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MVFC Week 6 Recap

It was upset Saturday in the FCS as several high-profile teams around the country took it on the chin this weekend. In all, four top ten teams felt the sting of defeat. The Valley was not immune to this as four of the five MVFC games were won by the underdog. This includes two games where a ranked team lost to an unranked team, and another where the preseason favorite lost a thriller. I took a hit this week too as I missed on three of my five picks. My overall prognostication record fell from 39-1 to 41-4. The MVFC and the Championship Subdivision as a whole are now left to pick up the pieces and try to figure out where everyone stands. I will attempt to do that too, with my first playoff projections of the year later on in this article. Read on for a recap of the week in the conference and around the nation as well as my first shot at picking the field of 24.

Indiana State 37, Western Illinois 27 Last week I was really feeling the Leathernecks and was not feeling the Sycamores. I described WIU as a team that should “not be taken lightly” and said Indiana State “might be the worst team in the MVFC”. Well, ISU made me look like a dummy (not that I need any help). The Trees got out to a 31-7 lead in the third quarter and hung on for a 37-27 victory. WIU has now fallen behind by multiple scores in every game this year, and while they have made a habit of climbing back into it, it has made life very difficult for the Leathernecks. Indiana State got on the board on their second possession of the game with a 13 play, 80-yard touchdown drive in which the Sycamores slowly and consistently worked their way down the field. After holding Western on downs on the ensuing drive, the Trees took the ball down the field for a field goal to make it 10-0 after one quarter. In the second period, ISU blocked a Western Illinois punt. That set up a short field for another Sycamore TD to make it 17-0. The Leathernecks finally got on the board with an 11 play, 75-yard second quarter drive to make it 17-7. However, Peterson Kerlegrand responded with a 59-yard TD run for Indiana State. Western Illinois missed a field goal at the halftime buzzer to make it 24-7 at half. Indiana State scored on their first drive of the second half as Anthony Thompson hit Phazione McClurge for an 88-yard score to increase the Trees’ advantage to a whopping 31-7. WIU started their weekly comeback effort on the next drive as they drove 75 yards on 11 plays capped by a TD pass from Connor Sampson to Ludovick Choquette. After an ISU punt, the Leathernecks did it again by going 91 yards in eight plays capped by another Sampson TD pass. Indiana State stopped the Western Illinois run with a field goal, and then picked off Sampson on the next drive which set up another field goal to make it 37-21. In desperation mode, WIU was forced to go for it on fourth down each of their next two drives with no success either time. Connor Sampson was able to hit Tony Tate for a TD with 37 seconds to go to cut the deficit to 37-27, but the two-point conversion failed which effectively ended the game. Western outgained Indiana State 477-445 and had 31 first downs to ISU’s 15. The Sycamores had a balanced attack with 229 passing yards and 219 rushing yards. Anthony Thompson was a solid 15-21 for 226 yards and two TDs for ISU while Peterson Kerlegrand had one of his best days in a Sycamore uniform. He carried the ball 17 times for 178 yards and two scores. For Western Illinois, Connor Sampson was forced to throw the ball 59 times, completing 36 passes for 449 yards and 4 TDs (with a pick). The Leathernecks only managed 28 rushing yards on 28 carries. Indiana State will hit the road to face Missouri State while Western Illinois will host an angry SDSU.

