam continued to be sloppy as they fumbled the snap on a punt moments later, giving SDSU the ball deep in Bearkat territory. However, the Jackrabbits were unable to capitalize as they screwed up the ensuing field goal attempt. There was quite a bit of offensive ineptitude from there, as both teams traded punts until Sam Houston finally scored on a 35-yard pass to Jequez Ezzard in which he ran across the field like he was (as the SHSU Twitter handle put it), “playing Madden on easy”. SDSU then took the ball into Sam Houston territory but missed a 43-yard field goal, setting up the Bearkats to finish the half with another TD. A nine-play drive found paydirt for a 14-7 Sam Houston lead at halftime.
After Sam punted to open the second half, SDSU drove into Bearkat territory again. They were once again unable to capitalize, however, as they turned the ball over on downs. Sam Houston then responded with a field goal drive to go up 17-7. Isaiah Davis pretty much single handedly took SDSU into the end zone on their next drive, which covered 72 yards on five plays. That got them within three at 17-14. Sam Houston and SDSU then exchanged punts until the Jackrabbits ultimately took the lead on an 85-yard run by Davis with just under six minutes to go. Davis’ performance must be one of the best ever by a player on the losing team in an FCS title game. With one more chance, Sam Houston put together a drive that will go down in FCS football history. It was a 16-play 65-yard drive that included two third down conversions and two fourth down conversions. Schmid orchestrated the drive with both his arms and legs. On third and goal from the ten-yard line, with 16 seconds to go and no timeouts, Schmid found Ide Afeyi for the winning TD. South Dakota State did get the ball into Sam territory on their next drive, but it wasn’t enough. Sam Houston hung on for their first FCS National title, 23-21.
And with that, the FCS season is over. That means there won’t be any more MVC hoops or MVFC football for a few months and this blog will be going on hiatus. As of now I intend to continue doing this next year. I am considering a change from a focus on MVC/MVFC coverage to a focus on MVC/FCS coverage, as I really enjoy the entirety of FCS football not just the MVFC. Regardless, assuming life does not get in the way I will be back in August to cover the fall season. I am really looking forward to traditional fall FCS football returning. The spring season was a fun one-off, but I prefer playing in the fall along with everyone else.
Thank you to everyone who read my stuff this year. Some of you liked it, some of you hated it. Some provided good feedback, and some provided terrible feedback. I don’t make a penny off this blog and I was just doing it for fun, so I really appreciate the folks who took the time to read what I wrote. I was genuinely surprised with the number of people who looked at my stuff! Whether you like it or not (and even if you were mean) I thank everyone who read my content this year.
I will continue to be a presence on Twitter as MVC/MVFC/FCS news proliferates during the summer. You can follow me @BeatMVC if you’d like. It has been a fun and interesting seven months, and I have learned a lot of about writing, researching, maintaining a blog and promoting my work. I hope to be able to bring you better content next year as I put what I’ve learned into action. Until then, congrats to the Bearkats (and Ramblers of Loyola), thank you for reading and I’ll see you soon.