The 2018 FCS Playoffs are here and we've got game-by-game wrap ups.
[divider]COMPARE: Any Two FCS Players | Any Two FCS Teams[divider]
Jacksonville St. 27
Next up: No. 7 Maine (9-3) at No. 2 Weber State (10-2)
Time/Date: Dec. 7 or Dec. 8 | TV: ESPN family
COMPARE: Maine vs. Weber State
PREDICTIONS: What Did We Get Wrong in the 2nd Round?
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Ramon Jefferson, RB, Maine — Rushed for 186 yards and 2 TDs and had a long of 42 yards in a game that needed a breakout threat on the ground to kill the clock and keep JSU's passing attack on the sideline to prevent a comeback.
OTHER STAT STANDOUTS:
Chris Ferguson, QB, Maine – Threw 5 TDs on 14-of-26 passing for 156 yards
Earnest Edwards, WR, Maine – 2 TD receptions early, 3 catches for 49 yards and also a rushing TD.
DeShawn Stevens, LB, Maine – 10 tackles
Taji Lowe, LB, Maine – 2 TFLs, 4 tackles
Traco Williams, LB, Jacksonville St. — 8 tackles, 7 solos
Zerrick Cooper, QB, Jacksonville St. — 365 yards passing, 2 TDs; rushing TD
NFL DRAFT: Top FCS Prospects For 2019
THE TURNING POINT
I really think it came down to a two-minute span early in the second quarter when Maine just threw a bucket of cold water on what looked like a red hot Jacksonville State rally. A little more than a minute after JSU had pulled to within 7 points after being down by 21 points in the first quarter, Maine just broke loose. Chris Ferguson threw a 20-yard pass to Micah Wright and after a JSU fumble, Earnest Edwards added his third touchdown in just one quarter and a half of time. When that bang-bang effect happened in a 1 minute, 9-second span, you sensed this one was already over — which honestly was a stunner.
COACH RUMORS: FCS Carousel
You know, I've seen the Jekyll and Hyde effect with Jacksonville State this year, and today's game was one of those bad days for the Gamecocks. First of all, Maine hadn't scored more than 38 points all season, and were tied for 82nd in the FCS coming in at about 24 points per game and change. Where did 42 first-half points come from, especially against a conference championship team? It was that kind of day. Really it all happened in the first half — the game was over when they headed into the locker room. I would never have predicted that in this one.
So what worked? Well, Maine's run defense — you know the one that's No. 2 in the FCS? — well, that worked rather well, actually. It didn't give JSU a chance early on. If I remember correctly, the team was in single digits in rush yardage after the first quarter. JSU was able to whip it around through the air some, but much of the 390 yards it threw for came later in the game and not when the game was still in play.
It was an impressive showing by the CAA champions — the only CAA team still remaining in the playoffs, by the way. Maine looked scrappy and blue-collar, doing it with a bunch of rawbone New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania kids like they usually do. And 13 of the 27 points they gave up came in garbage time. Overall it was a stellar defensive effort. Maine's offense converted when it received the gift of turnovers, and the defense held the Gamecocks to 1-of-14 on third-down conversions. Stingy on begins to describe it. Suffocating is another word.
In Maine's first FCS Playoff game since 2013, head coach Joe Harasymiak and the Black Bears won in convincing style in front of their home crowd. It was their first playoff win since 2011 and only the fourth overall. The team is in the quarterfinals for the fourth time in school history (2001, 2002, 2011 and 2018).
PREVIEW OF NEXT WEEK
As I write this, Weber State is pulling away from SEMO (27-7 at the half) so until we get a final score from Utah, obviously this could change. I honestly think Maine and Weber State have a lot of similarities. They've both disciplined, tough, defensive teams that can make a stop when they need to. The game will be in Utah should the Maine-Weber State matchup happen, and that will put pressure on the Black Bears, obviously, but don't count them out. One of the key matchups to watch would be Weber State's stud freshman running back Josh Davis against Maine's No. 2 nationally ranked run defense. Who wins that battle? Probably the winner of the game.
THE REST OF THE GAMES
Nicholls at Eastern Washington