The second round of the NCAA Division I FCS playoffs is in the books with three upsets of seeds, ironically all on one side of the bracket. #2 Eastern Washington was the lone seed to win on its side of the bracket Saturday with its 31-14 triumph over Central Arkansas but #3 Jacksonville State, #6 seed The Citadel, and #7 seed North Dakota all succumbed to upsets at home.
All seeds on the other side won with North Dakota State and James Madison winning easily, while South Dakota State and Sam Houston State won on games not decided until the final minute of those contests.
The final eight teams will again be in action next week starting with Friday’s Sam Houston State at James Madison game with the other three contests played next Saturday.
Below are recaps of the eight games.
#1 North Dakota State 45 San Diego 7
FARGO-ND–North Dakota State (11-1) wasted no time asserting its will against San Diego (10-2) in front of 18,305 fans inside the Fargodome. The win was the Bison’s 21st straight playoff game.
The Bison jumped out to a 21-0 lead at halftime, highlighted by a linebacker MJ Stumpf’s 40-yard interception return for a touchdown to open the game’s scoring.
NDSU’s ground game was the key to the victory with six players combining for 299 yards on 31 carries. Quarterback Easton Stick and running back Lance Dunn each had over 90 yards on a combined 13 rushes.
Stick did get the passing game involved when asked. He finished 12-of-20 with 208 yards and three touchdowns through the air, tying the postseason record. Chase Morlock caught two of Stick’s touchdowns from 16 and 49 yards out.
Stumpf finished with a game-high nine tackles including eight solo stops.
Jonah Hodges, the Pioneer Football League Player of the Year and a transfer from FBS California, rushed 19 times for 93 yards and caught seven passes for 68 yards to lead the Toreros’ attack. Quarterback Anthony Lawrence added 201 yards on 24 of 39 passing.
NDSU advanced to the quarterfinal round where the Bison will host Missouri Valley co-champion South Dakota State next week.
#8 South Dakota State 10 Villanova 7
BROOKINGS, SD–South Dakota State (9-3) got a field goal from Chase Vinatieri, who is the nephew of Indianapolis Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri, with 86 seconds left in the fourth quarter for a 10-7 win over Villanova (9-4) at Dana J. Dykhouse Stadium and the only second-half score from either team.
Both teams started with some cautious play-calling in a game played much in snow showers. The Jackrabbits struck first when quarterback Taryn Christion hit tight end Dallas Goedert on a 4-yard touchdown to take a 7-0 lead.
With 7 seconds remaining in the first half, the Wildcats lined up for a field goal on the 6-yard line. The Jacks called timeout and Coach Andy Talley (coaching in his last game with Villanova) brought his offense back out on to the field in a surprise move where quarterback Zach Bednarczyk hit wide receiver Alex Padovani on a 6-yard touchdown to tie the game at 7-7 at halftime.
South Dakota State got the win despite having seven total rushing yards on 20 carries.
Talley finishes his 32-year run at Villanova with a 230-171-1 record.
Villanova’s Bednarczyk completed 20-of-36 passes for 220 yards, while Matt Gudzak caught four passes for 43 yards and gained a game-high 66 yards rushing on 17 carries. Ryan Bell (55 yards) and Padovani (29 yards) also hauled in four receptions.
Christion ended the afternoon 20-of-33 for 190 yards, with Goedert on the receiving end of eight balls for 92 yards. Goedert ended the day with a Jackrabbit single-season record of 86 receptions, breaking the previous mark of 78 by Jason Schneider in 2013.
The Jackrabbits advanced to play North Dakota State next week. SDSU gave NDSU its only loss in the regular season.
Youngstown State 40 #3 Jacksonville State 24
JACKSONVILLE, AL–Youngstown State outlasted Jacksonville State in an offensive shootout in front of 10,838 fans at Burgess-Snow Field, giving the Penguins their fourth straight win and third straight game with at least 38 points.
Youngstown State (10-3) rolled up 520 offensive yards Saturday while stunning #3 seed Jacksonville State (10-2) 40-24 on the road.
Hunter Wells only went 10-of-18, yet still managed to rack up 290 passing yards in the win. His lone touchdown pass opened the scoring on this 70-yard bomb to Damoun Patterson.
Jody Webb dominated on the ground with 140 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries.
Jacksonville State’s rushing attack was terrific, with Eli Jenkins and Josh Clemons each going over 100 yards. The problem was Jenkins was just 6-of-26 passing with one touchdown and two interceptions.
The Gamecocks had won all 10 FCS games they played this season. Their lone defeat before Saturday was against LSU in September.
Youngstown State, whose national titles were all in the 1990s, is making its first playoff appearance since 2006, but the 12th all-time, and the Penguins are now 27-7 overall.
Jacksonville State (10-2), the Ohio Valley Conference champion, was the national runner-up last year.
Zak Kennedy kicked four field goals to aid in the Penguins victory.
YSU advanced to host Wofford next week in the quarterfinals.
