If I were to do this recap in one sentence instead of many, many words it would be, “MVFC continues to beat the crap out of each other”. Rankings, playoff contention and pedigree pretty much go out the window every week in this league as we continue to beat up on each other. At this point, everyone in the league has a win and everyone except NDSU and SIU have at least two losses. We still have four weeks left folks. Recaps of the five league games from this week are below.
Indiana State 28, Youngstown State 17 The more I look at this league, the more I am convinced that just about every team in it would be competing for a playoff spot in most of the other FCS conferences. The level of play shown by Indiana State and Youngstown seems to me to be at least equal to the UIWs, VMIs and Eastern Kentuckys of the world. Coincidentally, both of these teams have a win over one of those teams (all of whom are ranked in the most recent top 25). Indiana State improved to 4-4 and a pesky 3-1 at home with a 28-17 victory. Youngstown was behind the 8-ball for most of the game as they lost QB Demeatric Crenshaw early and his replacement was……not great. It was looking like it would be a shootout early on, as both teams put the ball in the end zone on their first drives. Indiana State drove eighty yards in eight plays over 2:42, orchestrated almost entirely by Anthony Thompson. He threw for 54 yards and scored on a 6-yard run to cap the drive. Weirdly enough, YSU’s scoring drive was also exactly 2:42 long. The Penguins went 69 yards (nice) in eight plays, and Jaleel McLaughlin had two 20+ yard runs on the drive, the last of which was a 21-yard TD. Both teams punted on their next two possessions and YSU lost their QB Crenshaw to injury in the process. Indiana State scored on an eight play 74-yard drive early in the second quarter, keyed by two long Anthony Thompson passes and capped by a 2-yard run by Peterson Kerlegrand. That put the Trees up 14-7. The offenses remained quiet until the very end of the half when Youngstown drove 92 yards to score on the final play of the period. Backup QB Joe Craycraft found Bryce Oliver for a 14-yard TD to tie it at 14 just before the break. The Penguins started the second half well, driving deep into ISU territory. But they had to settle for a field goal to take a 17-14 lead with 9:09 to go. That would be the last points Youngstown would score, as the remainder of the game would be a cavalcade of turnovers for the red and black. First, YSU turned it over on downs at midfield late in the third quarter. That set up a seven play, 54-yard TD drive for the Sycamores. Anthony Thompson ran it in from 12-yards out which gave Indiana State a 21-17 lead. ISU extended their lead to 28-17 on a 64-yard drive following a Penguin interception. Peterson Kerlegrand took it 53 yards to the house to finish the drive. Youngstown State had the ball three more times and threw a pick each time, leading to the 28-17 final. Indiana State outgained Youngstown 402-401 overall, in a game that was statistically very even (other than YSU’s four turnovers to ISU’s one). The Trees’ Anthony Thompson was a pedestrian 13-21 for 156 yards and a pick. He added 63 yards and 2 TDs on the ground. Penguin backup QB Joe Craycroft struggled off the bench. He finished 13-31 for 172 yards and a TD, but also threw four interceptions. Jaleel McLaughlin did his part, gaining 138 yards and a TD on 17 carries for Youngstown. So did Peterson Kerlegrand for Indiana State who ran for 151 yards and two TDs on 25 carries. Indiana State is in Fargo next weekend, while Youngstown hosts South Dakota State.
