We have (sort of) played our first week of spring MVFC football. I didn’t know beforehand if it would feel weird playing in the spring. Now that we have experienced a few games of FCS spring ball I can say it did feel weird to me. I think the strangest thing about it was that FCS was the only football being played. It isn’t football season and no one outside our FCS bubble is talking about football. It isn’t unusual for most outlets not to be discussing FCS, but at least we typically feel like we are part of a larger football scene. Right now, even though we are the only show in town it feels like we are more of an afterthought than ever. You can’t even find the scores on ESPN. That is how I felt at least. Anyway, we only had three MVFC games this week due to two postponements for COVID and weather. Here are the power rankings after those three games.
Week 2: MVFC Power Rankings
1.) North Dakota State (No Change), 1-0 (2-0), STATS #1: It wasn’t the completely dominant performance we have expected from the Bison at home, but NDSU came away from spring season week one with a comfortable 25-7 victory over Youngstown State. The Bison led only 11-0 at halftime and 18-7 at the end of the 3rd quarter, and the game was not put away until a TD run in the fourth quarter made it 25-7. The Bison statistically got the better of the Penguins with 317 yards to their 171, and they carried the day on the ground with 243 yards led by Kobe Johnson’s 115 yards and a score on 16 carries. Jalen Bussey made his six carries count as two went for scores. Defensively NDSU held the Penguins to 1.5 yards per carry and a very good 120 yards through the air. Zeb Noland didn’t blow the doors down in his NDSU debut at QB, but he didn’t have to. He was 9-18 for 74 yards. It will be interesting to see if he can step it up when the Bison are taking on tougher opponents. While SDSU got a more impressive win, NDSU will remain #1 until proven otherwise. They are scheduled to play at Southern Illinois on Saturday.
2.) South Dakota State (Up One), 1-0, STATS #3: The Jackrabbits took a true freshman quarterback into the UNIDome to face one of the toughest defenses in the country for his college football debut and came away with a thrilling 24-20 victory that may prove crucial at the end of the season when playoff spots are handed out. The Jackrabbits built a 17-7 halftime lead and saw it disappear over the course of the second half as UNI took advantage of two turnovers and took a 20-17 lead with just under six minutes to go. That is when the freshman led his team on a ten play, 75-yard, five minute forty second game winning drive that ended in a 1 yard TD pass to Pierre Strong. The win was probably deserved for SDSU who outgained UNI 310 to 193 and held the Panthers to 1.1 yards per carry on the ground. The two Jackrabbit turnovers and a UNI second quarter goalline stand kept it close. Pierre Strong gained 91 yards on the ground and 31 through the air. Goronoski the QB threw for 194 yards and two TDs while running for 21 more (45 if you take away sacks) and another TD. With only six teams making the playoffs, this may ultimately be what gets SDSU in the field at the end of the year. They’ll play at North Dakota next week.
3.) Northern Iowa (Down One), 0-1, STATS #5: It was yet another heartbreaker for UNI fans as SDSU and their freshman QB drove 75 yards in 5:40 for a game winning TD in the final seconds to beat UNI 24-20. The loss could be the difference between making the playoffs or not for UNI, who has had a proclivity towards losing close games in the last ten years or so. The defense was about as good as advertised for UNI. Although they gave up a couple long drives in the first half, they shut down the Jackrabbits in the second half until the final drive. The Panthers allowed just seven points, three first downs and 68 yards in the second half, almost all of which came on the final drive. Mark Farley was heavily criticized for not using either of his two timeouts on the final sequence of the game in which SDSU milked the clock down to 19 seconds before scoring on third down. Farley was quoted as saying, “We went for the win, and we'll always go for the win. That's just who we are." That quote had to taste a little bitter for Panther fans who have seen UNI lose several close games like this throughout the years. UNI lost their two best receivers to injury (and apparently their offensive coordinator as well, the day before the game, to the Green Bay Packers) and could generate no run game whatsoever (they got 28 rushing yards on 25 carries). QB Will McElvain was often running for his life and facing 3rd and long situations for most of the game. After this loss, UNI probably has to win at least six of its final seven games (maybe all seven) to make the playoffs. That quest will start on Saturday against Youngstown State.
4.) Illinois State (No Change), 0-0, STATS #7: The Redbirds’ season opener against Missouri State was postponed to the end of the season. The game was moved not because of COVID, but because of adverse weather conditions in Springfield and out of concern for player safety. The Redbirds weren’t particularly happy about the situation after photos were shared by Missouri State’s soccer coach of a cleared off field where the soccer team was practicing. Seems like the field may have been able to be played on. Regardless, ISU will now start their season at home against South Dakota on Saturday.