#5 Sam Houston State 41 Chattanooga 36
HUNTSVILLE, TX–Sam Houston State (12-0) kept its perfect record intact in a narrow 41-36 win over Chattanooga in front of 4,897 rain-soaked fans at Bowers Stadium.
The Bearkats nearly squandered a 21-point lead when Chattanooga got two quick scores late in the second quarter. The Mocs would tie the game in the third quarter on Xavier Borishade’s 18-yard touchdown catch with just under 12 minutes remaining.
Sam Houston State responded with two touchdown drives of its own in the third quarter before holding on to its narrow margin by keeping the Mocs off the board for the final four minutes after Henrique Ribeiro cut the lead to 41-36.
Chattanooga (9-4) was driving in the games waining minutes but quarterback Alejandro Bennifield’s fourth down pass sailed over senior C.J. Board’s head in the back of the endzone.
In the victory,
SHSU’s Jeremiah Briscoe became the FCS’s all-time leader for touchdown passes in a season with 57. The junior transfer connected on 20 of 40 passing for 363 yards and five touchdowns alongside one interception.
This was Sam Houston State’s first single-digit victory of the season.
The Bearkats advanced to play at James Madison next week.
#4 James Madison 55, New Hampshire 22
HARRISONBURG, VA–James Madison brought the offensive firepower to an overwhelmed CAA mate New Hampshire in its 55-22 rout in front of 13,231 fans at Bridgeforth Stadium.
New Hampshire did hold a 7-3 lead after the first quarter before James Madison scored 28 unanswered points in the second quarter to blow the game wide open.
Dukes quarterback Bryan Schor went 30-of-37 with 371 yards and tied a school record in the process with 5 passing touchdowns.
New Hampshire running back Dalton Crossan had a good day in defeat with 92 yards and two touchdowns on 15 carries.
UNH was down by 30 to JMU in the regular-season game and mounted a 27-point, fourth-quarter rally before falling just short, but there would be no rally this time. The Dukes, who lost their opening playoff games in 2014 and 2015, were simply too hungry.
The Dukes advanced to host Sam Houston State next week in the quarterfinals.
#2 Eastern Washington 31, Central Arkansas 14
CHENEY, WA–After falling behind 14-0 five minutes into the second quarter, Eastern Washington (11-1) scored the last 31 points of the game to in the 31-14 victory over Central Arkansas (9-4) in front of 6,085 fans at Roos Field.
Gage Gubrud led the Eagles’ offensive attack with 449 passing yards, 68 rushing yards and three total touchdowns (two passing). Kendrick Bourne and Cooper Kupp benefited from all of those passing yards, as the duo combined for 23 catches and 221 yards.
Eastern Washington’s defense held Central Arkansas quarterback Hayden Hildebrand to just 115 yards and one interception.
The Eagles have won 10 straight games since North Dakota State beat them in overtime on September 10.
Gubrud completed a school-record 47 passes in 64 attempts for 449 yards and two touchdowns.
Kendrick Bourne led EWU receivers with 13 catches for 126 yards.
EWU advanced to host Richmond next week in the quarterfinals.
Wofford 17 #6 The Citadel 3
CHARLESTON, SC–Devin Watson’s 62-yard interception returned for a touchdown with 41 seconds remaining in the fourth quarter sealed Wofford’s 17-3 upset win over The Citadel in front of 10,336 fans at Johnson Hagood Stadium.
This game was a defensive struggle throughout, despite both teams having success running the ball. Wofford (10-3) had 223 rushing yards on 42 carries, with Joe Newman’s 36-yard score early in the fourth quarter giving the Terriers their first lead of the game.
The Citadel (10-2) had 237 rushing yards of their own but needed 57 carries to hit that mark. Quarterback Dominique Allen, however, finishing just 11-of-22 for 121 yards and two interceptions.
Wofford running back Lorenzo Long rushed for 92 yards on 14 carries to pace the Terrier running game.
The Terriers avenged their 24-21 loss earlier in the season to the Bulldogs in Southern Conference play.
Wofford advanced to play at Youngstown State next week.
Richmond 27 #7 North Dakota 24
GRAND FORKS, ND–Richmond scored the final 20 points of the second half, capped off by Griffin Trau’s 18-yard field goal with three seconds remaining, to give the Spiders a 27-24 upset win over North Dakota (9-3) in front of 9,837 fans at the Alerus Center.
Richmond (10-3) scored an 18-yard field goal by Griffin Trau as the clock expired to allow the Spiders to advance.
Quarterback Kevin Johnson engineered Richmond’s comeback. He went 15-of-22 with 289 yards and two touchdowns in the win. Brian Brown was a monster on the outside with seven catches for 187 yards, including a 79-yard touchdown in the first quarter.
The Spiders defense also held its own throughout the game, limiting North Dakota’s offense to 324 total yards. The Fighting Hawks averaged just 5.1 yards per play in their third loss of the season.
Richmond advanced to play at Eastern Washington next week in the quarterfinals.