Illinois State 20, #15 South Dakota 14 Sigh………Coyotes gonna Coyotes. USD put themselves in beautiful position with their play early in the season. They beat North Dakota at home, then went on the road and handled UNI in the UNIDome to move to 5-2. That set South Dakota up with a very manageable path to a playoff spot. This week they lost to the last place Redbirds at home, making their path to the postseason much more difficult. After today, USD is now probably going to have to go on the road and beat WIU, then clip SDSU or NDSU to get to the playoffs. This really shouldn’t surprise Yote fans. In my preview I said this was the type of game South Dakota tends to lose. The program just can’t seem to get out of its own way and get over the hump. They are due for some dang good luck. Instead, an early injury to Carson Camp left South Dakota with their backup QB in the game for most of the contest. Does it go differently if Camp is in there? There is no way to tell….but probably. Just another piece of USD lore. For ISU, it is still probably a lost season, but it must feel good to get in the win column. They also must feel good about their defense which kept NSDU in check last week and handled USD this week. ISU got on the board early with a slow, plodding (just the way they like it) 18-play drive that went 61 yards and netted them a 47-yard field goal to make it 3-0. That was the score early in the second quarter when they got on the board again on a nice run by Cole Mueller who took it 69 yards to the house to make it 10-0. Camp was injured on the ensuing drive, fumbling the ball back to Illinois State and leaving USD without their starting QB. As backup QB Cole Stenstrom struggled, the Yote offense was unable to get much going until they were able to get on the board late in the second quarter. After a blocked punt set them up at midfield, they went 51 yards keyed by Stenstrom’s 20-yard run and a 7-yard TD pass to Brett Samson. ISU moved the ball quickly in the two-minute drill to end the half, including a long third down conversion. Aidan Bresnahan kicked a 42-yard field goal at the buzzer to give them a 13-7 halftime edge. The second half was uneventful until a pick six by ISU’s Kenton Wilhoit off Cole Stenstrom made it 20-7. The teams traded punts for the remainder of the third quarter. Early in the fourth, Stenstrom orchestrated a 54-yard TD drive capped by a Travis Theis 5-yard run to make it 20-14. That would be it for the scoring. South Dakota drove inside the Illinois State ten-yard line with just over two minutes to go, but were unable to punch it in. They got the ball back at midfield with one more chance to win it, but Stenstrom threw an interception of the first play of the drive and that was it. South Dakota outgained ISU 269-245. Bryce Jefferson was 14-19 for 84 yards and Cole Muller ran the ball for 178 yards on 25 carries for the Redbirds. Cole Stenstrom was 11-24 for 125 yards, a TD and two picks for South Dakota. Travis Theis ran for 74 yards on 16 carries. ISU will be in Macomb next week, and the Coyotes will be there the following week (after a bye).
North Dakota 34, Western Illinois 10 In my weekly preview I said the playoffs have started for North Dakota as they can’t afford to lose another game. So far, so good for the Fighting Hawks as they pulled away in the third quarter for an easy win over the 1-7 Leathernecks. North Dakota did a great job of containing Western Illinois’ offense. WIU was kept out of the end zone for the final three quarters and didn’t score at all in the second half. UND scored on three of their first four possessions including an eight play, 92-yard TD drive to start the game. Jake Richter threw a 45-yard TD pass to Bo Belquist for the key play of the drive and UND went up 7-0. WIU answered with an 89-yard TD drive of their own. Connor Sampson’s 51-yard pass to Dallas Daniels tied the game at 7, but it would be the only TD the Leathernecks would score on the day. Otis Weah ran the ball 64 yards on the first play of the next drive, but North Dakota was unable to punch it in and they had to settle for a field goal to go up 10-7 (on a nice 69-yard drive). WIU responded with a not-as-nice 68-yard field goal drive that also stalled inside the ten. The kick tied the game at 10. With less than five minutes to go in the half, Fighting Hawks scored again. The 50-yard TD drive made it 17-10 at halftime. The second half was all UND. North Dakota scored a TD to open the half (Schuster to Brock Boltmann for 8-yards) to take a 24-10 lead. While the WIU offense struggled to move the ball against the UND defense, North Dakota added to their advantage. Brock Boltmann was on the other end of the next touchdown. He threw a 15-yard pass to Quincy Vaughn to make it 31-10. UND added a field goal in the 4th to make the final 34-10. The Fighting Hawks outgained the Leathernecks 607-330 overall. Tommy Schuster was 21-32 for 274 yards and a TD for UND, while Connor Sampson was 26-39 for 292 yards, a TD and two picks for Western Illinois. The difference in the game was on the ground where Western could only muster 63 yards total while UND had two 100-yard rushers. Otis Weah netted 125 yards and a score while Gavin Ziebarth added 110 yards for the Fighting Hawks. North Dakota’s playoffs continue at Mo State next week while WIU will return home to face Illinois State.
