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MVFC Week 9 Recap (And Playoff Projections)

Hello all! It was another fine week in the Valley, and I am here to recap it for you. You’re going to get an abridged version of the recap this week because I am travelling and don’t have as much time to write as I usually do. It’ll be short and sweet and maybe better for it? We’ll see.

SDSU recovered nicely from their second loss of the season and had very little issue with the Youngstown State Penguins on the road. The Jackrabbits executed long, time-consuming drives on each of their first two possessions, both of which ended in touchdowns. The first was on a 25-yard pass from Chris Oladokun to Zach Heins, the second was on a 5-yard run by Pierre Strong. The Jackrabbits moved the ball on their next two drives, but both were ended by turnovers. The halftime score was 17-3 in favor of South Dakota State. The Jacks pulled away in the second half, scoring a touchdown on their first offensive play. After an interception set them up in Penguin territory, Pierre strong scored from 35 yards out. The yellow and blue found the end zone on all four of their second half possessions, and were comfortably ahead for the entirety of the second frame. Youngstown did find the end zone twice, and both drives were orchestrated by third string QB Mitch Davidson after Joe Craycraft (the backup, playing for an injured Demeatric Crenshaw) was injured. SDSU dominated in total yardage, outgaining Youngstown 553-223. Oladokun was 16-22 for 260 yards, a TD and an interception for SDSU. Pierre Strong had a stellar day on the ground for the Jackrabbits with 163 yards and 2 TDs on 19 carries. The team ran for 293 yards total. For Youngstown, Joe Craycraft was 4-10 for 36 yards and a pick while Mitch Davidson was 6-7 for 111 yards and two TDs. Jaleel McLaughlin was held to 54 yards on eight carries. Youngstown State will be at North Dakota next week while SDSU hosts the Dakota Marker against NDSU.

The Fighting Hawks just cannot seem to get over the hump against the Valley’s better teams. North Dakota has now lost to NDSU, South Dakota, Southern Illinois and Missouri State by a combined total of 20 points (with three of those games on the road). That leaves them with five losses, and probably knocks them out of playoff contention. It was a well-played, competitive first half. MSU drive 75 yards in 6:35 on the game’s opening drive, scoring on a 6-yard pass from Jason Shelley to Tyrone Scott. UND tied the game in the second quarter with an 11-play, 63-yard drive that ended with a 21-yard TD pass from Quincey Vaughn to Adam Zavalney. MSU later added a field goal for a 10-7 halftime lead. North Dakota took the lead back on the first drive of the second half. Otis Weah scored on a run from three yards out to make it 14-10. Shelley then hit Jordan Murray for an MSU TD to make it 17-14 Bears, but North Dakota took the lead right back on a one-yard Weah run. After stopping MSU on 4th down from the Hawk 22-yard line, the Bears scored again on an 11-yard Weah run. The Hawks’ lead was 28-17 at that point. They had a chance to extend their advantage as they drove into MSU territory on their next drive but fumbled the possession away. Taking advantage of the turnover, Jason Shelley scored on a TD run from 12 yards out to cut the Hawk lead to 28-25. For the second consecutive time, North Dakota drove into MSU territory, and for the second consecutive time they fumbled the ball away. For the second consecutive time, Missouri State responded with a TD. They got the ball at their own 24-yard line with 1:39 to go and drove it 76 yards on eight plays in 1:24. Shelley hit Isaac Smtih from two yards out for the winning TD with 15 seconds to go, giving MSU a big 32-28 win and effectively ending UND’s playoffs chances. The Bears outgained the Fighting Hawks 468-441 as Jason Shelley completed 29-42 passes for 349 yards, 3 TDs and a pick. Tobias Little added 111 yards on 15 carries for the Bears, and Tyrone Scott had 10 receptions for 147 yards and a TD. For UND, Tommy Schuster was 13-21 for 164 yards and a pick. Otis Weah had a day, running for 156 yards and 3 TDs on 21 carries. North Dakota hosts Youngstown next week, while Da Bears head to Carbondale to face SIU.

The big news out of this game wasn’t that NDSU won going away. That was to be expected. The big news was that Cam Miller, not Quincey Patterson, started under center for the Bison. The young signalcaller was stellar in his return to the starting role, leading North Dakota State to scores on each of their first five possessions, including four touchdowns and a field goal. With four minutes to go in the first half, NDSU had built a 30-0 lead and didn’t ever look back. The scores came on two TD passes from Miller (3 yards to Josh Babicz and 8 yards to Christian Watson), a field goal, and two long runs (TaMerik Williams from 20 yards and Kobe Johnson from 97 dang yards). The Bison took their foot off the gas in the second half, but Miller added another TD (one yard to Hunter Luepke), and Cole Payton ran it in from 18 yards out to make it 44-0. ISU finally scored on a safety after a blocked punt for the 44-2 final. NDSU outgained ISU 477-275, including 292 yards on the ground. Miller was 10-14 for 179 yards, 3 TDs and a pick for NDSU. Buoyed by his 97-yard run, Kobe Johnson led the team with 155 yards (and a TD) on 5 carries. Two Indiana State QBs (Kurtis Wilderman and Anthony Thompson) combined to go 20-36 for 181 yards and a pick. Peterson Kerlegrand was the star of the day for ISU (as usual) with 89 yards on 18 carries in the losing effort. ISU has a week off before hosting Southern Illinois in two weeks, while North Dakota State is at SDSU for the Dakota marker next week.