Youngstown State 41, #15 Missouri State 33 Upset weekend in the Valley continued as the downtrodden YSU Penguins picked up a surprise home win against the 15th ranked Missouri State Bears, throwing a wrench in the Bears’ postseason plans. I should have trusted my gut as I said I was getting “significant upset vibes” from this contest, but I still picked MSU to win. That was a mistake, as the Youngstown offense came alive to secure the upset. It was the Penguin defense that gave them the advantage early on, though. Youngstown’s Jordan White intercepted a Jason Shelley pass on the first MSU offensive play of the game. That set up Demeatric Crenshaw for a 28-yard TD pass to Samuel St. Surin to put the ‘Guins up 6-0. After a couple solid defensive stands by the Penguins, the Youngstown offense put together a 72-yard drive starting from their own 1-yard line that ended in a field goal to make the score 9-0. Missouri State was finally able to get on the board with a field goal to make it 9-3, but the Penguins ended the half with another Demeatric Crenshaw TD pass to make it 17-3 at the break. The Bears went 72 yards for a TD on their first possession of the second half to make the score 17-10, but YSU added a field goal shortly thereafter to make it 20-10 at the end of the third quarter. After Youngstown was stopped on a fourth down try deep in Missouri State territory, the Bears drove for a field goal that made it 20-13. Later in the frame, a 71-yard Missouri State TD drive (capped by a TD pass from Shelley to Ron Riavaasue) tied the game at 20 with under five minutes to go. Undeterred, YSU’s Samuel Surin returned the ensuing kick 75 yards to the MSU 22-yard line. Jaleel McLaughlin put Youngstown back in front on the next play with a 22-yard run to make it 27-20 Penguins. Missouri State went three-and-out on their next possession, punting to YSU with less than three minutes to go. McLaughlin struck again, running 60 yards to increase the Penguins’ lead to 34-20 with 2:02 to go. Still, the Bears did not give up. Shelley was able to orchestrate a TD drive that took just 56 seconds and cut the lead back to 34-27 with 1:04 to go. On the next drive, Youngstown State faced a crucial third down. Demeatric Crenshaw didn’t just convert it, he scampered 73 yards for another YSU score. That turned out to be crucial, as Missouri State was able to drive down and score another TD on the final play of the game to make the score 41-33. The Bears put up 503 yards of total offense to Youngstown’s 476 (much of which came in the final ten minutes). YSU got 377 yards on the ground and just 99 through the air, while Mo State got 372 from the passing game and 131 from the run. Shelley was 27-48 for 372 yards with 4 TDs and 2 picks for Missouri State (adding 71 yards on the ground as MSU’s leading rusher). Demeatric Crenshaw was 10-19 for 99 yards and two TDs while adding 195 yards on 22 carries and a TD on the ground for Youngstown. After being held to 20 yards by UNI last week, Jaleel McLaughlin carried 19 times for 156 yards and two TDs for the Penguins this week. YSU has a week to bathe in the glow of victory before heading to Terre Haute in two weeks. MSU hosts the same Trees next week.

#5 North Dakota State 34, #16 Northern Iowa 20 Well I finally got one right, although I can’t even take full credit for it. While I did pick the Bison to win, I also said that I thought “UNI has a good chance of coming out of Fargo with a win”. It was clear as this game progressed that was simply incorrect. While the score was close at halftime, NDSU came out in the second half and quickly put the game away. Northern isn’t a bad team, but it showed it isn’t quite ready to be considered elite. For NDSU, this result combined with (spoiler alert) the Jackrabbits loss against SIU puts the Bison back on top as the MVFC front-runner. It was also probably Quincey Patterson’s best performance as a thrower in his time with the yellow and green. Things started out well enough for the Panthers as they pounced on a Quincey Patterson fumble on the first Bison drive. They were unable to capitalize, though, and were forced to punt. The teams exchanged punts until Patterson hit a wide-open Christian Watson for an 85-yard touchdown on the first play of their next possession to make it 7-0. After Northern Iowa punted for the third time in three tries, NDSU took the ball deep into Panther territory and hit a field goal (UNI narrowly avoided a targeting ejection on the drive). After the Panthers punted for a fourth consecutive time, it was starting to look like it could be a rout. But UNI got back on track with a 73-yard TD drive capped by a 44-yard pass from Day to Isaiah Weston. After the Bison missed a field goal UNI put together another drive, this time for 62 yards, that ended in a field goal and tied the game at ten. North Dakota State then took the ball 71 yards for a field goal to end the half with a 13-10 lead. As has been the case more than a handful of times in the recent past, Northern Iowa did not seem prepared to start the second half. After going 15 yards backward on their first drive, UNI’s punt was returned 41 yards to the 9-yard line. Patterson then pushed a pile of Panthers into the end zone from 4 yards out to put the Bison up 20-10. The next series effectively put the game away for NDSU. Theo Day was strip sacked, then Quincy Patterson hit Noah Gindorff for a three yard TD four plays later to put the Bison up 27-10. While UNI did score quickly on the next drive, putting the ball in the end zone on three plays to make it 27-17, they never seriously threatened again. A back breaking 16-play drive that included three third down conversions and a fourth down conversion ended in another North Dakota State TD and made the score 34-17 to the Bison. UNI added a field goal on their next possession but turned it over on downs on their next two opportunities for the 34-20 final. Patterson had another day, completing 11-21 passes for 182 yards and two TDs for NDSU. He also led the Bison on the ground with 60 yards and two TDs. Theo Day was just 12-31 throwing the ball for the Panthers but did amass 257 yards and a TD. He didn’t throw a pick but fumbled the ball three times. Isaiah Weston had 181 yards receiving on just five receptions (including a TD). Overall, Northern Iowa outgained the Bison 381-363 with 257 yards through the air to NDSU’s 182. The Bison outran the Panthers 181-124. NDSU will hit the road to face Illinois State next week. UNI will host South Dakota in a pivotal game for MVFC playoff positioning.

