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MVFC Week 1 (and 0) Recap

Last week I did a primer for week 1 of the MVFC and I have to say I underestimated my league. While I did predict the outcome of every game correctly, I had a few MVFC teams getting pummeled in their games. Instead, the Valley once again showed why it is the top FCS conference in the land. The league went undefeated against FCS competition and while we only managed a 1-4 record against the FBS, everyone played well. The largest margin of defeat was ten points, and that was by Western Illinois (picked last in the MVFC) against Ball State (picked to win the MAC). Win or lose, I think the members of all eleven MVFC teams must have felt pretty good about their prospects this season following their performances. Here is the rundown of the week that was.

-Indiana State 26, Eastern Illinois 21: We have to go back to week zero for our first MVFC recap and Indiana State got the league off to a 1-0 start with a 26-21 win over Eastern Illinois. This was the Trees first game in nearly two years as they opted out of the spring season, but it was the Panthers of Eastern Illinois who looked rusty. Indiana State pulled out the victory despite being outgained 378-245 in total yards and 253-87 through the air. ISU played error free ball, however, and capitalized on three EIU turnovers to capture the win. After going into the break up 10-7, ISU got a 44-yard TD run from Michael Haupert on their first drive of the second half. Eastern had a possible game tying 46-yard field goal miss near the end of the 3rd quarter, and drove deep into ISU territory on their next drive before a pick six by ISU’s Michael Thomas effectively put the game away. NIU transfer Anthony Thompson was OK at QB for Indiana State, going 13-23 for 87 yards. Peterson Kerelegrand was the man, though, as he picked up 73 rushing yards on 19 carries including a TD. Indiana State will head to Evanston to face Northwestern out of the B1G next weekend.

-Ball State 31, Western Illinois 21: The Leathernecks set the tone for the weekend with their solid Thursday night performance in Muncie against the preseason MAC favorites Ball State. In my primer, I had the Cardinals thumping the Leathernecks 37-10. Instead, WIU was tied with the defending MAC champions at halftime and remained tied until midway through the third quarter. Ultimately Ball State pulled away for a 31-21 win, but it was an impressive performance for the team picked to finish in the MVFC cellar. The Leathernecks and Cardinals went back-and-forth for most of the first half with Ball State taking a 7-0 first quarter lead. WIU answered just before halftime with a 96-goddam-yard TD drive to tie the game. When Ball State scored on their first drive of the second half, WIU immediately answered with a 75-yard TD pass from Connor Sampson to Dennis Houston to tie it up. Ball State scored on their next drive and never lost the lead after that, although it took until the fourth quarter for the lead to expand to multiple possessions. Statistically, the teams went toe-to-toe. WIU outgained Ball State in total yards 437-404 and outgained them 367-188 in the air. They had 19 first downs to Ball State’s 18. Connor Sampson showed his numbers last year were not a fluke, putting the team on his back with 30-43 passing for 367 yards and two TDs (with a pick). Dennis Houston had a monster day with 12 catches for 237 yards and two scores. Western Illinois puts the MVFC’s undefeated mark against FCS teams on the line next Saturday when they face Montana (fresh off a win over Washington) in Missoula.

-Youngstown State 44, Incarnate Word 41 (OT): The low-key game of the week, not just for the Valley but possibly across the nation, was Youngstown State’s exciting 44-41 overtime win over Incarnate Word. If you were watching as a neutral, you definitely got your money’s worth in this one. UIW’s high octane offense definitely came to play in this one, but what I didn’t anticipate was that the Penguins offense would match them tit-for-tat. Youngstown jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter only to see UIW score the next three TDs of the game (with one Colt McFadden field goal in between) to take a 21-17 lead. Jaleel Mclaughlin answered with a 72-yard TD run shortly before halftime to give YSU a 24-21 lead at intermission. Mclaughlin increased the YSU lead to ten in the third quarter with another TD, but UIW answered with two TDs to take a lead into the fourth quarter, 34-31. Flash forward to the final three minutes and this is where things get a bit nutty. With five minutes to go, UIW goes for it on 4th and 1 from their own 30. They do not get it. The Penguins capitalize with a 5-play 30-yard TD drive to take a 38-34 lead. Incarnate Word then goes 75-yards on eight plays in just 1:36, the big play coming on a 28-yard pass. That gave them a 41-38 lead with 29 seconds to go. Youngstown State was at their own 32 when Crenshaw hit McLaughlin for a 45-yard pass. As the play continued to wind down it looked as if the clock might strike zero, but McLaughlin was brought down with just enough time on the clock for YSU to call time out and kick the game tying field goal (a 41-yarder from Colt McFadden). In overtime, the YSU defense forced a 21-yard sack on third down forcing UIW to go for it on 4th and 25 from the 40. Cardinal QB Cameron Ward ran all the way back behind the fifty looking for a receiver then took off, bobbing and weaving his way to the sixteen-yard line, just one yard shy of the first down. Then he fumbled, giving the Penguins the ball. From there, YSU drove it down to the ten-yard line where they kicked the game winning field goal. The teams amassed nearly 1,000 yards of total offense between them (490 for UIW, 463 for YSU). The Penguins had 351 yards on the ground with Jaleel McLaughlin running for 242 yards and two TDs on 29 carries (he was also the Penguins leading receiver with 2 catches for 46 yards). The Penguins started redshirt freshman Demeatric Crenshaw under center, who played sparingly in the spring. Youngstown heads to Michigan State next week.