It had absolutely no bearing on the playoff race, but Illinois State and Western Illinois had a banger in Macomb that ultimately resulted in WIU getting their second win of the season. The battle between the ISU defense and the Western offense would determine this one. After a slow start, the Leatherneck offense won the day. The first half belonged to Illinois State running back Cole Mueller, though. He ran it in from 45 yards out on the second play from scrimmage and added two more TD runs in the second quarter (from 14 and 1 yards out). At that point, Illinois State had a 21-6 lead that they maintained until late in the half. The Leatherneck offense rumbled to life just before halftime with a nine play, 60-yard TD drive. Connor Sampson hit Tony Tate for a ten-yard score with 37 seconds left to cut ISU’s lead to 21-13. The third quarter was a bit crazy. WIU drove the field to start the half, only to have a short field goal blocked. Illinois State then took the ball 85 yards for a score, capped by a 12-yard pass from Bryce Jefferson to Jabari Khepera, to extend the Redbird lead to 28-13. Western responded with a TD drive of their own, culminated by a 20 yard TD-pass from Sampson to White Stripes lead singer, songwriter and guitarist Jack Whyte. That made the score 28-20. Two plays later, the WIU defense made the key play of the game. Michael Lawson recovered an Illinois State fumble and returned it 41 yards to paydirt for the Leathernecks, and a WIU two-point conversion tied the game at 28. After forcing a Redbird punt, Western Illinois took the lead for the first time early in the fourth quarter with a six yard TD pass from Connor Sampson to Dennis Houston. The Redbirds drove deep into WIU territory on their next drive but had to settle for a 24-yard field goal to cut the WIU lead to 35-31. The Leathernecks added a field goal late for the 38-31 final. WIU outgained ISU 408-297 and committed no turnovers to the Redbirds’ three. Connor Sampson was his old self for Western, completing 27 of 39 passes for 298 yards and three TDs. WIU got a rare contribution from their run game, as Myles Wanza ran for 77 yards on 18 carries. Bryce Jefferson was 8-16 for 110 yards and a TD for Illinois State, and Cole Mueller ran for 159 yards on 27 carries (adding three touchdowns). Western Illinois hosts South Dakota next week, while ISU hosts Northern Iowa.

A game that was billed as the “FCS Game of the Week” in some circles lived up to the hype. UNI overcame a slow start to get their second top-10 upset in two weeks and Southern Illinois’ propensity to live on the edge finally burned them. This one had the feel of some of the old UNI-SIU games of the previous decade. Both teams came in with much to play for, and the home team won. The Panthers did not look very competitive in the first half, though, getting outgained by almost 150 yards. The score was 3-3 after one quarter, as SIU took the opening drive down for three, and UNI converted a turnover into a negative 8-yard field goal scoring drive. Southern then drove into Northern Iowa territory but were stopped on the first of four unsuccessful Saluki fourth down attempts of the game. The teams then fumbled the ball to each other before SIU scored on a 52-yard pass from Nic Baker to Landon Lenoir to make it 10-3 SIU. The Salukis added a field goal on their next drive to make it 13-3. After starting the game with four punts and two turnovers (and a -8 yard gift field goal “drive”), UNI finally put something together at the end of the first half as they took the ball 39 yards on 10 plays for a field goal to make it 13-6. The Panther offense awoke to start the second half as they started to establish the run against SIU. They scored on a pass from Theo Day to Sam Schnee to tie the game at 13. SIU returned the ensuing kick 52 yards to the UNI 23-yard line but couldn’t get anything going offensively and had to settle for a field goal to take a 16-13 lead. The Panthers took the ball 79 yards for a score on their next drive, with Kyle Fourtenbary sneaking just over the line after a pass from Theo Day from 10 yards out to give UNI a 20-16 lead. The Panthers then put it into “just defend our way to victory” mode, and it worked. They forced an SIU punt, then after giving the Salukis the ball back at midfield via a Theo Day interception, forced a Saluki pick. The Panther offense next turned it over on downs at midfield, only to see the defense secure another pick to hold the lead. After a UNI punt, SIU turned it over on downs again, this time in their own territory which set up UNI for a field goal to make it 23-16. With one last chance late in the fourth quarter, SIU drove the ball inside the UNI ten-yard line. But four passes from Nic Baker all missed the mark and UNI held for the 23-16 win. SIU outgained Northern Iowa 425-287 but were just 4-15 on third down and 0-4 on fourth down. The Panthers were able to contain a potent rushing attack for the second straight week, as six Salukis combined for 119 yards on 28 carries. Nic Baker was 27-42 for 306 yards, a touchdown and two picks for SIU. For Northern Iowa, Theo Day was 14-26 for 103 yards, two TDs and two picks. Bradrick Shaw led the UNI rushing attack with 126 yards on 24 carries. Northern Iowa is at Illinois State next week, while SIU hosts Missouri State.


