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]
James Madison 20
Next up: No. 8 Colgate (10-1) at No. 1 NDSU (12-0)
Time/Date: Dec. 7 or Dec. 8 | TV: ESPN family
COMPARE: Colgate at North Dakota State
PREDICTIONS: What Did We Get Wrong in the 2nd Round?
PLAYER OF THE GAME: T.J. Holl, LB, Colgate – The senior posted 11 tackles, 1 interception for 29 yards and 1 tackle for loss, showing why he was selected the Patriot League defensive player of the year and led the Raiders' stellar defense this year in tackles.
OTHER STAT STANDOUTS:
Tyler Castillo, DB, Colgate – 2 INTs and 8 tackles
Nick Wheeler, DL, Colgate – 2 TFLs, 4 tackles
Grant Breneman, QB, Colgate – 190 yds passing, 1 TD, 1 rushing TD
Owen Rockett, WR, Colgate – 104 yards receiving 1 TD, clutch catches
Mike Greene, DL, James Madison – 9 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, 1 forced fumble
Ron'Dell Carter, DL, James Masdison – 10 tackles, 1 TFL, 1 FF and 1 FR
Cardon Johnson, RB, James Madison – 80 total yards, 1 TD
NFL DRAFT: Top FCS Prospects For 2019
THE TURNING POINT
Oh geez, where do we start in this one? One of the key Colgate interceptions to thwart another scary-looking driving? A clutch catch for a first down? There were many for Colgate. But we're going to focus in on the Raiders' stuffing of the James Madison fake punt attempt on 4th and 2 late in the game. This is something the Dukes are good at and not afraid to try. But punter Harry O'Kelly was stopped short by senior Nick Alvarez and freshman Milton Braasch to give the ball over on downs to Colgate when it looked like JMU had all the momentum. Then Grant Breneman's pass to Owen Rockett for 26 yards got the Raiders into JMU territory to begin setting up for what would become the 38-yard game-winning field goal by Chris Puzzi — his third succesful kick of the day. Whew, what a dizzying turn of events.
COACH RUMORS: FCS Carousel
The argument since Selection Sunday was two-headed: Many people questioned why James Madison wasn't seeded based on its body of work during the regular season (I was one of those who questioned it, placing JMU at No. 7 coming into the postseason). In another argument "realm", many around the FCS questioned why Colgate was awarded a seed at all (I had them No. 8 coming in, which the committee also had). In the end? It would appear Colgate has quieted the doubters. The Raiders are in the Final Eight — the quarterfinals. They've earned it.
When you throw in the coaching carousel distractions James Madison had to deal with this week, it just seemed like Colgate was going to get a shot at knocking off a FCS monster. The Dukes had made it to Frisco two straight years in impressive fashion, but were in more of a rebuilding mode this year than many realized. Add in the distractions and it seemed like a ripe situation, and it was. Once again, Colgate took down the mighty Dukes — the other time being a stunner in 2015.
Only three teams held JMU to 20 points or less this year in a full game — North Carolina State and FCS playoff teams Stony Brook and Delaware. Colgate scrapped its way to joining that elite club, being opportunistic in winning its 15th straight FCS game. Quarterback Grant Breneman was Mr. Clutch against a stout JMU defense and a defensive line that harassed him many times. Despite the harassment, he minimized mistakes, helped own the clock (35 minutes of time of possession) and hit open receivers.
Colgate didn't even lead until 3:51 remained in the fourth quarter, but it never seemed rattled.
When we began analyzing teams in June for upcoming previews, the fact Colgate had 18 returning starters from a 7-4 team that won its last five games in 2017 jumped off the page. We remember 2015, and we knew several key players from that team — James Holland, Max Hartzman, Tyler Castillo, Thomas Ives, just to name a few — are still here. We saw the writing on the wall with the Patriot League and thought this team may have a very strong 2018, but I don't think anybody could have predicted in the preseason they'd be an FCS quarterfinalist.
In 2015, Colgate was considered a Cinderella story in the playoffs. This year? It's more like they belong here.
PREVIEW OF NEXT WEEK
So congratulations Colgate — now you get to go to Fargo, N.D. and experience the North Dakota State Bison in the famous FargoDome. They're senior-laden, they're immensely talented and they're undefeated. It will be a tough road for the Raiders, but they'll take their best shot at the defending national champions. On paper? This is a mismatch, but we'll see how much scrap Colgate has left for this long road trip.
THE REST OF THE GAMES
Nicholls at Eastern Washington