-#7 Southern Illinois 47, Southeast Missouri State 21: The Salukis finished off Thursday night by moving the Valley to a 3-0 record against FCS competition with an easy 47-21 win over SEMO. I correctly picked that SIU would win, but I said they’d win 20-17 in a hard-fought rivalry game. Instead, the Salukis rode big Nic energy to a rout of the Redhawks in a game that was never really close. After winning a hotly contested QB battle over Stone Labanowitz, Nic Baker went out and completed 25 of 34 passes for 460 dang yards and 4 TDs (with one pick). Backs Justin Strong and Javon Williams Junior combined for 90 yards and two TDs on 22 carries. Four different Saluki wide receivers found paydirt, led by Avante Cox who tallied 187 yards on five receptions (for an average of over 37 yards a reception). That average was helped by a 99-yard TD reception to open the scoring. SEMO tied the game in the first quarter, but it was ALL Salukis from there as they scored the game’s next 31 points to open up a 38-7 lead by the end of the 3rd quarter. Baker had three TDs passes by early in the second quarter as SIU took a 28-7 halftime lead. The Salukis’ backup QB got into the game to throw four passes himself. Weirdly enough, he is also named Stone. I don’t know that I have ever heard of anyone with the God given first name Stone who didn’t play QB for Southern Illinois at some point. Overall, SIU outgained the Redhawks 553-243. It is only one game, but that choice of Nic Baker is sure looking good out the gate. SIU will travel to Kansas State for a very interesting one against the Big 12’s Wildcats next week.

-Kansas 17, South Dakota 14: The Coyotes put up the first of a trio of good MVFC performances against the Big 12 in week one. They had the Jayhawks on the ropes before ultimately falling 17-14. This always felt like a game South Dakota could win, even though they were picked to finish just 8th in the MVFC. In my primer I had Kansas by a score of 27-24 and I was awfully close on this one too. It really felt like USD should have done better early on in this one as Kansas failed to get a first down in the first quarter while USD drove into KU territory multiple times. But late in the 2nd quarter KU got the ball at the Coyote 37 after a punt. They turned it into a 7-0 halftime lead. KU went on another long drive to make it 10-0 in the third, but the Coyotes drove 75 yards to make it 10-7 after three quarters. In the 4th, USD drove into KU territory and appeared to hit the game tying field goal, but it turned out the Coyotes head coach Bob Nielson had called a timeout just before the kick. USD went for it instead and failed to pick up the first down. However, KU had their own 4th down failure at midfield on the next drive, and South Dakota took it 46 yards in three plays to take the lead, 14-10, with just over five minutes to go. What ensued was a frustrating series of events for USD in which KU converted a 4th and 10, South Dakota dropped an easy interception, and USD committed a personal foul on a key play in the red zone. Kansas was able to turn these mistakes into an 11-play 64-yard TD drive to win the game, 17-14. The Coyotes doubled KU’s rushing total (165-82) which you rarely see in an FCS vs. Big 12 matchup. USD outgained the Jayhawks overall, 263-245. Freshman QB Carson Camp (the Coyotes starter in the spring) was just 10-22 for 98 yards. Travis Theis and Shomari Lawrence combined for 162 yards on 29 carries and two TDs on the ground. South Dakota will open the new-and-improved Dakotadome for real next week when they host Northern Arizona.