5.) North Dakota (Up Two), 1-0, STATS #14: UND opened its season at home against Southern Illinois, a team that was considered by many to be the dark horse of the MVFC this season after having a solid 7-5 year last year and having relatively few winter defections. North Dakota did not come in with much fanfare at all despite coming off a playoff season a year ago. What went down was the biggest surprise of the week in the MVFC as UND turned a 16-14 halftime lead into a 44-21 win over the Salukis to move up two spots in our power rankings. The first half was relatively even, the difference being a Fighting Hawk fumble return for a TD. The second half was a different story as the Fighting Hawks scored four consecutive TDs in a span of less than 15 game minutes. By the time SIU scored again, the game was effectively over. The total offense was relatively close, as UND outgained SIU only 347 to 323. The difference in the game was on the ground where North Dakota outgained Southern Illinois 229 to 90, and also turnovers which finished an astounding 5 to 0 in favor of UND. The Fighting Hawks used several running backs led by Otis Weah who ran for 91 yards and a TD on 13 carries. Their QB, Tommy Schuster, was quietly productive throwing three TDs and no picks on 15-23 passing for 118 yards. UND will host SDSU next week.
6.) South Dakota (No Change), 0-0, STATS NR: Week one was owned by the Dakotas, all of which got wins except for the Coyotes who weren’t able to take the field and show off the new and improved Dakotadome due to COVID issues in the Western Illinois program. The dome debut will now have to wait for a few more weeks yet, but the Coyotes season is set to kick off on Saturday at Illinois State.
7.) Southern Illinois (Down Two), 0-1 (1-1), STATS RV (27): The Salukis highly anticipated season did not get off to an outstanding start, as they were upset/blown out by North Dakota 44-21. SIU had a few issues in this one, but the biggest…..by far……was turnovers. There were five in the game and unfortunately for SIU they were all committed by Salukis. The problems started late in the second half as SIU saw a 10-7 deficit grow to a 16-7 one after a 36-yard North Dakota fumble return for a touchdown. Although SIU was able to recover for a late TD to cut the deficit to 16-14 at the half, the bottom would fall out from there. North Dakota would score the next four TDs in the game. The last two of those TDs came after Southern Illinois interceptions set up the Fighting Hawks. By the time SIU scored the final TD the game was effectively over. The Salukis were also outgained 229-90 on the ground as they were only able to muster 2.6 yards per carry on 35 carries. Romeir Elliott led the team with 39 yards and a TD. All-American running back Javon Williams was kept in check with 29 yards. SIU used two QBs, one of which (Nic Baker) threw for 153 yards but two picks, the other (Kare Lyles) only threw for 74 but none of his passes were caught by Fighting Hawks. Lyles was the starter and left with injury. It doesn’t get any easier for SIU as they host North Dakota State on Saturday.
8.) Youngstown State (No Change), 0-1, STATS RV (29): Youngstown State acquitted themselves well against the nation’s number 1 team on the road this weekend, despite the 25-7 loss. You’d be hard pressed to find a tougher debut for new head coach Doug Phillips, but his Penguins trailed by only 11 at half and were still in the game in the fourth quarter. His offense put together a 15-play 75-yard TD drive in the fourth quarter and did not commit any turnovers. His defense held the #1 team to 317 yards and forced fived punts. While the Bison had success on the ground, NDSU’s QB was just 9-18 for 74 yards and no touchdowns. Youngstown’s second QB, Mark Waid, was 8-11 for 75 yards and a TD. YSU lost this game convincingly, but we saw nothing that indicated they will not be a competitive team this year. They will face another challenge, although a much more manageable one, when they host UNI this Saturday.
9.) Missouri State (No Change), 0-0 (0-3), STATS NR: MSU cancelled their game with ISU due to weather conditions and concerns for player safety. They got some flack for it, as MSU’s soccer coach posted pictures of players practicing outside on the field, and football coach Bobby Petrino said the team was able to practice outside as well. I understand the Rebirds’ ire, but there is a difference between clearing snow for practice and having a facility game ready. If MSU were located a bit further north they may have been more equipped to deal with the situation as well. Either way, they’ll start their season on Saturday at Western Illinois.
10.) Western Illinois (No Change), 0-0, STATS NR: The Leathernecks opener was postponed due to COVID in their program. I haven’t heard anything to the contrary, so they should be set to go next week to host Missouri State for their season opener. Hopefully, they can get some solid performances by more than just their punter, as this will likely be their best opportunity for a W this year.
And there you have it. Check back in next week for the next power rankings. Once basketball ends I’ll be creating more FCS content as well. Thanks for reading.