Here is a look at some of the noteworthy results from around the nation in the FCS.

-#12 Kennesaw State (7-1) 34, Gardner-Webb (3-5) 30: The Owls escape to stay on top of the Big South along with….

-Monmouth (5-3) 35, North Carolina A&T (3-5) 16: The Hawks are edging their way back to the playoff race and could clinch an autobid (most likely) with a win over Kennesaw on the final week of the season.

-Maine (4-4) 45, #24 Rhode Island (5-3) 24: The Rams are who we thought they were.

-William & Mary (6-2) 31, #4 Villanova (6-2) 18: And the Tribe are not. Go ahead and replace W&M with Rhode Island as the #3 CAA team in the playoff hunt.

-Stetson (3-4) 56, Presbyterian (2-6) 14: The Blue Hose were 1-10 on fourth down and threw four interceptions. Classic stuff.

-Chattanooga (5-3) 13, Furman (4-4) 3: The Mocs are squarely in the playoff race at this point.

-#18 VMI (6-2) 46, Samford (3-5) 45: The Keydets rallied from 18 down late in the third quarter to avoid what would have been a disastrous loss.

-#11 Montana (6-2) 20, Southern Utah (1-8) 19: The Griz also narrowly avoided a really bad L.

-Davidson (6-1) 29, Morehead State (5-3) 22: The Wildcats are now in sole possession of first place in the Pioneer League, but four teams (including next week’s opponents St. Thomas) loom one game back.

-#13 UT-Martin (7-1) 16, Austin Peay (3-5) 16: UTM rallies with ten fourth quarter points to overcome a 16-0 halftime deficit and maintain sole possession of first in the OVC.

-St. Francis PA (4-4) 17, Duquesne (4-3) 10: Duquesne, once the prohibitive favorite in the NEC, is probably now out of it after their second consecutive loss.

-#8 Southeastern Louisiana (7-1) 23, McNeese (3-5) 20: Yet another close call for an FCS favorite, but the Lions survive to maintain their quest for a seed.


With three weeks of the season to go, my FCS playoff projections are below.

-AQ7 (1): #2 Sam Houston State (7-0)

-Big Sky (5): #3 Montana State (7-1), Sacramento State (6-2), #5 Eastern Washington (7-1), UC Davis (7-1), Montana (6-2)

-Big South (1): Kennesaw State (7-1)

-CAA (3): #4 James Madison (7-1), #8 Villanova (6-2), William and Mary (6-2)

-MVFC (6): #1 NDSU (8-0), #6 SIU (6-2), Missouri State (5-3), Northern Iowa (5-3), SDSU (6-2), South Dakota (5-3)

-NEC (1): Bryant (5-3)

-OVC (1): UT-Martin (7-1)

-Patriot (1): Holy Cross (6-2)

-Pioneer (1): Davidson (6-1)

-Southern (2): VMI (6-2), ETSU (7-1)

-Southland (2): #7 SE Louisiana (7-1), UIW (6-2)

-Last Two In: UIW (6-2), South Dakota (5-3)

-Also Considered: Eastern Kentucky (6-2), Mercer (6-2), Chattanooga (5-3), Weber State (4-4), Monmouth (5-3)

For my seeds, NDSU and SHSU were an obvious #1 and #2 for me. After ‘Nova and SIU lost I thought an undefeated-against-the-FCS Big Sky Montana State deserved to jump to #3. JMU moved to #4 over #5 EWU because they beat the team that EWU lost to (Weber State). SIU lost on the road to UNI which kept them in the top eight at #6, but moves them down three spots. SELA pops up one spot to #7 after a close win over McNeese and Villanova hangs on to the #8 spot (down from 4) after a loss to William and Mary. I also considered Sac State, Kennesaw, SDSU, UC-Davis and ETSU for a seed.

For the field, I found 22 spots to be pretty easy to pick. For my last two spots (which went to UIW and South Dakota), I split the options nto two groups. Group 1 were the teams who had a lot of Ws piled up but not much substance. Incarnate Word got the nod there due to their FBS win over Texas State. Mercer has no bad losses, but no noteworthy wins (although they’ll get their chance the next few weeks), while EKU has no noteworthy wins and a bad loss. The other group had lower win totals but more substance. Chatty has the win over ETSU, but a loss to Austin Peay (and a competitive loss to Kentucky). South Dakota has a win at UNI, but a loss to Illinois State (and a close loss to Kansas). Weber has the lower worse overall, but no bad losses and a very good win over Eastern Washington. In the end, I thought USD had a tougher road and this is an MVFC blog, so I gave it to the Coyotes in a close decision. They’ll get multiple chances to get a signature win when they play SDSU and NDSU on the final weeks of the season.

And that is it. Check back Thursday for the week 10 preview. GO VALLEY!

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