Sidenote: I have to say that I found the number of times they put the Big 12 preseason poll on the screen to be comical. If I were a Kansas fan, I’d be thinking, “Yeah….I get it”. It clearly shows Oklahoma with 35 first place votes and Iowa State with 4. Then at the bottom it shows Kansas in 10th with 39 points (well behind 9th place Texas Tech with 103). If you do the math there it becomes pretty clear that while the Big 12 pollsters didn’t agree on much, they all unanimously agreed that Kansas sucks. ESPN went back to that well over and over and over, just in case any KU fans weren’t aware how bad their team is.

-#3 South Dakota State 42, Colorado State 23: While the MVFC had several moral victories against FBS opponents last weekend, South Dakota State got an actual victory on Friday night. Again, I wasn’t terribly far off in this prediction either. I had the Jackrabbits by a score of 27-17. They outperformed my prediction, but my confidence in the Jacks was warranted. We knew SDSU had great running backs, great receivers and a great defense. We knew that they were going to be a good football team. They were picked to win the league for a reason. But I figured the key to whether SDSU would be the best team in the (FCS) land would be the play of QB transfer Chris Oladokun. Well, he showed up well in game one, completing 18-28 passes for 224 yards and two TDs while adding another score with his legs. Pierre Strong ran for 138 yards and two TDs on just 13 carries, while Isaiah Davis added 84 yards and a score on 15 carries, and South Dakota State showed why it is a run-first team. SDSU averaged 7.1 yards per carry on the night against an FBS team. But they are capable through the air too. The Janke brothers combined for 150 yards and two scores on nine receptions in support of Oladokun in his debut. This was, quite frankly, a rout. While SDSU only outgained Colorado State 466-462, they won the turnover battle 2-0. The game was close for most of the first half, but a late Pierre Strong TD gave SDSU a 21-10 halftime advantage. It got ugly from there, as SDSU scored the first two touchdowns of the second half to take a 35-10 lead into the fourth quarter. Colorado State scored a couple of times late to make the score seem closer than it was. But this was not a competitive game. SDSU showed why they were picked as the preseason favorite in the MVFC. The Jackrabbits will host Lindenwood in what I am sure will be a thriller in week two.

-#8 North Dakota 35, Idaho State 10: The Valley continued to handle its business against FCS schools as North Dakota opened the Saturday league slate with a relatively easy win over the Big Sky’s Idaho State. I once again did pretty good here as I predicted Idaho State would keep it close for a half before UND pulled away for a 30-17 win. I underestimated the MVFC team again, but I was right that it would take until after halftime for the Fighting Hawks to pull away. The thing that makes this win a bit more interesting is that the Fighting Hawks did it on the road in Pocatello (not entirely unfamiliar territory for the former Big Sky members). UND got on the board right away with a TD in the first three minutes, taking advantage of an Idaho State interception on their first possession. But the Fighting Hawks were kept at bay for the remainder of the half. An incredible goal line stand from North Dakota as the quarter moved from 1st to 2nd was all that kept UND in the lead early on as the teams mostly traded punts. The Bengals had the ball first and goal at the one and tried to run it up the gut four times in a row, each time unsuccessfully. They nearly did it again later in the second quarter, but Idaho State was finally able to punch it in to make the score 10-7 at the half. The Fighting Hawks took control in the third quarter as they took their first possession all the way to the end zone. After an interception by ISU, the Hawks scored again to make it 24-7. ISU drove into the UND red zone early in the fourth, but another pick followed by a UND field goal made it 27-7, and North Dakota cruised to a 35-14 win from there. UND outgained ISU 368-301 and committed one turnover to ISU’s three. All three were costly interceptions. Tommy Schuster was a businesslike 14-18 for 183 yards and a score for UND, while Otis Weah carried for 114 yards and 3 TDs on 22 carries. North Dakota will be off to Logan, Utah on Friday for a very interesting matchup with Mountain West also-ran Utah State (who is coming off a big win of their own over Washington State).

