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  • MVC Beat

Week 7 MVFC Rundown and Playoff Projections

The playoff hopes of two MVFC teams took a massive blow today as North Dakota fell to 2-4 and Northern Iowa got blown out at home by South Dakota. Both teams can technically still make the postseason, but the Fighting Hawks likely need to win out at this point while the Panthers will likely need to win at least four out of their last five games against a very tough schedule. It was a solid day for the rest of the league’s playoff contenders though. NDSU and SDSU got road wins with little trouble. SIU successfully navigated a tricky game. MSU got back on the horse with an easy win. And South Dakota loudly announced their candidacy for playoff consideration. Below is a rundown of what went down in the Valley.

#7 South Dakota State 41, Western Illinois 17 For a little while it looked like Western Illinois might be up to their old tricks against a top-ten team at home. The Leathernecks were competitive into the third quarter before SDSU ultimately pulled away for an easy win. It wasn’t Western’s high-powered offense that kept them in it, but rather a solid defensive performance. On their second possession, SDSU took it 85 yards in five plays to take a 7-0 lead, but it would be their only TD of the first half. Pierre Strong did most of the heavy lifting on the drive including a 47-yard run on the first play. WIU took the ball into Jackrabbit territory on their ensuing drive but lost possession when Connor Sampson was sacked and fumbled. South Dakota State gave it right back, though, as Chris Oladokun fumbled on a sack as well. The Leathernecks then took the ball 41 yards for a score, capped by a Dennis Houston 12-yard run. After the Western defense forced another SDSU punt, they snagged three more points on a 43-yard field goal to take a 10-7 lead. South Dakota State went three and out yet again on their next drive but stopped WIU on their next possession. After a short WIU punt, the ‘Jacks only went 18 yards on eight plays but tied the game on a 47-yard field goal. They took the lead, 13-10, with another field goal just before half. Disaster struck for Western Illinois early in the third quarter when their first drive went three-and-out and the ensuring punt was blocked by the Jackrabbits’ Kinser Madison. It was returned for a TD to make it 20-10. The Leathernecks responded with a TD on their next drive, though it would be their final score of the game. They went 75 yards on seven plays, ending with a Miles Wanza run to cut the SDSU lead to 20-17. Later, a nine play, 66-yard drive by SDSU was capped by a 17-yard Pierre Strong TD run and made the score 27-17. The Jacks would score on their next two possessions while WIU would go three-and-out twice, and that would put the game on ice. Chris Oladokun found Jaxon Janke for a 21-yard TD to make it 34-17, then Pierre Strong scored from three yards out for the 41-17 final. SDSU shut down the WIU offense, holding them to just 237 total yards and 207 through the air. Western’s QB Connor Sampson was held without a TD pass, throwing for 207 yards on 29-51 passing. South Dakota State managed 370 total yards offensively. Pierre Strong led the way with 122 yards on 19 carries including two TDs. Chris Oladokun was 17-25 for 195 yards and two TDs, and Jaxon Janke caught nine of those passes for 101 yards and a TD. SDSU hosts UNI next week while Western Illinois will be at North Dakota.

#3 North Dakota State 20, Illinois State 0 This was the most predictable Valley game of the day. Illinois State went with Bryce Jefferson under center, and he struggled to do anything with his arms or his feet as the Redbird offense was shut down. The Illinois State defense hung tough against the Bison, but it wasn’t enough as 3rd ranked NDSU pulled away in the fourth quarter for an easy win. The Bison scored on their second drive, going 67 yards on 7 plays. The big play of the drive was a 37-yard pass from Quincey Patterson to Phoenix Sproles (which nearly matched Jefferson’s entire production for the day in terms of yards). Patterson later hit Christian Watson for a score to make it 7-0. The Redbirds went 13 yards backwards on their next drive, but the defense came up with a big play on the ensuing Bison possession, intercepting Patterson deep in Redbird territory. The teams exchanged punts until the Bison hit a 46-yard field goal at the end of the half to make it 10-0. ISU had their best drive of the game to start the second half, moving the ball to the NDSU 36. But they missed a 53-yard field goal to remain scoreless. The Illinois State defense came up big again on the ensuing possession, stopping a Quincey Patterson run on fourth down at the Redbird 10-yard line. After a Bryce Jefferson interception set up the Bison deep in Redbird territory, the defense came through again with an interception at the ISU six. The Illinois State defense finally gave way in the fourth quarter, giving up a field goal and a TD to the Bison (both after short drives) to make the score 20-0. ISU’s defense played a hell of a game, holding NDSU to 20 points while their offense only managed seven punts, two interceptions, a turnover on downs and a missed field goal. NDSU’s offense put up 325 yards to Illinois State’s 99. Bryce Jefferson was a brutal 4-18 for 40 yards and two interceptions while seven Redbirds combined for just 59 rushing yards on 30 carries. Quincey Patterson was a mediocre 13-22 for 124 yards, a TD and two picks through the air. However, he made up for it with his legs, rushing for 100 yards. Five Bison combined for 201 hard fought yards total on 48 carries. North Dakota State hosts a big game against Missouri State next week, while Illinois State will play at red hot South Dakota.

