Just call this FCS weekend — Week Six to be exact — the upset weekend. Boy did we have some big ones, and some near big ones.
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James Madison went down to an FCS team — Elon — in the regular season for the first time since 2015. Montana went down at home to a Portland State team that hadn't beaten an FCS team since November 2016. North Dakota State needed a late rally to get past Northern Iowa, while the HBCUs saw two of their elite programs go down in Alcorn State (in 5 OTs) and Howard.
Everywhere you looked, the craziness was happening — and we wouldn't have it any other way.
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1. Portland St. 22, Montana 20
2. Elon 27, JMU 24
3. Savannah St. 23, Char. South. 3
4. Alabama St 28, Alcorn 25 (5 OT)
5. N.C. Central 40, Howard 35
6. Bryant 21, Duquesne 20
7. Cornell 28, Harvard 24
Elon picked up its biggest win as an FCS-level program with the 27-24 margin over the Dukes. Davis Cheek (286 yards passing, 1 TD) looked like a veteran under center at Bridgeforth, less than a year after JMU hammered Elon last year. Zack Monson was a Mons-ter on defense, leading the Phoenix with 12 tackles and 2 TFLs, while Warren Messer and Matt Baker combined for an astounding 8 TFLs. And to round it all off, RB Malcolm Summers (186 yards rushing, 1 TD) and his O-line proved that there is a team that can go toe-to-toe with JMU's vaunted D-line.
Tuck this little result in your shirt-pocket, folks, because there's a decent chance we see a rematch of this one in December. And won't that be a good one?
Now, Elon is a team coming off a playoff run last year. Portland State on the other hand has struggled for the past three seasons, but the Vikings did the unthinkable by going in and stunning a Montana program in front of 25,000 Griz fans who were beginning to wonder if this was already an FCS playoff caliber team in a coach's first year back. Cody Williams hit a 52-yard field goal in the crisp Missoula Rocky Mountain air to give him his third FG of the day and win the game for the Vikings. On defense, Kasun Jackett had 8 tackles, 2 hurries and forced a fumble to lead the effort against the home town Griz.
No question it was a nutty day.
To sum things up, the SoCon and OVC had signature wins from what appear to be those two leagues' front-runners in Wofford and Jacksonville State, respectively. Both of these leagues appeared wide open the past few weeks, but these two dispatched a strong Chattanooga team (Wofford) and a mid-range Eastern Kentucky team in a big-time blowout at EKU (Jacksonville State) to put their stamps on the top spots in the league. Behind them? Well … there's still total chaos. Nothing really changed, though the SoCon's ETSU is still hanging near the top, but played out of conference this weekend.
The MVFC, CAA and Southland all became a little more muddied this weekend. In the MVFC, the front-runners like NDSU and SDSU didn't run away with things in their games, and Illinois State looked very strong in rebounding from its head-scratching loss last week. South Dakota also looked like the team that nearly knocked off Kansas State in week one. Big picture summary? The MVFC is still the MVFC, and that means we know absolutely nothing this early, and that road games are brutal.
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The JMU loss in the CAA set the league on fire on Saturday. Elon now has to be considered the favorite to win the CAA, but trips to Delaware next week and Maine at the end of the year still loom ahead (though they do get a 3-game home stand in the middle of those two away games, combined with a week off). The Phoenix are in a good position, but schedule landmines lurk. Here's the rest of the CAA craziness — Elon, Rhode Island, Towson and Maine are all 2-0 atop the standings, but schools like James Madison, Stony Brook and Delaware are just as capable of beating any of the 2-0 teams, and New Hampshire has it's talented QB (Trevor Knight) back in the lineup from injury. Have fun with all of that.
And in the Southland, McNeese and Nicholls didn't exactly look like world beaters this weekend, but both have come off tremendous Septembers where they handled their toughest games well. Both won, as did Sam Houston State (convincingly too, I might add). Southland, this week, looked like a three-bid league.
- Colgate is 5-0 for only the fifth time in the last 40 years, and the Raiders have won 10 straight games dating back to last year and haven't given up a touchdown in 12 quarters.
- An upper crust is forming in the Big Sky, led by Eastern Washington, UC Davis and Idaho State, as they all progressed to 2-0 in the league and have kept their noses clean outside the conference too (only Pac 12 losses to combine for a 13-3 record). Honestly, the rest of the Big Sky's teams are on the outside looking in at this point — they all need some signature wins and/or help from others.
- Meanwhile, in the Ivy League — pencil in the Nov. 3 matchup between Dartmouth and Princeton, because it is beginning to look a lot like a monster. The two teams are 8-0 combined and have outscored opponents 365-79. Killer offense … killer defense.
- Campbell continues to not care that it was a non-scholarship program last year. The Camels are now 5-1 with only a loss to an FBS team as a blemish. They've given up 18 total points to its four FCS opponents (it played a non-FCS lower division program in Week One). Mike Minter has this club looking like a future Big South powerhouse.
- In the hunt for the Celebration Bowl lead up with the HBCUs, Florida A&M is alone atop the MEAC at 3-0, and every other program has a loss at this point. The Rattlers will now travel to North Carolina A&T to find out how good they really are. It's set for next Saturday and will go a long way in telling us who may represent the MEAC, as NCA&T and Howard (lost today) both have tripped up already. FAMU has to go to both NCA&T and Howard in the next month. And in the SWAC? Well, just spin the wheel and make your choice. Alcorn State lost in 5 OTs today, but still seems like the team to beat in the East, while Prairie View has ridden a brutal non-conference schedule to look like as tough an out in the West as Grambling has been in years past.
- Lastly, in the NEC and Pioneer League … when you begin to look at possible automatic playoff berth teams from these two conferences, Bryant won a big one today against Duquesne, and now hosts defending NEC champ CCSU next week. The Bulldogs could assert themselves as the clearcut front-runners for that FCS Playoff spot with a win over CCSU next week. In the Pioneer, San Diego still looks like the monster, but keep an eye on Drake.
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