South Dakota 20, #13 North Dakota 13 My best prediction of the week was picking the Coyotes as my upset special. USD beefed up their playoff chances and notched another week 6 MVFC upset with a home win over the 13th ranked Fighting Hawks. It was a complete win for South Dakota, who got good performances out their quarterback, running backs and defense. The Coyotes’ ability to slow down the North Dakota running attack may have been the difference. USD got off to a solid start (as they have tended to do this year) with a 9-play, 73-yard scoring drive to go ahead 7-0. It started to look like the Coyotes might run away with this one early as they forced a three-and-out then drove the ball down to the North Dakota five-yard line. But a penalty wiped out a Coyote TD and they had to settle for a field goal to make it 10-0. Tommy Schuster and Otis Weah then orchestrated a 7-play, 75-yard TD drive of their own. It started slow, but after converting on third down they were off to the races picking up chunks of yardage until Schuster hit Brock Boltmann for a 14-yard TD to cut the South Dakota lead to 10-7. The defenses then established themselves in a wildly uneventful second quarter that saw the teams punt the ball a combined six times and gain a total of 72 yards on 27 plays. South Dakota came out strong again in quarter number three. After forcing a three-and-out on the Fighting Hawks’ first possession, they drove 68 yards on nine plays for a touchdown to increase the lead back to ten at 17-7. The drive culminated in a 24-yard TD pass from Carson Camp to Wesley Eliodor. More puntage ensued until a short field allowed North Dakota to go just 26 yards for a field goal to make it 17-10. As the third quarter started, South Dakota put the game in the hands of their running backs. Eight consecutive run plays set up Mason Lorber for a 54-yard field goal to increase the Coyote lead back to 20-10. The Fighting Hawks then orchestrated one of their better drives of the game, slowly taking the ball all the way down to the South Dakota eight-yard line. From there the Coyote defense held tough, forcing UND into a short field goal to make it 20-13 with 5:52 to go. The Fighting Hawks never got the ball back. The Coyote running backs and offensive line put the game away with a ten-play 50-yard drive that sucked all the time off the clock. North Dakota had no timeouts and had no option but to let the clock wind down to zero as USD stood in victory formation with two minutes to go. There may have been a few seconds left at the very end, but a UND unsportsmanlike conduct penalty officially put away any hope. The Coyotes outgained the Fighting Hawks 368-258 overall, buoyed by a 189-50 advantage on the ground. Carson Camp was solid for USD, going 16-23 for 179 yards and two TDs, and Travis Theis put together a 23 carry, 138-yard day on the ground. For the Fighting Hawks, Tommy Schuster was 24-37 for 208 yards and a TD while Otis Weah had a relatively tame 58 yards on 15 carries. South Dakota will go to the UNI-Dome for a key MVFC game with playoff implications next week. UND has had a rough road lately, but it is finally going to get easier next week. JK! They go to Carbondale to face an SIU team that will likely be in the top 5. The Valley’s crazy.