#20 Missouri State 37, Indiana State 7 The 20th ranked Bears recovered nicely from last week’s tough loss to Youngstown State with a dominant win over the Sycamores of Indiana State. Missouri State got off to a bit of a slow start but picked things up in the second quarter and never looked back. After a 12-play, 59-yard opening drive that resulted in an MSU field goal, the teams exchanged punts. For awhile. In fact, seven of the first eight drives of this game ended in punts. It remained 3-0 until Indiana State took the ball into Bear territory in the second quarter. They attempted to convert on 4th down from the MSU 32 and fell short. From there, things fell apart for the Sycamores. Mo State took the ball 68 yards on six plays on their next drive. It was capped by a 45-yard pass from Jason Shelley to Xavier Lane for a TD to make it 10-0. Indiana State fumbled on the ensuing kick return, and Jason Shelley punched it in from the three-yard line on the next drive to make it 17-0. On the next kickoff, the Trees fumbled AGAIN, and again the Bears took advantage. Shelley found Tyrone Scott for a 27-yard score two plays later. That made it 24-0 after a first half that saw MSU leading just 3-0 with three minutes to go. That pretty much sealed it. Missouri State scored on three of their first four possessions of the second half to make the score 37-0. After accumulating eight punts and a turnover on downs, ISU finally got on the board with a 12-play, 75-yard drive that saw Anthony Thompson find Dante Hendrix for a 19-yard TD. That accounted for the 37-7 final margin. Missouri State outgained Indiana State 442-261 overall. Jason Shelley was just 11-21 but he made his completions count as he finished with 225 yards and three touchdowns for Missouri State. Nine Bears combined for 190 yards on 45 carries on the ground. Anthony Thompson was 18-31 for 177 yards, a TD and a pick for ISU. Peterson Kerlegrand pounded out 67 yards on 16 carries for the Trees. The Sycamores host Youngstown State next week, and Missouri State will go to Fargo.

#4 Southern Illinois 31, #22 North Dakota 28 Southern Illinois continued its incredible run of close victories this weekend with a 31-28 triumph over North Dakota. SIU has now won three games in a row when their opponents failed to score on the game’s final play. They’ve also won three games by a combined total of five points. Add in the Salukis’ rally from down 17-0 in their MVFC opener against Illinois State and Southern Illinois has had an incredible ride to their 4-0 league start. North Dakota was more-or-less fighting for their lives, and they fought hard on the road. But at the end of the day the Hawks fell to 2-4 and probably are looking at needing to win out to make the postseason. Early on, it looked like SIU might run away with it. Their first possession went 55 yards for a score, capped by a 15-yard TD pass from Nic Baker to Landon Lenoir. After a Fighting Hawks punt, the Salukis made it 14-0 by going 55 yards on 6 plays (capped by a 3-yard Donnavan Spencer run). After the UND punted again, Southern Illinois was poised to really pull away. Instead, North Dakota’s Jaelen Johnson forced a Nic Baker fumble and Devon Krzanowski fell on it in the end zone for a North Dakota TD, cutting the Saluki advantage to 14-7. Southern scored another TD on their next possession, capped by a 14-yard TD pass from Baker to Tyce Daniel to make it 21-7. The Salukis then just stopped scoring for a while, as they are wont to do. Both teams exchanged punts until North Dakota took over at midfield late in the half. The Fighting Hawks slowly and methodically drove the ball 50 yards on 10 plays capped by an 8-yard Tommy Schuster TD pass to Adam Zavalney in the final minute of the second quarter. Pinned in their own territory with less than a minute to go, SIU went for the score instead of kneeling out the half. It didn’t work out. Baker was intercepted and the Hawks managed to move the ball 49 yards in 24 seconds (capped by another Tommy Schuster TD pass, this time to Brock Boltmann for 2 yards) to tie the game at 21 going into the break. The Saluki offense continued to flounder at the start of the second half, going three and out on their first two possessions. Their first punt attempt was blocked, setting up UND at the Southern 15-yard line, but they missed a short field goal. The Salukis finally busted out of their offensive funk late in the third quarter with a 58-yard TD pass from Baker to Izaiah Hartrup to make the score 28-21 SIU. After North Dakota failed on fourth down in the SIU red zone on their next drive, they finally found paydirt on a 79 yard, 10 play TD drive on their next possession. Isaiah Smith ended the drive with a 3-yard TD to tie the game at 28 with 7:30 to go. SIU’s offense immediately responded with a 46-yard field goal keyed by a 48-yard run by Donnavan Spencer on the first play of the drive. That put SIU up, 31-28. North Dakota was able to move the ball to the Southern Illinois 18 on their next possession, but they missed another short field goal (this one from 36-yards) keeping the Salukis in the lead with 2:20 to go. The Hawk defense valiantly held on the next drive, giving North Dakota one more chance. The Fighting Hawk offense went 58 yards on 11 plays, setting themselves up for a game tying 47-yard field goal attempt. That is how Southern Illinois found themselves on defense on the final play of the game hoping the other team wouldn’t score so they could hold on for the win for the third week in a row. And for the third week in a row, it worked out. Brady Stevens missed the kick, and Southern Illinois got the win. It was another victory by the thinnest of margins for the Salukis, who benefitted from three second half missed field goals by North Dakota. Overall, the Fighting Hawks outgained Southern Illinois 474-363, and UND played a turnover free game while SIU had two. Tommy Schuster was 31-48 for 267 yards and two TDs, while Nic Baker was 13-16 for 177 yards, 3 TDs and a pick. Isaiah Smith carried the ball 17 times for 111 yards and a TD for UND, while Donnavan Spencer had 63 yards and a TD on 11 carries. North Dakota hosts Western Illinois next week while SIU will have a week off before facing UNI on the road.

