There were plenty of good games in the first round of the FCS playoffs and one pretty big surprise.
Not many expected San Diego to go into Flagstaff and knock off Northern Arizona, but the Toreros did just that. They will now try to get into the quarterfinals for the first time in school history, but they have a difficult matchup with the North Dakota State Bison.
Furman 28, Elon 27
A blocked extra point was the deciding factor in this game. Neither team was able to get out to a lead larger than seven points in the closest contest of the weekend. These teams were tied at three different points, but Elon was unable to convert its extra point on a fourth-quarter score and Furman was successfully able to burn most of the clock on its next drive to put Elon in a bad spot. The Phoenix did get the ball into Paladins territory at the end, but Furman held on and avenged a regular season loss.
New Hampshire 14, Central Connecticut State 0
CCSU’s first trip to the FCS playoffs ended in disappointing fashion. Its offense was unable to move the ball against the Wildcats’ stingy defense and turned the ball over three times. Trevor Knight was solid in the win, throwing for almost 300 yards, but the lack of a competent ground game is something to keep in mind moving forward.
Kennesaw State 28, Samford 17
Devlin Hodges tried his best to extend the Bulldogs season, but he didn’t have much help. He threw 66 times for 396 yards against the Owls defense, but Samford’s ground game never got going. Credit Kennesaw State for not only making the playoffs but winning a postseason game in just its third year of having a football program. The Owls’ option offense gives a lot of teams fits and it will be interesting to see how they do next week against Jacksonville State.
Stony Brook 59, Lehigh 29
You could see this one coming from a mile away. Stony Brook tore up Lehigh’s terrible run defense all day, churning out 354 yards and six touchdowns on the ground in an easy victory. The Seawolves defense had trouble stopping Lehigh’s passing attack, though, so that’s something to watch next week when they take on No. 1 James Madison.
Weber State 21, Western Illinois 19
Defense ruled the day for the Wildcats in this one. Although Jaelon Acklin ended up having a good game, no one else for the Leathernecks did. The running game was held in check and quarterback Sean McGuire was constantly under pressure. Weber State tight end Andrew Vollert had a great game, catching eight balls for 112 yards and a touchdown in the win. Now, the Wildcats get a rematch with Southern Utah, a team that they lost to earlier in the season.
South Dakota 38, Nicholls State 31
Four turnovers did in the Colonels in this loss. Nicholls State wasn’t given much of a chance to be competitive according to the odds makers, opening as a 20-point underdog to South Dakota. However, they were able to hang right in and matched the dynamic Chris Streveler score for score. Chase Fourcade’s three interceptions proved to be very costly, though, as that was the only way South Dakota’s defense could get stops.
Northern Iowa 46, Monmouth 7
Monmouth was never competitive against a vastly superior team from the best conference in the country. It’s no surprise that Northern Iowa is one of four MVC teams in the second round of the playoffs, as it has one of the best defenses in the country. The Panthers picked off four passes and held Monmouth to just 61 yards on the ground in the biggest blowout of the day.
San Diego 41, Northern Arizona 10
I expected the Toreros to cover the 14.5, but this was totally unexpected. San Diego looked terrible in its two losses to non-conference opponents this season, but it put everything together in a blowout victory of the Lumberjacks. Case Cookus averaged just 4.4 yards per pass against a swarming San Diego defense, and the Toreros were able to move the ball with ease. As much as people will say this shows the strength of the Pioneer League, it also highlights that Northern Arizona was a team that never should have made the postseason.