-#4 North Dakota State 28, Albany 6: The Bison handled their business with a hard-fought, businesslike win over a solid FCS program out of the CAA in Albany. NDSU is the only team that isn’t playing a money game this year (unless you count the money they’re presumably paying Valpo to come play them next week), but they still scheduled an interesting opener with this CAA opponent who was a second-round playoff team in 2019. I use the terms “hard fought” and “businesslike” because NDSU scored exactly one TD each quarter and their defense really kept Albany in check. This was especially true on the ground where the Bison outgained the Great Danes 259-22. This game appeared closer than it actually felt. Albany drove into the Bison red zone on their second drive but fumbled. That set up an 8-play, 80-yard NDSU TD drive to make it 7-0. The Great Danes then drove into NDSU territory again but turned the ball over on downs. An Albany interception set up NDSU’s second TD drive. Surprisingly, Albany had a quick strike TD to end the half to avoid the shutout and make it 14-6. NDSU then scored on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, a 75-yard scamper by Dominic Gonnella to make it 21-6. The outcome was never really in doubt after that. The NDSU defense really tightened the screws in the second half and the Albany offense couldn’t get anything going for the remainder of the game. NDSU added another score for the 28-6 final tally. This is a team that is going to win with defense and the run game, and that is exactly what NDSU did here. Quincey Patterson was 12-16 for 115 yards and a score in his debut, but he wasn’t really needed, as the defense and the running game were more than enough to secure an easy win. Dominic Gonnella ran for 135 yards and two scores on just 13 carries. Kobe Johnson added 77 yards on 11 carries. NDSU welcomes Valpo next week. I’ll skip the sarcastic joke and just say that NDSU is going to just….like…..annihilate Valpo (who opened their season with an 18 point loss to an NAIA school) next week.

-#7 (FBS) Iowa State 16, #21 Northern Iowa 10: While I did say that UNI’s defense would “slow them down at times”, I did not have faith in the Panthers at all here, predicting a 30-3 defeat. Instead, UNI did what they always seem to do in Ames and took the Cyclones to the absolute brink in a 16-10 defense-fueled contest. This is the 10th time UNI has faced Iowa State since 2006, and the seventh time the Panthers have either won (three times) or lost by a touchdown or less (four times). Still, this is supposed to be the best team in Iowa State history (hence the top ten ranking) and UNI barely cracked the top 25 in the STATS poll. I just didn’t think it would happen again this year. I should be more excited about this outcome than I am. You don’t see MVFC teams taking top ten FBS teams to the wire very often. But it really just pounded home what we already knew. UNI has a very good defense. In fact, it might be better than we initially thought. To allow just one TD and sixteen total points against the #7 team in the country is no small feat. UNI held the Cyclones to just 335 total yards and they did a very nice job on star running back Breece Hall who ran for just 69 yards on 23 carries. ISU QB Brock Purdy did complete 21-26 passes but for just 199 yards. Meanwhile, we also already knew that UNI would need to see significant improvement from their offense in order to be a better team this year. It isn’t fair to judge the team based on this game, but I will say they did not embarrass themselves, nor did they definitively show they have improved. The offensive line got high praise, but UNI was only able to get 43 yards on the ground. That shoudn’t necessarily be held against them against a defense like Iowa State’s. Will McElvain got good protection and completed 21-34 passes for 232 yards, a TD and two picks. Again, it is hard to judge based on this game, but it didn’t look like the vertical game had improved much. UNI took a first quarter lead on an 87-yard drive capped off by a 52-yard catch-and-run by Quan Hampton. That was about all the Panthers would be able to do for the day. Iowa State rallied for a field goal, a TD and another field goal to make it 13-10 at the break. UNI’s defense held the Cyclones to just three second half points, but the offense couldn’t muster up anything in response the game ended with the 16-10 tally. It is a promising start for UNI, and if they show signs of offensive life next week at Sacramento State, it will be time to get excited in Cedar Falls. It appears they have a national championship caliber defense.

-#22 (FBS) Oklahoma State 23, #24 Missouri State 16: If Missouri State’s mission is to prove the spring season was not a fluke, they took a big step in that direction this week despite the loss. In my primer I had this as the Valley’s biggest blowout loss of the week, with the Bears losing by a score of 52-7. Early on, it looked something like that might come to pass. But MSU climbed back into the game, held the Cowboys to three second half points, and had the ball with a chance to tie it late. Oklahoma State looked to be in line for a blowout win when their third TD of the game put them up 20-0 five minutes into the second quarter. But then the MSU defense basically held for the remainder of the game as the Bears climbed back into it. It began with a field goal just before half to make it 20-3. Another field goal midway through the 3rd quarter made it 20-6. Another one at the end of the third made it 20-9. All the while, the MSU defense held Oklahoma State off the board with forced turnovers and punts. OSU finally got back on the board with a field goal to make it 23-9 in the fourth. A four-minute TD drive got MSU within a score at 23-16. Then things got crazy. Oklahoma State muffed the ensuing kickoff, giving the Bears the ball in the OSU red zone with a chance to tie the game with three minutes to go. Unfortunately, the OSU defense held. But MSU forced a punt on the next drive and drove deep into OSU territory again. However, the Cowboys held once more and were able to cling to a 23-16 victory. MSU got the better of it on the ground, rushing for 102 yards to OSU’s 54. They were only outgained 369-336 overall. OSU had three turnovers to MSU’s 2. Utah State transfer Jason Shelley threw for 235 yards on 23-44 passing with a score in his Bears debut. He also ran for 76 yards (net 31 with sacks). Missouri State faces another tough challenge at home against Central Arkansas next Saturday.