# 8 Southern Illinois 42, #2 South Dakota State 41 (OT) I had a lot of bad takes in my week six preview, but I saved my wrongiest take for this game. I said that I thought SIU was better than they had shown the last couple weeks, but “even if SIU plays a complete game, the Jackrabbits are favorites”. The Salukis did not play a complete game, but they rallied and won nonetheless. I’ll admit this one really surprised me. It surprised me because SDSU was playing at home. It surprised me because the Jackrabbits looked unstoppable in jumping out to a 20-0 lead. It surprised me because even after slowing down in the second half offensively, SDSU seemed to have the game in hand late. And it surprised me because SIU ultimately won the game in the exact same way they won last week. Southern’s inconsistency played out again in this one as they got off to a very poor start. SDSU put together a 75-yard TD drive on the first possession of the game, capped off by a 20-yard run by Pierre Strong. After their next drive went 89 yards but ended in a fumble, the Jackrabbits forced another SIU punt and then kicked a field goal to go up 10-0. They made it 17-0 after the defense forced a Southern fumble on the first play of the ensuing drive and Pierre Strong threw a 19-yard TD pass to Jadon Janke. A field goal on their next possession gave South Dakota State a 20-0 lead. Midway through the second quarter the Southern Illinois offense finally woke up. A 61-yard pass from Nic Baker to Jerron Rollins made it 20-7. The Saluki defense then forced their second Jackrabbit turnover on a Jakari Patterson interception of Chris Oladokun. That set up their offense at the Jackrabbit 30 yard line and Baker hit Landon Lenoir for an 18 yard score to get within six, 20-14, at halftime. The start of the second half was a bit of a mess. After SDSU drove deep into Saluki territory, they missed another scoring chance when Chris Oladokun threw his second interception. Southern Illinois then drove 90 yards on 17 plays in their ensuing drive, setting themselves up for first and goal at the one yard line. Baker was sacked for an eight-yard loss but was bailed out (momentarily) by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty by the Jacks on the next play. Now looking at 1st and goal from the four, SIU was unable to punch it in on three plays. They kicked a field goal, but an illegal formation penalty on SDSU moved the ball to the two. After the penalty, SIU decided to try and go for the TD instead, and a touchdown was scored on the next play. Javon Williams was stopped and fumbled the ball, which was picked up by South Dakota State’s Malik Lofton who returned it 97 yards to paydirt. The bizarre and seemingly backbreaking sequence put SDSU up 28-14 with 3:30 left in the third quarter. Southern’s problems were compounded when their ensuing 71-yard drive got down to the Jackrabbit three yard line but was stopped on fourth down. This set up an incredible final quarter (and beyond). After a Jackrabbit punt, Southern Illinois finally found the end zone on a 19-yard 4th down TD pass from Baker to Zach Gibson. But the Jackrabbits immediately responded when Pierre Strong took it 85 yards to the house on the very next play from scrimmage to extend the lead back to 35-21 with 10 minutes to go. SIU then answered with a 63-yard run on the second play from scrimmage on their next drive, this one by Donnavan Spencer, to make it 35-28. South Dakota State then drove 60 yards into the SIU red zone and attempted a field goal that would have probably put the game away, but it was blocked. With 3:36 to go, Nic Baker orchestrated a 14 play, 70-yard TD drive that included two fourth down conversions and ended with a 19-yard pass from Baker to Landon Lenoir. That sent the game into overtime. Donnavan Spencer scored on a ten-yard run in OT to put Southern Illinois up 42-35. SDSU responded with two quick passes from Oladokun, the second for a score, to answer in their half of OT. That his how, for the second consecutive week, SIU found themselves defending a two-point conversion attempt to win or lose the game. Last week, SIU got the stop to avoid a nasty upset against Western Illinois. This week they got another one, this time to pull the upset against preseason favorite SDSU. The final score was 42-41. The two teams combined for over 1,100 yards as SDSU had 559 and SIU had 546. The Jacks had three turnovers to the Salukis’ two. For SIU, Nic Baker was 28-45 for 359 yards and four touchdowns. Chris Oladokun was 23-31 for 358 yards and a TD (but also had two picks) for South Dakota State. Donnavan Spencer had ten carries for 103 yards and 2 TDs for Southern, while Landon Lenoir caught ten passes for 147 yards and two scores. Pierre Strong was responsible for 162 of SDSU’s 182 yards on the ground, while Tucker Kraft had ten catches for 124 yards and a TD. The Jackrabbits head to Western Illinois next week. Southern Illinois will host North Dakota.

That’s it for the MVFC this week, but there was still plenty to talk about around the country. Here are some of the notable results from around the FCS.

-Duquesne (4-1) 39, Bryant (3-3) 34: The Dukes are probably going to win the NEC and be in the playoffs, although Sacred Heart still gets their shot.

-#18 Rhode Island (5-0) 22, #9 Delaware (3-2) 15: Statement win for the Rams who have established themselves as legitimate playoff contenders.

-Morehead State (3-2) 38, Presbyterian (2-3) 30: My Pale Hose never disappoint. QB Ren Hefley was 50-80 (FIFTY FOR EIGHTY) for 551 yards and 4 TDS, and Presby lost despite outgaining MSU 611-443. That is probably because they were 4-12 on FOURTH down and turned it over four times.

-#14 Southeastern Louisiana (4-1) 58, #25 Nicholls (2-3) 48: SELA keeps their stranglehold on the Southland but a big matchup with UIW still looms next month.

