FCS second-round playoff review
(STATS) – Seeded teams love getting extra rest during a first-round bye over Thanksgiving and home-field advantage to kick off play in the second round.
But a number of teams that spent the holiday weekend on the field might say a lack of a break gave them more momentum.
Ask Kennesaw State, New Hampshire and Weber State.
For the fourth time since the FCS playoffs were expanded to 24 teams in 2013, three first-round winners went on the road to beat seeded teams and move on to the national quarterfinals. This year’s teams coming off a bye – Jacksonville State (No. 3 seed), Central Arkansas (No. 4) and Southern Utah (No. 8) – had a combined one loss to FCS opponents in the regular season, but the visitors slammed the door on their seasons.
Here’s a quick review of the second-round games:
No. 1 seed James Madison 26, Stony Brook 7
Story Line: Five different JMU defensive backs had interceptions against Stony Brook’s Joe Carbone while Dukes signal caller Bryan Schor was an efficient 26 of 35 for 255 yards and two first-half touchdown passes.
Game Ball: Senior safety Raven Greene posted 11 tackles, including seven solos, had an interception and broke up three other passes to fuel another overwhelming JMU defensive effort.
Key Stat: The Dukes have won 15 straight games at Bridgeforth Stadium, where they have home-field advantage through the semifinal round.
The Takeaway: No opponent has yet solved the JMU defense, which has not given up more than 14 points in a game. Defensive coordinator Bob Trott has created an aggressive unit that is stout up the middle and mixes up pass coverages.
Up Next: James Madison (12-0) will play a team from Utah for the first time when Weber State (11-2) pays a visit in the quarterfinals Friday (7 p.m. ET).
No. 7 seed Wofford 28, Furman 10
Story Line: This Southern Conference rematch was won and lost at the line of scrimmage, where Wofford gained 291 yards on 53 carries and Furman had only 52 on 27.
Game Ball: The secondary came up big for Wofford in its run to the quarterfinals last year and it was cornerback Dominique Lemon’s turn to send the Terriers there with eight tackles, including seven solos, 1 1/2 tackles for loss, a pass breakup and a blocked field goal.
Key Stat: The Terriers held the ball for 35 minutes, 15 seconds as they converted 9 of 14 third-down attempts and once on fourth down.
The Takeaway: Veteran coach Mike Ayers got the complete effort needed for success in the playoffs. He’ll seek a similar effort against North Dakota State, where the Terriers’ depth in the option run game can tire an opposing defense – even the Bison’s.
Up Next: Wofford (10-2) will play at No. 2 seed North Dakota State (11-1) in the quarterfinals on Saturday (noon ET).
Kennesaw State 17, No. 3 seed Jacksonville State 7
Story Line: The Owls’ third-year program came up big with its second straight playoff win, but Ohio Valley Conference champ Jacksonville State also came up small in losing at home in the second round as the No. 3 seed for the third time in four years. No other top-3 seed has failed to reach the quarterfinals in the five seasons of a 24-team field.
Game Ball: Quarterback Chandler Burks is owning games. He passed for 126 yards and led Kennesaw with 76 rushing yards on 19 carries, scoring on a 2-yard run to open the fourth quarter and give the Owls a double-digit lead.
Key Stat: Jacksonville State ran only 20 plays in the second half as the Owls’ triple option controlled nearly 22 minutes of game clock.
The Takeaway: While opponents marvel over Kennesaw’s terrific team speed, what’s probably been overlooked is the maturation of its linemen in the third year of the program. Jacksonville State’s bigger size didn’t materialize into an advantage.
Up Next: Kennesaw (12-1) will take its 12-game winning streak to No. 6 seed Sam Houston State (11-1) for the quarterfinals on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET)
No. 5 seed South Dakota State 37, Northern Iowa 22
Story Line: The Jackrabbits reversed a 38-18 home loss to Northern Iowa in mid-October by scoring on all five of their first-half possessions. The victory that was more decisive than the final score (they led 34-7 early in the fourth quarter).
Game Ball: Quarterback Taryn Christion is at the top of his game at the right time. He passed for three touchdowns and rushed for one. His final TD pass was his 31st of the season to set a school record.
Key Stat: UNI’s physical run game powered the regular-season win, but South Dakota State outrushed the Panthers 143-82 with a 42-24 edges in carries.
The Takeaway: The Jackrabbits are the third-highest seed remaining and many consider them to be the best threat to James Madison and North Dakota State. They’re averaging 42 points during a six-game winning streak.