#21 South Dakota 34, #16 Northern Iowa 21 I try to be impartial here, but this UNI alum is going to have a very tough time separating the frustration I am feeling from this write up. Every year I go into the season determined not to buy into the hype knowing I will probably be let down. And every year they snag me…..and then I am let down. It isn’t that the Panthers lost to South Dakota. USD is a very good team and is looking like they’ll be playing in the playoffs. No, its that they got blown out of their own building by USD and the game was over by halftime. With road games against MSU and SDSU still on the schedule (not to mention a home date with SIU), it going to be very difficult for UNI to make the playoffs at this point. South Dakota appears to be off to the races, though, and with such a young team the future is very bright in Vermillion. The Panthers set the tone for this one on their first drive. They drove into South Dakota territory only to have the drive end when the center snapped the ball early and none of the offensive lineman blocked, leading to a sack. Two possessions later the Coyotes blocked a UNI punt. Carson Camp found Carter Bell for a 5-yard TD pass to give USD a 7-0 lead three plays later. On the very next play from scrimmage, Theo Day was picked off by the Coyotes’ Jack Cochrane setting South Dakota up in the Panther red zone again. Travis Theis scored from four yards out four plays later, and it was 14-0 South Dakota after one quarter. Northern Iowa moved the ball a combined four yards over their next two drives, culminating in a punt out of their own end zone which set USD up in Panther territory yet again. And yet again they capitalized going 42 yards on five plays, culminating in a 9-yard TD pass from Camp to JJ Galbreath. UNI drove into Coyote territory on the next drive only to have Isaiah Weston fumble on a nasty (but clean) hit immediately following a catch. The ensuing fumble return set up South Dakota in the UNI red zone for the third time, and this time they kicked a field goal for the 24-0 halftime advantage. UNI was able to score on their first two drives of the second half to cut the USD lead to 24-14. But the offense went quiet for the next 15 game minutes allowed USD to drive for a field goal to make it 27-14, and then a TD to make it 34-14. UNI scored in garbage time to make the final score 34-21, a score that was closer than the game actually was. UNI outgained USD 393-314 but committed three turnovers to South Dakota’s one. Theo Day was 25-35 for 303 yards with two TDs and two picks for UNI. Vance McShane led the Panthers on the ground with 65 yards and a TD (most of which came on one play). UNI’s proud run game was only able to scrounge up 90 yards total. Carson Camp was 16-21 for 153 yards and two TDs (no picks), while Travis Theis carried the ball 29 times for 113 yards and a touchdown for the Coyotes. South Dakota hosts Illinois State next week while UNI will travel to Brookings.

That’s it for MVFC action this week. Here is a look at some noteworthy games throughout the FCS.

-#9 Montana State (6-1) 13, #19 Weber State (2-4) 7: Weber has played an extremely difficult schedule and it may have sunk them. Playoffs start next week for the Wildcats.

-UConn (1-7) 21, Yale (2-3) 15: Hey good for you, UConn.

-Maine (2-4) 27, William and Mary (4-2) 16: The Tribe were a little bit exposed in this one after their hot start to the season.