-Illinois State 49, Butler 7: In what was far-and-away the MVFC’s least interesting game of the week, the Illinois State Redbirds handled possibly the worst team in the Pioneer League 49-7. I had this game as a 45-10 final, so I was close on this one too. There really isn’t much to say about this one, as Butler is one of the worst teams in the FCS and Illinois State did what you’d expect them to do against a team like that. The Redbirds took a 21-7 lead into the break and blew it open with a 21-0 third quarter. While Bryce Jefferson did throw for 193 yards and two TDs, it wasn’t a terribly reassuring performance as he was just 8-17 against the Pioneer League outfit. Six Redbirds combined for 294 rushing yards. The group was led by Cole Mueller who gained 111 yards and scored two TDs on just eight carries. If he scores on 25% of his carries all year, the Redbirds are going to have a good time. Jefferson added just 37 yards on 7 carries but scored two TDs. There isn’t much to take from this one except that the Rebirds are at least a competent MVFC team. Illinois State will ramp up the difficulty curve a bit when they hit the road to face Western Michigan next week, and I think we’ll know more about ISU after that one.

That does it for the MVFC recap, but I also want to do some quick hitters on other notable results from this week across the FCS landscape.

-Drake 45, West Virginia Wesleyan 3: It makes you wonder how some of these matchups get scheduled. Our MVC brethren, playing football out of the nonscholarship Pioneer League, had a solid start to the campaign against this D2 school that gets more scholarships than them.

-Mercer 69, Point University 0: Nice

-UC Davis 19, Tulsa 17: The FCS gets its first FBS W of the year as UC-Davis (out of the Big Sky) went to Tulsa of the AAC and took down the Golden Hurricane.

-Kennesaw State 35, Reinhardt 25: A win is a win, but this wasn’t a solid start for Kennesaw State who was ranked #19 preseason and supposed to be a playoffs contender.

-Eastern Washington 35, UNLV 33 (2 OT): This one wasn’t really a surprise as EWU is ranked #11 and UNLV is really bad. People kind of expected it. UNLV actually had to rally from 14 down in the fourth quarter to send it to OT.

-Southern Connecticut 28, Central Connecticut 21: Beyond the fact that this is a D2 defeating an FCS team, why are there so many directions of Connecticut? There doesn’t seem to be that much of Connecticut to go around.

-Montana 13, Washington 7: The 9th ranked Griz upset a top 20 FBS team in Washington. This is the first time Montana has beaten UW in 100+ years.

-Holy Cross 38, UConn 28: I don’t know this for sure, but it feels like this is the first Patriot League W over an FBS team in a long time. This shoudn’t ever happen, but it also doesn’t seem like it came as too much of a surprise to pretty much everyone involved.

-West Florida 42, McNeese State 36: Zoinks! West Florida is no joke, but its never good for an FCS team of some pedigree like McNeese to lose to a D2.

-Wyoming 19, Montana State 16: The Cowboys scored 16 of their 19 points in the 4th quarter to avoid the upset. It would’ve been one hell of a day in the state of Montana had they pulled it off.

-Presbyterian 84, St. Andrews 43: Presby QB Ren Hefley threw for 538 yards and ten TDs. The backup QB added two more. St. Andrew’s QB, meanwhile, threw for 99 yards and no TDs and completed just nine total passes (one fewer than Hefley had TD passes). The was the debut of Kevin Kelly, Presby’s new coach whose claim to fame is that he never punts (and he backs it up by not even carrying a punter on the roster). Not only did they go for it on every fourth down, but they went for two on every TD in the first half (until the game got out of hand) and tried exclusively onside kicks until late in the game.

-Indiana Wesleyan 28, Valpo 10: Next up NDSU for the MVC’s Beacons. Best of luck with that.

-East Tennessee State 23, Vanderbilt 3: This blowout of Vanderbilt by ETSU brought the FCS’s total FBS wins in week one to six. It shouldn’t be that surprising though. Its geography. The SoCon covers the entire south while the SEC is just the Southeast.

That is all for this week’s recap. I’ll be posting a preview of week two later in the week. Until then. Sayonara.

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