FCS Playoffs Round Two Game Breakdowns

North Dakota State Football

FCS Playoffs Round Two Game Breakdowns


Just like in the regular season, the Colonial Athletic Association showed some flexed muscle during the first round of the Football Championship Subdivision playoffs. A pair of CAA teams, Old Dominion and James Madison, overcame stronger offenses to move on to the second round, while Stony Brook used a rock-solid running game and top offense to outlast Albany in the first round. Central Arkansas also joined the round of 16 with a win over Tennessee Tech, setting up the second round of 16 teams. Next week, half these teams will move on to quarterfinal action. Here is a look at second-round games:


OLD DOMINION AT GEORGIA SOUTHERN (1 p.m. Saturday at Paulson Stadium in Statesboro, Georgia)

This is a first-time matchup for two football programs with strong records, but it is not the first time a Georgia Southern football squad has faced a team from Virginia. Georgia Southern has only lost twice to teams from the Commonwealth State; the two losses came in September 1997 to William and Mary and November 1985 to James Madison. The Eagles (9-2, 7-1) have 41 playoff appearances and six national championships to their credit, and they have a 41-11 postseason record. The Eagles won the Southern Conference for the first time since 2004. The Eagles ground out 302 yards rushing against Alabama even though the Crimson Tide handily won the regular-season finale, 45-21, between these two teams. Old Dominion (10-2, 6-2) carries a five-game winning streak that includes an opening-round 35-18 win over Norfolk State into this game. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke threw for five touchdowns and 269 yards despite being sacked twice. The winner of this game faces either Maine or Appalachian State in the quarterfinals, setting up a potential Appalachian-Georgia Southern showdown.


MAINE AT APPALACHIAN STATE (2 p.m. Saturday at Kidd-Brewer Stadium in Boone, North Carolina)

The last time these schools faced each other in the playoffs was November 2002, when Maine beat Appalachian State 14-13 in North Carolina. Could this be a harbinger of things to come? This is Appalachian State’s seventh straight appearance in postseason play. The Mountaineers (8-3, 6-2 Southern Conference) run a variation of Maine’s spread offense, so both teams should be familiar with the basic plays. Both teams are in the top 40 in Division I in points per game, with Appalachian State at 30.2 and Maine at 29.5. Appalachian State has a better rushing game and Maine has a slightly better passing game. All this evidence suggests it could be another close contest. Oh, did we mention that Maine has an identical 8-3 record and 6-2 mark in the CAA? Appalachian State rallied from a 21-0 deficit to defeat Elon 28-24. Maine, which lost 30-27 to New Hampshire in the regular-season finale, has 944 yards and 10 touchdowns from running back Pushaun Brown, and Warren Smith has 2,643 passing yards and 17 touchdowns, but Appalachian State’s Jamal Jackson has only thrown six pickoffs while racking up 1,729 yards and 14 touchdowns.


CENTRAL ARKANSAS AT MONTANA (2 p.m. Saturday at Washington-Grizzly Stadium in Missoula, Montana)

With the winner of Wofford and Northern Iowa awaiting the winner of this game, it could be an exciting quarterfinal showdown next week. The round of 16 comes first, however, and Central Arkansas (9-3) overcame a two-week layoff to post a very strong 34-14 win over Tennessee Tech. The Bears held prolific Tennessee Tech rusher Dontay Gay to 10 carries and 36 yards in the victory, and Central Arkansas quarterback Nathan Dick threw 23 of 29 for 319 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Look out for defender Jestin Love, who has five of Central Arkansas’ 15 interceptions. Montana (9-2) has a seven-game winning streak since a week-four loss to Sacramento State. Montana has held opponents to 20.4 points per game. Leading rusher Peter Nguyen has 689 yards but just one touchdown to his credit, but short-yardage specialists Dan Moore and Jordan Canada combined for 12 of Montana’s 21 rushing scores. Jordan Johnson has 1,795 yards and 15 touchdowns, but he also has six interceptions.


STONY BROOK AT SAM HOUSTON STATE (3 p.m. Saturday at Bowers Stadium in Huntsville, Texas)

If there was any doubt the Seawolves belonged in the FCS playoffs, that was erased last week when Stony Brook rallied from a 28-10 deficit to stun Albany, 31-28, thanks to a 21-point rally over the game’s final quarter and a half. Stony Brook (9-3) is the No. 1 scoring team in the FCS and running backs Brock Jackolski and Miguel Maysonet led the way. Jackolski scored all three touchdowns in the rally and finished with 22 carries for 103 yards. This could be a wild game offensively, because Stony Brook and Sam Houston have the top two scoring offenses in the FCS. The schools combined for just over 79.2 points per game (Stony Brook 39.64, Sam Houston 39.58). Sam Houston finished the regular season with an 11-0 record as Tim Flanders rushed for 1,095 yards and 20 touchdowns. Brian Bell was very effective at quarterback, throwing just three interceptions while racking up 1,607 yards and 14 touchdowns. Sam Houston should advance, but don’t count out Stony Brook. The Seawolves have to realize they can’t rely on a second-half rally once again.