Up Next: South Dakota State (10-2) is staying home to host upset winner New Hampshire in the quarterfinals on Saturday (3 p.m. ET).
New Hampshire 21, No. 4 seed Central Arkansas 15
Story Line: UNH continued its late-season roll on defense with a massive effort, forcing four turnovers for the second straight game and recording five sacks against an offensive line that allowed only six in the regular season.
Game Ball: UNH defensive tackle Rick Holt totaled a team-high nine tackles and 2 1/2 sacks to create havoc up the middle.
Key Stat: Three of UCA’s four turnovers occurred in New Hampshire territory and the other one was at midfield.
The Takeaway: The Wildcats have proven their mettle with the upset win, reaching at least the quarterfinals for the ninth time under coach Sean McDonnell. They’ll need injured quarterback Trevor Knight to be healthy for the next round.
Up Next: UNH (9-4) will travel to No. 5 South Dakota State (10-2) in the quarterfinals on Saturday (3 p.m. ET).—=
No. 6 seed Sam Houston State 54, South Dakota 42
Story Line: No second-round game had nearly as many fireworks as this one, as Sam Houston and quarterback Jeremiah Briscoe outlasted South Dakota and Chris Streveler while the offenses combined for 1,345 yards.
Game Balls: Streveler was electric in defeat, passing for a playoff-record 520 yards and adding another 51 on the ground while accounting for all six Coyotes touchdown.
Key Stat: Sam Houston scored on all six trips to the red zone, while South Dakota came up empty twice in five trips – turning the ball over on downs at the Bearkats’ 10 and throwing an interception at the 17.
The Takeaway: In a thoroughly entertaining game in which South Dakota almost made it back from a 41-14 halftime deficit, there were more offensive weapons surrounding Briscoe. Running backs Corey Avery and Remus Bulmer combined on 182 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and wide receivers Davion Davis and Nathan Stewart totaled 311 receiving yards and four touchdowns (Davis also scored on a run).
Up Next: Sam Houston (11-1) will host upstart Kennesaw State (12-1) in the quarterfinals on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET).
No. 2 seed North Dakota State 38, San Diego 3
Story Line: In a rematch of last year’s second-round matchup, the Bison outgained San Diego by a 472-174 margin, racking up 301 rushing yards. They’ve reached the national quarterfinals in eight consecutive seasons.
Game Balls: For NDSU, running back Bruce Anderson – Bruuuuuce! – rushed for a game-high 112 yards and scored on a 48-yard reception. For San Diego, senior defensive end Jonathan Petersen had three sacks to lift his career total to an FCS-record 44.
Key Stat: The Bison defense is more complete than in last season’s playoffs – it was without middle linebacker Nick DeLuca and defensive tackle Nate Tanguay – and the unit allowed the Toreros to convert just 1 of 15 third- and fourth-down attempts.
The Takeaway: The Bison scored on their first three drives of each half, once again showing their coaching staff’s excellence with setting a gameplan and making adjustments at halftime.
Up Next: Trying to build on a 19-1 home record in the FCS playoffs, North Dakota State (11-1) will host No. 7 seed Wofford (10-2) in the quarterfinals on Saturday (noon ET).
Weber State 30, No. 8 seed Southern Utah 13
Story Line: In ending the game on a 30-3 run, the Wildcats avenged a regular-season loss to fellow Big Sky co-champ Southern Utah to reach 11 wins for the first time.
Game Ball: Senior quarterback Stefan Cantwell racked up 404 yards of total offense, including 105 on the ground, while accounting for three touchdowns. His 5-yard scoring run on the Wildcats’ opening drive of the third quarter gave them the lead for good.
Key Stat: After Southern Utah jumped to a 10-0 lead with impressive drives to open the game, none of the Thunderbirds’ next nine drives ended with more than nine net yards.
The Takeaway: Ending a seven-year playoff drought last year has given Weber the experience to eliminate opponents that finished the regular season ranked ninth (Western Illinois) and 12th (SUU). The Wildcats have surged defensively, recording six sacks (Cardon Malan with three) against an SUU squad that had scored at least 46 points in four of its last five games.
Up Next: Weber State (11-2) takes a seven-game winning streak to No. 1 seed James Madison (12-0) for the quarterfinals on Friday (7 p.m. ET).
- Big Sky
- FCS (I-AA)
- James Madison Dukes
- New Hampshire Wildcats
- North Dakota State Bison
- Sam Houston State Bearkats
- Southern Utah Thunderbirds
- Weber State Wildcats
- Wofford Terriers