#20 Northern Iowa 26, #6 South Dakota State 17 In my preview for this game I said, “If one team can slow down the other’s running attack, they will have a distinct advantage. Based on last week’s results, SDSU is more likely to be able to do that”. If I had just shut the heck up after one sentence, I would look pretty smart right now. The Panther defense looked great as they bottled up the SDSU rushing attack, and they rode a career day by their kicker to an upset win on the road. UNI looked to be in deep trouble after getting drop kicked by South Dakota at home last week, but they inserted themselves right back into the thick of things with this win. For South Dakota State, a second straight home loss and second loss in three games overall leaves them scratching their heads and looking for answers. A seed (and with it a manageable path back to the National Championship Game) is slipping away. The game started as well as could be hoped for UNI. A strip sack of Chris Oladokun gave the Panthers the ball in the Jackrabbit red zone right away. Six hard fought running plays later, Bradrick Shaw got just over the goal line on a one yard run to put the Panthers up 7-0. SDSU responded immediately, going 80 yards in six plays for a score (with UNI defensive back Bennie Sapp ejected for targeting in the process). Oladokun found Jadon Janke for a six-yard score to cap the drive. The Panthers drove down to the SDSU 21-yard line on their next drive, only to see Theo Day take a 17-yard sack to put them out of field goal range. But not really. After taking a timeout to think it over, Mark Farley decided to go for the field goal from 55-yards out and Matthew Cook’s kick hit the bottom of the side bar and bounced in to make it 10-7 UNI. It was the start of a stellar day for Cook. SDSU went 36 yards (Oladokun to Kraft) on the first play of the ensuing drive and tacked on a UNI unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to get to the Panther 24. However, the drive stalled, and they had to settle for a field goal to tie it at 10. A 40-yard TD pass from Day to Isaiah Weston put Northern Iowa back in front on the next drive. That made the score 17-10. Then, the Panthers got the first stop of the game by either team, forcing the Jackrabbits to punt. The purple and gold drove to the Jackrabbit 10, but were held to another Matthew Cook field goal to make it 20-10 at halftime. Northern Iowa extended the lead to 23-10 in the third quarter with another Cook field goal, this time from 46 yards out. That would be the only points of the quarter for either team as they exchanged punts for the remainder of the frame. SDSU made it 23-17 on the second play of the 4th quarter after a 9-yard run by Pierre Strong that capped a four play, forty-yard drive. Cook came up big again on the next Panther possession. A 40-yard pass from Day to Weston set him up for a 51-yard attempt that he drilled for his fourth made kick on four tries to make it 26-17. South Dakota State had several chances to get back into the game. They turned it over on downs at midfield on their next drive and did it again the following possession. Theo Day threw an ill-advised interception late in the fourth quarter which set up SDSU with good field position. However, the drive resulted in a missed field goal that essentially ended the game. The Jackrabbits outgained the Panthers 360-335, keyed by 300 yards through the air. But they were only able to muster 60 rushing yards. Pierre Strong was held to 53 yards on 14 carries. Three UNI backs combined for 125 yards on 42 carries (Theo Day lost 21 yards for the team total of 103). No back on either side had a run longer than 13 yards. UNI’s Isaiah Weston had 4 catches for 125 yards and a TD, while his QB Day was 11-21 for 232 yards, a TD and a pick. Oladokun was 24-53 for SDSU for 300 yards and a TD. Tucker Kraft had 123 yards on 9 receptions while Jaxon Janke had 101 yards on four catches for South Dakota State. The Jackrabbits went for it on fourth down six times but were only able to convert twice. UNI hosts a big one against SIU next weekend, while SDSU will visit Youngstown State.
#3 North Dakota State 27, #17 Missouri State 20 You gotta hand it to Missouri State. No one has given the Bison a scare like that in the Fargodome yet this year. The Bears came up short, but they certainly looked like playoff contenders. For NDSU a win is a win, but it was messy and it leaves them with some questions to answer. Trailing early, the Bison rallied behind Cam Miller who came off the bench to replace Quincey Patterson in the fourth quarter. Patterson’s throwing ability has been a bit of a question mark for NDSU, but it has rarely been tested and he has been able to make up for any issues with his legs to this point. After Miller’s day-saving performance, we may have a QB controversy in Fargo. Things started off well for the Bears. Montrae Braswell returned the opening kick 62 yards into Bison territory which led to a 47-yard field goal to put them up 3-0. After a Bison punt, MSU drove 61 yards in three plays, capped by an 11-yard run by Tobias Little to give the Bears a quick 10-0 lead. After another Bison punt, the Bears were able to move the ball again. This time they went 58 yards to the NDSU 18-yard line but fell short on a 4th and two play. The struggling Bison offense was then handed a gift. After forcing a third straight punt, MSU was unable to handle the kick and fumbled, giving NDSU the ball at the Bear 15. Patterson ran for a TD on the next play to make it 10-7. The Bears drove 84 yards on 11 plays for a field goal late in the first half, taking the ball all the way to the NDSU 7-yard line before the drive stalled. They had to settle for the 3-pointer to make it 13-7. After five punts to start the game (other than the gift TD), Patterson was able to orchestrate a field goal drive to end the half. The Bison went 42 yards on nine plays to set up a 46-yarder. NDSU also opened the second half with a field goal, as they drove 52 yards on five plays to tie the game at 13. Missouri State responded with a TD drive that went 75-yards on six plays and benefitted from a targeting call. Little ran it in from five yards out to give the Bears a 20-13 lead. After that, not much happened until the start of the 4th quarter other than interceptions by both quarterbacks. After switching to Cam Miller at QB, the Bison moved the ball 59 yards on 4 plays for the game tying score in the fourth quarter. Miller threw a 29-yard TD pass to Phoenix Sproles to knot the game at 20. After a quick MSU punt, Miller orchestrated another TD drive. This time they went 62 yards in twelve plays capped by a 24-yard TD pass to Christian Watson to give NDSU a 27-20 lead. Missouri State drove into Bison territory on the next drive but stalled there allowing the Bison to escape with a victory. North Dakota State edged Missouri State in total yards 333-321. Jason Shelley was 16-25 for 242 yards and a pick under center for Missouri State. Five Bears combined for just 79 yards on 32 carries, but Tobias Little did have 41 yards on nine carries and two TDs. Patterson ended up being NDSU’s leading rusher with 56 yards and a TD on the ground. However, he was just 5-16 for 77 yards and a pick through the air before being pulled. Miller was 7-9 for 112 yards and two TDs in his quarter of work. Six Bison combined for 146 pards on 32 carries. NDSU hosts Indiana State next week while MSU welcomes North Dakota.
