The 2017 FCS undefeated ranks got a bit thinner in week five, as several previously undefeated teams fell.
But several survived. James Madison, South Dakota, North Dakota State, Illinois State, North Carolina A&T and Wofford all entered the 5-0 or 4-0 zone, and Columbia, Yale and Dartmouth entered the 3-0 realm in the Ivy League.
Road games in the Colonial Athletic Association are no picnic with blue skies and flowers, they can really be a grind. Just like in the Missouri Valley.
For defending national champion James Madison, it knew Delaware would be a tough road trip — maybe the toughest of the season. Danny Rocco is the new Blue Hens' head coach who knocked off the Dukes two years ago coaching Richmond when Kirk Herbstreit and the ESPN Gameday crew was in town. Rocco knows the Dukes, and Delaware is the sleeping giant of the FCS right now.
The game was close for awhile, but James Madison gradually pulled away 20-10 thanks to a defensive effort that held the host Blue Hens to 229 total yards and 10 points. But Delaware put up a fight, and JMU needed all of Trai Sharp's 185 rushing yards to pull away.[divider]
Central Arkansas won 10 games last year, beat an FBS team (Arkansas State) and truly needed to do what it did Saturday night. Hayden Hildebrand has been great before and he was again as he threw four touchdowns and ended Sam Houston State's regular season undefeated streak against FCS opponents, 41-30.
Kierre Crossley rushed for 112 yards on just 13 carries in the win. Crossley is a very highly regarded RB out of the Fort Worth, Texas area. Fans might want to remember that name. Especially in the Southland Conference.[divider]
Actually, it seemed like all of the MVFC battles were "massive".
Former Minnesota quarterback Chris Streveler threw three touchdowns and for 328 yards for USD, while his counterpart Sean McGuire popped for 441 yards and 4 TDs — but the true difference was USD holding WIU to only 33 yards rushing. In the end it overshadowed the incredible game of WIU wide receiver Jaelon Acklin, who caught 19 balls for an astounding 343 yards and 3 TDs.
That wasn't the only impressive Valley feat, as North Dakota State had no problems with its win over Missouri State and Youngstown State pulled off an incredible home victory over a very talented South Dakota State team 19-7. Folks, for anybody to hold Dallas Goedert, Jake Wieneke and Taryn Christion to 7 points? Reminds me of the YSU run last year. Impressive.
As they say in racing, they should say in the Valley … "Gentlemen, start your engines!" Because this isn't over.[divider]
Elon pitched a shutout at home in what could be considered one of the biggest wins at the school in seven or eight years. The Phoenix defense held stout, as Wyatt Messer finished with 12 tackles, 1 TFL and 2 passes broken up, and Tyler Campbell had 2 INTs. Marcus Willoughby posted 8 tackles, 2 sacks and forced a fumble in the all-around great defensive effort. Albany was coming off a massive win over Villanova last week.
Kicker Owen Johnson's two short field goals held up as the key to the game, while true freshman quarterback Davis Cheek helped keep things efficient and running back Malcolm Summers (171 yards rushing) chewed up the yardage and the clock. The Phoenix are now serious players in the Colonial Athletic Association.[divider]
Weber State came into the weekend looking like the strongest Big Sky Conference team so far, having knocked around its FCS competition and giving the Pac 12's California a tough run of it early in September. A trip to Montana State is no gimme though, and the Bobcats made it interesting before the Wildcats managed to put it away to up its record to 4-1, 2-0.
Placekicker Trey Tuttle was one of the big starts, hitting four field goals in the 25-17 win, and Stefan Cantwell continued his nice transitional job of replacing a very strong QB from last year's FCS Playoff team, Jadrian Clark — who graduated.[divider]
North Carolina Central also did well this week, extended its win streak over FCS teams to 17 games, giving cause for concern with the Aggies above. Just like last year, that game should help decide the MEAC champion, and on the SWAC side Grambling is now 4-1 (lone loss to Tulane) and Alcorn appears to be the top team in the opposite division..[divider]
As if the Patriot League needed any more plot lines for the parity, winless Lafayette knocked off Holy Cross on a last-second field goal. Don't forget, this is the same Holy Cross team that thrashed perennial CAA powerhouse New Hampshire, which came into Saturday 3-1 and 2-0 in league play. Couple all of that with the fact that Lehigh has one of the nation's best offenses and was the preseason league favorite, but came into the day 0-4, and there's no question — it is anyone's opportunity to snag this conference and its automatic FCS playoff bid.[divider]
The Ivy League may have a new face at the top of the standings, and it kind of looks Lion-ish.
Columbia hasn't kicked off a season 3-0 since 1996, but the Lions did just that Saturday as head coach Al Bagnoli continues to make great strides with this program since coming over from Penn, where he also won championships. Quarterback Anders Hill threw for 400 yards and 2 scores and Ronald Smith caught 10 of those passes for 236 yards and both scores as the Lions edged previously undefeated Princeton 28-24. Yale and Dartmouth also went to 3-0 overall.