-Princeton (4-0) 31, Monmouth (3-3) 28: Looking like the Big South is probably going to be a one bid league.

-VMI (4-2) 37, Chattanooga (2-3) 34: The Mocs are looking like playoff longshots while VMI stays on the board.

-#11 Villanova (4-1) 28, #3 James Madison (4-1) 27: Another upset of a top 5 team by a top 11 team, Villanova’s win was as seismic for the CAA as SIU’s win was in the Valley. Nova held JMU scoreless in the second half, but the Dukes did have two very makable field goals miss late in the fourth quarter.

-Idaho State (1-4) 27, #7 UC-Davis (5-1) 17: There were several top-ten losses this week, but this one was by far the ugliest as the Bengals picked up their first win in beating the Aggies.

-#21 UT-Martin (4-1) 48, Murray State (2-3) 24: The Skyhawks are very much in control of the OVC now that ever other team in the league has at least one loss already.

-#24 Jacksonville State (3-3) 28, #23 Stephen F. Austin (3-3) 24: A week after nearly toppling the top team in the land, SFA falls to a Jackyll and Hyde Jacksonville State team that keeps its playoff hopes alive with the win.

Now that we’ve reached the midpoint of the season, I’ve decided to take a crack at a playoff field. I wont bother trying to set up a bracket at this juncture, but I will lay out who I believe would be the 24 teams selected and who would be the top eight seeds. This doesn’t project future winners and it isn’t even what I would necessarily do if I were in charge. This is what I think the committee would do if they were forced to pick a field today based on what we know now. This week’s nonsense did not make this an easy task. FYI, I did not include any teams that have a losing record, but I did mention a few to keep an eye on.

-AQ7 (1): #3 Sam Houston State (5-0) -Big Sky (5): #1 Eastern Washington (6-0), #6 Montana State (5-1), #7 Montana (4-1), UC-Davis (5-1), Sacramento State (3-2) -Big South (1): Kennesaw State (4-1) -CAA (3): #5 Villanova (4-1), Rhode Island (5-0), James Madison (4-1) -MVFC (6): #2 NDSU (5-0), #4 Southern Illinois (5-1), #8 SDSU (4-1), Missouri State (3-2), South Dakota (4-2), Northern Iowa (3-2) -NEC (1): Duquesne (4-1) -OVC (1): UT-Martin (4-1) -Patriot (1): Holy Cross (3-2) -Pioneer (1): Davidson (3-1) -SoCon (2): East Tennessee (6-0), Mercer (4-1) -Southland (2): Southeastern Louisiana (4-1), UIW (4-1)

Also Considered: VMI (4-2), Furman (3-2), Delaware (3-2), New Hampshire (3-2)

Teams With Losing Records To Watch: North Dakota (2-3), Weber State (2-3), Central Arkansas (2-3)

I went through and put teams that I thought deserved to be in off the top of my head and ended up with 21. After putting together a list of teams to consider and going through those resumes, I added Missouri State as my second-to-last team in by virtue of their wins over South Dakota and UCA and close loss to OK State. I looked at five squads for the final spot which were the four listed in “also considered” and Sac State. I eliminated VMI because of the lack of good wins and the bad loss to Citadel. The rest had extremely similar resumes. None had terribly exciting wins or bad losses, and none were particularly competitive in the losses. So I decided to let Massey decide, and the highest ranked team on this list according to Massey was Sac State. I gave it to them because of the relatively competitive loss to Cal. (Weber State was rated above them in Massey, FWIW, but I have banned schools with losing records).

As for seeds I thought EWU was the obvious #1 as they are undefeated with their win over Montana and their FBS win. I had NDSU at #2 because they are undefeated and have played (IMO) a tougher schedule than Sam Houston and have done better against it. The undefeated defending champs are #3 followed by SIU who is undefeated against FCS and now has that quality win at SDSU (and played competitively against their Power 5 opponent) at #4. Nova comes in at #5 in a similar spot, but just a notch below because JMU is not a seeded team at this time. Montana State is also undefeated against the FCS and nearly won their FBS game but doesn’t have the quality win that SIU and Nova have. Montana is at #7 with their FBS/P5 win and overall solid play, with just a loss to top seeded EWU on the road. SDSU is similar, but they lost to SIU at home which is why I put them behind Montana. I also considered James Madison and East Tennessee State strongly for a seed.

And that is it! I’ll see you later this week for my week 7 preview along with my first MVFC power rankings of the year. GO VALLEY!

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