NEW HAMPSHIRE AT MONTANA STATE (3 p.m. Saturday at Bobcat Stadium in Bozeman, Montana)

For the first time since 1976, these two schools face off in an FCS second-round matchup. In that game, Montana State edged New Hampshire 17-16 when both schools were NCAA Division II programs. New Hampshire finished 8-3 overall and 6-2 in the Colonial Athletic Association and made its eighth straight playoff appearance with this year’s selection. Montana State (9-2, 7-1 Big Sky) has not won a national championship since capturing the I-AA title back in 1984. New Hampshire has a 6-1 overall record in the seven previous playoffs’ opening games, giving the Wildcats a fairly strong edge. Wildcat quarterback Kevin Decker led the CAA with 317.2 yards total offense per game, 279.3 passing yards per game and 20 touchdowns. In the annual showdown between the schools, Montana broke Montana State’s nine-game winning streak with a 36-10 victory. The winner faces either Stony Brook or Sam Houston State.


LEHIGH AT TOWSON (3:30 p.m. Saturday at Johnny Unitas Stadium in Towson, Maryland)

This is a momentous occasion for Towson (9-2, 7-1), which qualified for the FCS playoffs after previous appearances in the postseason at the Division II and III level. Towson lost to Saint John’s (Minn.) 31-28 in the Division III title game in 1976, and the Tigers’ farthest Division II trip was in the 1984 semifinals, where they lost to Troy State. Towson’s remarkable turnaround (the team was 2-26 in CAA play prior to this season) made it the first school to go worst to first in the CAA since James Madison accomplished the feat in 1998. Towson won the regular-season title outright in the final weekend when Maine lost to New Hampshire. Thanks to a league-leading 239.45 rushing yards per game and 1,242 rushing yards from Terrance West, Towson’s running game should be a force. Lehigh (10-1, 7-1), which won the Patriot League title this season, limited opponents to 11.7 points per game in the past seven games and have 24 sacks and 19 turnovers in that stretch, meaning Towson’s offense could be in jeopardy. Still, Towson has seen stronger competition in the CAA so who knows? Lehigh has won 10 of its 11 meetings with Towson. The Mountain Hawks’ Chris Lum has thrown for 3,739 yards and a prolific 31 touchdowns, but Lum also has 15 interceptions. The winner faces either James Madison or North Dakota State.


JAMES MADISON AT NORTH DAKOTA STATE (4 p.m. Saturday at the Fargodome in Fargo, North Dakota)

This is North Dakota State’s 25th postseason appearance, including 17 at the NCAA Division II level, so the Bison have had a lot of success in the last quarter-century and beyond. North Dakota State (10-1) went 7-1 in the Missouri Valley Conference and sat last week while James Madison (8-4, 5-3) won 20-17 over Eastern Kentucky on a last-second field goal by Cameron Starke. This is the first meeting between the two teams but not the first time North Dakota State has faced a CAA opponent. You have to go all the way back to the 1983 Division II quarterfinals, where NDSU topped Towson 24-17. The Bison lost to Eastern Washington in overtime in last year’s quarterfinal round. Its lone blemish in the regular season was a 27-24 upset loss to Youngstown State. North Dakota quarterback Brock Jensen has around 2,000 passing yards (181.3 per game) and 11 touchdowns with just two interceptions, and D.J. McNorton and Sam Ojuri combined for 19 rushing touchdowns. James Madison is quite similar with Dae’Quan Scott and Jordan Anderson combining for 21 rushing scores.


WOFFORD AT NORTHERN IOWA (5 p.m. Saturday at UNI Dome in Cedar Falls, Iowa)

This is the first meeting between the two programs and what a place to face off. Northern Iowa (9-2, 7-1) locked up a share of its seventh Missouri Valley Conference crown since 2001 when it beat Illinois State 23-20 in double overtime on Nov. 19. Northern Iowa’s fearsome defense is led by linebacker L.J. Fort, who contributed 151 total tackles as the Panthers recorded a strong season. Kicker Tyler Sievertsen has also been reliable, missing just one of his 18 field-goal attempts. Quarterback Tirrell Rennie has been Northern Iowa’s key weapon, with 739 rushing yards and nine touchdowns on the ground to go with 1,642 yards, 11 touchdowns and just two interceptions in the air. A possible danger note for Northern Iowa, if it believes in history and superstition, is no Panther team has beaten a Southern Conference squad, with four losses since 1985. Wofford (8-3, 6-2) has the nation’s best rushing offense at 356.2 yards per game and the ninth-best offense in the country at 441.6 yards. Fullback Eric Breitenstein has 122.1 yards rushing per game, guiding the Terriers’ attack.