-Monmouth (4-3) 34, Campbell (3-3) 17: The Hawks are probably Kennesaw State’s biggest challenger in the Big South. They’ll play each other on the final week of the season.

-Dartmouth (5-0) 38, #23 New Hampshire (3-3) 21: The Ivy gets a big win and New Hampshire’s playoff hopes take a big hit.

-St. Thomas (4-2) 38, Stetson (2-4) 7: Not really that big of a game in the grand scheme of things but St. Thomas is 4-2 in their first season as a DI team transitioning up from D3.

-Chattanooga (3-3) 21, #10 East Tennessee State (6-1) 16: The Mocs get themselves back into the playoff picture and knock ETSU out of the seed conversation (for now at least).

-#2 Eastern Washington (7-0) 71, Idaho (2-4) 21: The outcome isn’t surprising or noteworthy, but Eric Barriere threw for 600 yards and 7 TDs (and ran for another). He only threw 35 passes (completing 26) to do it. Wow.

-Sacramento State (4-2) 28, #5 Montana (4-2) 21: I might have been the only person in the country to have the Hornets in the playoffs last week, but they came out and upset the 5th ranked Griz in Montana for perhaps the most surprising outcome of the week. They’re squarely on the radar now.

-#6 Villanova (5-1) 17, Albany (0-6) 10: A week after toppling JMU, the Wildcats failed to score in the second half and barely hung on to beat winless Albany.

-Stony Brook (2-5) 34, #14 Delaware (3-3) 17: The Blue Hens were in the top 10 to start the year but it always felt that their spot may have been a bit of smoke and mirrors. They may not be in the top 25 at all anymore after this one.

-Towson (3-3) 28, #12 Rhode Island (5-1) 7: The Rams had their fans thinking maybe they would win the CAA but those hopes took a huge hit this week after this upset on the road.

-VMI (5-2) 45, Mercer (4-2) 7: Perhaps the Keydets have their groove back? A decisive win puts them squarely in the hunt in the SoCon and back on the playoff radar.

-Eastern Kentucky (5-2) 38, Central Arkansas (2-4) 35: Stick a fork in the Bears, but EKU might be a playoff contender at this point despite a loss to Indiana State. They’re one of two teams in the hunt despite a loss to an MVFC also-ran, the other being UIW who lost to Youngstown State.

-#15 Kennesaw State (5-1) 14, North Carolina A&T (3-3) 0: Its likely just Kennesaw and Monmouth left as contenders in the Big South at this point.

-Davidson (4-1) 70, Presbyterian (2-4) 35: Blue Hose were 3-8 on fourth down in this one. Probably the least remarkable of their games this season.

That’s it for our FCS rundown. My updated playoff projections are below.

-AQ7 (2): #3 Sam Houston State (5-0), Jacksonville State (3-3) -Big Sky (5): #1 Eastern Washington, (7-0), #6 Montana State (6-1), UC-Davis (6-1), Sacramento State (4-2), Montana (4-2) -Big South (1): Kennesaw State (5-1) -CAA (3): #5 Villanova (5-1), #8 James Madison (5-1), Rhode Island (5-1) -Missouri Valley (5): #2 North Dakota State (6-0), #4 Southern Illinois (6-1), #8 South Dakota State (5-1), Missouri State (4-2), South Dakota (5-2) -Northeast (1): Duquesne (4-1) -Ohio Valley (1): Tennessee-Martin (5-1) -Patriot (1): Holy Cross (4-2) -Pioneer (1): Davidson (4-1) -Southern (2): East Tennessee St (6-1), VMI (5-2) -Southland (2): Southeastern LA (5-1), Incarnate Word (5-1)

Dropped Out: UNI, Mercer Jumped In: VMI, Jacksonville State (3-3)

Also considered: Furman (4-2), Mercer (4-2), UNI (3-3), Chattanooga (3-3), Towson (3-3), Delaware (3-3), Monmouth (4-3), Northern Arizona (3-3), Eastern Kentucky (5-2)

The only team I had seeded last week that lost was Montana, who dropped out of the top eight and was replaced by James Madison. The field is mostly the same except UNI and Mercer dropped out, while VMI and Jacksonville State were added. I had 23 teams pretty solidly in, and had several teams to consider for the last spot. The ones that were ultimately not chosen are the ones listed under “also considered”. The last five considered were Jax State, Towson, Mercer, UNI and Chatanooga. That last spot was REALLY a toss-up, but I went with JSU due to no losses to teams outside the playoff field/FBS and the win over Florida State. UNI was next due to no losses to teams outside the playoff field/FBS and the win over Sacramento State.

And that is it for the week 7 recap. I’ll be back later in the week with my week eight preview. Until then, go Valley.

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