If I had begun writing a script for a movie called "FCS Football 2018" based on the first few weeks of results this year … well, today I would have ripped it to shreds, tossed it in the trash and then went straight for the Advil.
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[divider]Before we go anywhere with this, let's recognize today's big winners right off the bat: Holy Cross, Mercer, McNeese, Missouri State, North Dakota, Towson, the MVFC … take a bow.
[divider]In 2015, McNeese went undefeated in the FCS. It was the only program to do it that year — not even 2-loss national champion North Dakota State could say it. Last year, McNeese won 9 games and didn't make the FCS Playoffs, and now … the Cowboys are one of only 4 of 125 FCS teams to be 3-0 after three weeks of play.
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On Saturday night, McNeese effectively played an FCS Playoff play-in game against Southland Conference rival Nicholls — and won. The FCS slate from here onwards is smooth sailing if the Cowboys comply. Defending SL champion Central Arkansas will come to McNeese, typical FCS powerhouse Sam Houston State is not on the slate, and the rest of the slate are teams McNeese should prove to be better than. There's a solid chance McNeese finishes 10-1 — and if somehow the Cowboys pull off the FCS upset against BYU next week? Maybe even 11-0, though Vegas would deem that "not likely".
At any rate, McNeese shut down a Nicholls offense that beat a P5 program (Kansas) that is now 2-1. It harassed a talented QB (Chase Fourcade) and scored 20 points on a talented Nicholls defense.
FCS, welcome to the next team you should be paying attention to.
MERCER MAKES SOCON NUTTIER
(Judy Stapleton/Mercer Athletics)[/credit]
Mercer freshman QB Robert Riddle was a big part of the Bears' massive road win against nationally ranked Samford.
The SoCon is nuts, and Mercer helped reinforce that notion by traveling to Samford — you know, the same Samford team that seven days earlier shut up all the Tomahawk Choppin' Florida State Seminole fans in Tallahassee — and beat the Bulldogs. Near upset hangover or whatever, Samford succumbed to Mercer's perfect gameplan — as the Bears just didn't allow Samford's offense to get on the field enough to pile up the points. And let's face it, when Devlin Hodges and the Bulldogs get the time to operate, they'll slice you up.
It was arguably the biggest program win since 1941 — but let us explain why. Mercer played football 1891 to 1941 but then shut down the program until restarting it in 2013. It's always fun to win your biggest game in nearly 80 years, right?
Mercer's was a brilliant strategy to keep things methodical and physical and punishing — the proverbial Boa Constrictor method worked. Freshman quarterback Robert Riddle was impressive, and now the SoCon has another team to sweat about, as if there weren't enough already.
TOP UPSETS: The Top FCS Wins Over P5s All Time
MVFC WINS CHALLENGE
[credit](Missouri State Athletics)[/credit]
Missouri State RB Jason Randall helped his team to a win over 2017 playoff team Northern Arizona.
The Missouri Valley Football Conference captured the Big Sky-MVFC Challenge when Missouri State knocked off 2017 FCS Playoff team Northern Arizona, and Western Illinois beat 2-0 Montana at WIU's homefield. It's a testament to how strong the Valley still is, as the Big Sky Conference will end up being a massive playoff factor this year. For Missouri State, its hard to argue that this wasn't the biggest win for the program under head coach Dave Steckel, as the Bears continue to try to build the program in a brutally tough league. For WIU, it proves that even with a bunch of incredible program talent gone to the NFL, the Leathernecks have already show this year they can give teams fits.
2018 BIG SKY-MVFC CHALLENGE
Montana 26, UNI 23 (Week 1)
NDSU 49, Cal Poly 3 (1)
Montana St. 26, West. Illinois 23 (1)
SDSU 45, Montana St. 14 (2)
South Dakota 43, No. Colorado 28 (2)
Missouri State 40, Northern Ariz. 8 (3)
West. Illinois 31, Montana 27 (3)
South Dakota-Weber State – TBD (3)
HOLY CROSS BEATS IVY CHAMPS
[credit](Mark Seliger, Holy Cross Athletics)[/credit]
Holy Cross' Miles Alexander was key in his team's big win over the defending Ivy League Champions, Yale.
Yale started its season with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, and then proceeded to go up 21-0 on its host, Holy Cross — all in just the first nine minutes of play.
That's about how everybody would have predicted things for a Bulldogs' program that went 9-1 last year, won its first Ivy League title in years, and returned a ton of talent. But then Holy Cross — the same team that last year hung 50 points on a CAA playoff team (New Hampshire) — woke up. Even with stars gone like QB Peter Pujals — who was in the Minnesota Vikings' preseason camp — the Crusaders looked on Saturday like a team that wants to be a massive factor in the Patriot League this fall.
Holy Cross absolutely owned the final 51 minutes of regulation, outscoring Yale 28-7 and forcing overtime — which it won 31-28 on a 45-yard field goal by Derek Ng. The defense was led by Joe Lang (11 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 hurry, 1 PBU) and Ryan Brady (11 tackles, 1 TFL).
[divider]FBS NEAR MISSES: The FCS came into this week hoping to nail down its 7th FBS win, and there were several programs that nearly pulled it off. Wofford and Eastern Kentucky came into the final minute of their games with Wyoming and Bowling Green looking like they may pull it off, but both games were dropped in the final moments — both on the road. Rhode Island also nearly knocked off next door neighbor UConn.
Butler didn't seem to care. Pass target Pace Temple certainly didn't care, as he didn't see a forward pass he didn't devour — 14 receptions, 167 yards and 1 TD against a defense that has been well respected in the FCS for years.
[divider]OTHER QUICK POINTS:
- Portland State ended a 15-game losing streak by hanging 63 points on College of Idaho, with Davis Alexander throwing for 173 yards and 3 TDs.
- Chattanooga is now 3-0 and has matched its win total from a disappointing 2017 season (3-8 record). The Mocs had a big win over in-state rival UT Martin.
- Towson didn't seem to care that Villanova had the big rep after an impressive 2-0 start, as the Tigers pumped out 35 points in the first half alone and cruised to a CAA win.