Kennesaw State defeated Monmouth in the Big South title game, with Monmouth winning 42-17. In Sunday’s Northeast Conference championship game, Sacred Heart was down two points in the fourth quarter, but rallied to win by 14 points in overtime. Third-seeded Weber State improved to 5-0 and won the Big Sky, for the fourth time in a row, this time over Idaho State. North Dakota State was seriously considering losing to Northern Iowa. Southeastern Louisiana overcame a double-digit deficit against Nicholls and nearly blew it. Mercer defeated ETSU. Morehead State has defeated Valparaiso. Presbyterian pissed off Davidson. Alabama A&M produced 533 yards and 52 points in the crater of Jackson State’s defense. Of the 26 games played over the weekend, 11 were decided by a single score.
The spring season has become a drama in a few months, and we’re just getting started. A pair of playoff spots are up for grabs in Week 9, the playoff schedule is on Sunday, and we have five ranked games to look forward to. Let’s take a look at what may have been the most spectacular of the spring weekends.
finally, the Dakota marker.
No 4 BRSU v No 2 NDSU (3:30 p.m., ESPN+)
On the 20th. In March, in a pair of duels between top-10 Missouri Valley teams, No. 6 South Dakota State defeated No. 5 Southern Illinois 44-3, while No. 4 North Dakota State won 34-13 over No. 2 North Dakota. Since then, however, these teams have played just two games in three weekends – a SIG loss at Missouri State on the 27th. March and NDSU’s 23-20 win over Northern Iowa last Saturday.
Cancellations and postponements have dominated MVFC stories, but it seems that the number of available players is again favorable. Sure, now #6 North Dakota still has no game this weekend after their game against Youngstown State was cancelled, but SIU has a home game scheduled against top-20 Southeastern Louisiana, and more importantly, we’ll finally have our game against Dakota Marker. The NDSU-SDSU game was originally scheduled for the 3rd quarter. April, but was delayed until just before the playoffs.
There’s a good chance the Bison and Jackrabbits make the 16-team playoffs regardless of what happens in Fargo, but the winner will be co-champions of the MVFC (along with North Dakota and Missouri State) and get one of the top playoff spots.
What can we expect? Well, it’s still NDSU-SDSU, so… a physical formality! SDSU misses the ball over 60% of the time; running back Pierre Strong is healthy again after missing the game against SIU, and in his absence against the Salukis, backup Isaiah Davis ran for 150 yards and three scores. Against UNI, NDSU relied on the run game, as it has all spring: Hunter Lupke and Dominic Gonnella combined for 29 runs and 125 yards, while quarterback Zebu Noland had 61, 36 and 25 yards against foul trouble. As always, whoever controls the line of scrimmage wins the Dakota marker.
Jesse Johnson/USA Monday Sports
and finally, Richmond-JMU also.
No 11 Richmond – No. 1 JMU (2 p.m., FloFootball.com)
Like NDSU-SDSU, the original game between JMU and Richmond was to be played on April 3, but it was cancelled, as were two other JMU games. The undefeated Dukes have been on a roll since Week 6. They have only played once since March, meaning they need Saturday’s game against the Spiders to both secure a possible Colonial Athletic Association title and shake off the rust for the playoffs.
The Dukes’ last game – a 38-10 win over William & Mary on the 27th. Mars – was probably their best yet. They averaged 6.6 yards per game against 4.0 yards, took a quick, aggressive lead, and got it done. The defense, which has been a strength all season, did not allow a touchdown until the timeout, and the offense, which looked nervous at times, looked strong: Cole Johnson completed 16 of 22 passes for 220 yards, while Kahlon Black ran for 141 yards. Johnson wrestled early enough to be Gage Moloney’s replacement, but Moloney was unavailable against W&M due to testing and tracking COVID-19, and Johnson made the most of his extra opportunities.
Richmond looked almost as strong in its last appearance, a 38-17 win over Elon. Joe Mancuso ran 21 of 35 for 251 yards and two touchdowns, while Aaron Dykes and Savon Smith combined for 21 runs and 139 yards. However, it is unlikely that either team will be able to move the ball particularly well. JMU linebackers Mike Green and Mikail Kamara lead the Dukes’ dominant front with 11.5 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, while JMU is allowing just 10.8 points per game and 3 yards per play. But Richmond’s defensive front, led by Darius Reynolds and Coby Turner, can put JMU in place and make it difficult for the Duke QB behind center.
Can Sam Houston continue to dominate?
Sam Houston #5, 25 IWU (12:00 PM, ESPN+)
JMU used this time to get past Robert Morris and reflect on the loss against Elon. North Dakota was robbed by SWAT and almost lost to UNI. Weber State lost almost every week – the last four wins were by 18 points.