AROUND THE FCS
That’s it for MVFC action. Here are some of the other notable results from around the FCS.
-Morehead State (5-2) 27, Marist (3-3) 24: Morehead and Davidson are the final two undefeateds in the Pioneer League. They’ll meet next week with the winner likely getting a playoff spot.
-Sacred Heart (5-3) 31, Duquesne (4-2) 13: Duquesne was presumed to be the NEC playoffs rep, but this blows that league race wide open. Four teams now have one loss.
-Chattanooga (4-3) 55, Samford (3-4) 13: Samford is done, but UTC continues to fight for a playoff spot and the SoCon title. They’ve looked very strong lately.
-McNeese State (3-4) 28, #16 Incarnate Word (5-2) 20: The UIW playoff train is not off the rails, but it certainly hit a snag here. As did the Southland multiple bid train.
-#14 ETSU (7-1) 17, Furman 13: Its too early to say the Paladins are done, but its not looking good. ETSU badly needed this one after losing last week and had to rally to get it.
-#1 Sam Houston State (6-0) 42, Jacksonville State (3-4) 7: Lets go ahead and stick a fork in the Gamecocks now, right?
-#7 James Madison (6-1) 22, #23 Delaware (3-4) 10: Same for Delaware, right?
-#5 Villanova (6-1) 44, #18 Rhode Island (5-2) 0: The Rams are looking more and more like smoke and mirrors every day.
-Weber State (3-4) 35, #2 Eastern Washington (7-1) 34: The Wildcats won on a missed extra point that might have just saved their season. The playoffs have started already for Weber, but the rest of the schedule looks very manageable and 7-4 isn’t out of the question. With their schedule and with this win that probably gets them in if they pull it off.
My updated playoff projections are below.
-AQ7 (1): #2 Sam Houston State (6-0) -Big Sky (5): #5 Montana State (7-1), #7 Eastern Washington, (7-1), UC-Davis (7-1), Sacramento State (5-2), Montana (5-2) -Big South (1): Kennesaw State (5-1) -CAA (3): #4 Villanova (6-1), #6 James Madison (6-1), Rhode Island (5-2) -Missouri Valley (6): #1 North Dakota State (7-0), #3 Southern Illinois (6-1), South Dakota State (5-2), Missouri State (4-3), South Dakota (5-3), Northern Iowa (4-3) -Northeast (1): Duquesne (4-2) -Ohio Valley (1): Tennessee-Martin (6-1) -Patriot (1): Holy Cross (5-2) -Pioneer (1): Davidson (5-1) -Southern (3): East Tennessee St (7-1), VMI (5-2), Chattanooga (4-3) -Southland (1): #8 Southeastern LA (6-1)
Jumped In: Northern Iowa, Chattanooga
Dropped Out: Jacksonville State, Incarnate Word
Also Considered: Eastern Kentucky (5-2), Monmouth (4-3), Mercer (5-2), William and Mary (5-2), Incarnate Word (5-2)
EWU fell from #2 to #7 in the seeding after their loss to Weber State. None of the teams ahead of them have an FCS loss except JMU who lost to #4 Villanova and beat the team EWU lost to. SDSU falls out of the top eight with their second FCS loss. Undefeated against FCS Southeastern Louisiana takes their place at #8. UNI hops back into the field after beating South Dakota State and Chattanooga takes the final place vacated by UIW after their second bad loss. The final two spots came down to Chattanooga, Rhode Island (who barely stayed in after their second straight loss), and the other teams listed in the “also considered” spot. Mercer was my first team out.
And that is it for this week’s recap. I’ll be back soon for next week’s preview. An MVC basketball season preview is coming soon as well.