None of the top teams in the FCS have been dominant this spring, but the C.S. Keeler SHS Bears have undoubtedly shown renewed interest. They started the spring with a 43-38 win over good Southeastern Louisiana and then destroyed Nicholls and Lamar by a combined score of 133-24. After a shaky performance against Northwestern State, they squandered a 27-3 lead against McNeese State last Saturday before winning 27-13, and their resume is as strong as any at this point.
Bearkats quarterback Eric Schmid has struggled in the last two games. He completed just 52% of his passes, had four interceptions and five sacks. The game against Incarnate Word is a double-edged sword – it will give SVSU a chance to score again (UIW is allowing 41.8 points per game), but it will test the Bears’ defense (UIW is scoring 47.6 points). Quarterback Cameron Ward throws for nearly 400 yards per game, while running back Kevin Brown rushes and receives for an average of 180 yards. UFO’s last three games (one won, two lost) yielded 111, 120 and 96 points, while total yardage was 1,196, 1,194 and 1,334. SVSU better be ready for the track meet.
The first and only Northern CAA title will be decided in Philadelphia.
Delaware No. 7, Villanova No. 10 (1 p.m., FloFootball.com)
We haven’t seen much of Villanova this spring. The Wildcats had a slow start, with a narrow win against Stony Brook and loss against Rhode Island in overtime. They looked good in a 44-17 win over Maine two weeks ago, but that’s the only game they’ve played in the last month, and the difficulty now increases against an undefeated Delaware team that has won all four of its games by an average of 25 points per game.
The power of blue chickens: Protection. They allow 9.5 points per game and 3.6 yards per play; opponents complete just 49% of their passes, a 1-6 TD ratio against IT. WU quarterback Daniel Smith hasn’t lived up to expectations this spring, scoring just 108.7 points and shooting 51 percent rushing, but WU’s play has been excellent – Justin Covington and Jaylen Jackson: 55 carries, 387 yards, nine TDs – and the defense came back against Maine after struggling against URI. However, he will be tested by Delaware QB Nolan Henderson (67% completion rate, 153.7 rating).
If JMU beats Richmond, the Dukes will likely get an official automatic CAA bid, but even if MVFC probably takes at least two of the six spots, the winner will win the unofficial CAA North title and feel good about themselves, especially if it’s Delaware.
Quarterback Nolan Henderson and Delaware have a good chance to make the tournament, especially with a win over Villanova. Charles LeClaire-USA Sports Today
A?inter-conference playoff game
No 17 Southeastern Louisiana, 18 SIU (1 p.m., ESPN+)
God bless the impromptu schedule. After a series of cancellations and with just over a week’s notice, SIU and SELA agreed to take on each other on Saturday. Both contenders are marginal candidates for a spot in the standings, but the winner could have a good playoff resume if the other results fall in time.
The fact that SIU is so close to the playoffs and has used three QBs in seven games – Nick Baker, Stone Labanovich and Kare Lyles have combined for 1,300 passing yards, eight TDs and nine INTs (running back Javon Williams Jr. is 6-for-11, also for two TDs) – is certainly unique, but this was primarily a defensive-minded team: SIU has only scored and allowed more than 30 points once this season.
So the Salukis were playing a different sport than the SELA. The Lions have scored at least 38 points in four of their six games and allowed at least 43 in three games. Southland football is not Missouri Valley football, and it’s interesting that we don’t have to wait for the playoffs to see how these two conferences compare.
Other games to watch
23 Mercer v. Samford (1 p.m., ESPN+). Mercer, a Southern Relay Conference recruit, has never won a SoCon ring and began the season 1-5 after playing three games back in the fall. But since then they have won four consecutive games, including three in a row against ranked teams. With a win over struggling Samford (3-3 with three losses) and a loss to VMI The Citadel, the Bears would win the conference title.
The Citadel vs. 15 VMI (1:30 p.m., ESPN+). Despite losing starting quarterback Reece Udinski to an ACL and losing to ETSU in their last game, Scott Wachenheim’s VMI Keydets still control their fate in the SoCon race, but rival Citadel has won two consecutive games after an 0-9 start. This game is harder than it seemed a month ago.
Holy Cross v. Bucknell (2:00 p.m., CBSSN). Holy Cross is on the verge of making the playoffs, despite having only played two games. The Crusaders have been playing since March 27, but are considered favorites against Bucknell (2-1). (This year has been so strange).
Southern vs. Grambling (2:30pm, NBCSN). You should watch the Bayou Classic because (A) you should always watch the Bayou Classic, (B) it’s in Shreveport, which is unique, and (C) Southern has been very, very good in its last two games, beating Jackson State and Texas Southern 85-37.
Alabama A&M v. Alabama State (7:30 p.m., ESPNU). Alabama A&M is struggling to find its stride – the Bulldogs have played just two games so far, but they looked good when they had the chance, crushing South Carolina State 31-7 and putting up 52 points on Jackson State’s Deion Sanders. They might be able to play in their first SWAC championship game since 2011, but first they have to get their house in order to keep Ezra Gray and Alabama State from returning to the Magic City Classic.
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