Week 1 brought a number of close and compelling contests for the G5 schools. The biggest game pitted Troy at Boise State in CSJ’s game of the week lived up to the billing with a very competitive match that saw the Broncos prevail.
There were also a number of other games that showed how the G5 schools will group together. Below are some recaps and highlights of these top games of the week.
Top G5 vs. G5 Contests
These five games were the top pitting Group of Five schools against each other in non-conference action including the CSJ Game of the week of Boise State defeating Troy at home.
Boise State 24 Troy 13 (Boise, Idaho) Boise State’s offense sputtered most of the afternoon, but it didn’t matter much due to the Broncos’ smothering defense. Troy (0-1) mustered only 215 yards, matching the Trojans’ lowest offensive output since a 66-0 loss to Georgia in 2014. The Trojans’ only touchdown came on a 53-yard interception return by Blace Brown.
Despite Boise State’s stout defense, the game was still Troy’s for the taking. However, the game turned on a bizarre play with the Trojans trailing 17-10 and driving for a tying score late in the third quarter.
Troy quarterback Brandon Silvers’ pass was almost intercepted by Reid Harrison-Ducros when he stepped in front of receiver Deondre Douglas and appeared headed for a possible pick six.
However, Harrison-Ducros juggled the ball and slipped, allowing Douglas to snatch the ball out of the air at the Boise State 10 and sprint back toward the end zone. But Boise State’s Desmond Williams dove toward Douglas, dislodging the ball at the 1 before it went out of the back of the end zone, resulting in a touchback.
The play was initially ruled a touchdown, but was overturned after a brief review. Troy’s offense never recovered and the Broncos won its home opener for the 16th straight season.
Memphis 37 Louisiana-Monroe 29 (Thurs.)(Memphis, Tenn.) Darrell Henderson rushed for 169 yards and two long touchdowns, and Tony Pollard returned a kickoff 99 yards to lead Memphis to a 37-29 win over Louisiana Monroe in the season opener.
Navy 42 Florida Atlantic 19 (Boca Raton, Fla.) (Fri.)–Zach Abey became the first player in Navy history to rush for over 200 yards and throw for more than 100 yards in a game as he ran for 235 yards and two touchdowns and threw for 110 yards and a touchdown as Navy spoiled the start of Coach Lane Kiffin’s era at FAU by topping the Owls 42-19 in a bizarre game that ended at 1:47 a.m. Saturday. It took more than three hours to play the fourth quarter with the delays.
Marshall 31 Miami (OH) 26 (Huntington, W.Va.)–Keion Davis became the 20th player in NCAA history with a pair of kickoff returns for a touchdown in the same game. Chris Jackson added a 72-yard interception return for a score, but Marshall still needed to bat down a game-ending Hail Mary pass to defeat Miami (Ohio).
Coastal Carolina 38 Massachusetts 28 (Conway, S.C.)–Osharmar Abercrombie rushed for a career-high 149 yards and scored twice to lead Coastal Carolina to a 38-28 victory over UMass in the Chanticleers’ first game as members of the NCAA Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) and Sun Belt Conference.
The game Saturday evening was played before a CCU-record 13,274. The win was also CCU’s first over an FBS program, going 0-7 in such games in this the 15th year of Chanticleer football.
Nearly Beating the Power 5
While no Group of 5 team defeated a Power 5 team, there were several close calls. These seven contests were nearly G5 upsets.
Arizona State 37 New Mexico State 31 (Tempe, Ariz.)–In a game between two high-powered offenses, the Aggies and Sun Devils traded blows through the air and on the ground. When it was all said and done, NM State dropped its season-opener to Arizona State, 37-31. NMSU quarterback Tyler Rodgers set a career-high in pass completions (40) and attempts (57) and threw for 398 yards.
Boston College 23 Northern Illinois 20 (DeKalb, Ill.)–The Huskies overcame a 20-10 third-quarter deficit before Boston College’s Colton Lichtenberg broke a 20-20 tie with a 37-yard field goal with 2 minutes, 13 seconds remaining. NIU’s Christian Hagan came up just short on a 39-yard field-goal attempt with 31 seconds left to seal the Huskies’ seventh straight September loss.
USC 49 Western Michigan 31 (Los Angles, Calif.)–In his first career game at the helm, Western Michigan football head coach Tim Lester nearly led the Broncos to an upset at USC, falling 49-31 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday afternoon. The Broncos and Trojans were tied 28-28 in the fourth quarter after a 100-yard kick return by Darius Phillips but USC scored three late touchdowns to put the game away.
Illinois 24 Ball State 21 (Champaign, Ill.)–The Cardinals (0-1) controlled the ball on offense and let their young defense fly around and make plays. It added up to a 21-16 lead against their Big Ten opponent entering the final minutes. But a big Illinois punt return set up the go-ahead touchdown with 2:06 to play, and the Illini (1-0) blocked a 54-yard field goal attempt on the final play to escape with a 24-21 victory.
Northwestern 31 Nevada 20 (Evanston, Ill.)–Quarterback Clayton Thorson scored two touchdowns in the final six minutes and Northwestern beat Nevada 31-20 in Saturday’s opener for both teams. Trailing 20-17 in the fourth quarter, Thorson directed a 75-yard drive that culminated in his following the block of right guard Tommy Doles to crash the end zone for a 24-20 lead. Thorson scored on another 1-yard plunge with 52 seconds to play, ending Nevada’s upset hopes in Jay Norvell’s first game as the Wolf Pack’s coach.
Kentucky 24 Southern Miss 17 (Hattiesburg, Miss.)–For a long moment or three Saturday afternoon, it appeared Southern Miss might just turn back the clock and a mount a second-half comeback to take down Kentucky in a second, consecutive season opener. But a 74-second swing late in the third quarter gave the Wildcats enough of a cushion and the Golden Eagles thwarted themselves down the stretch, falling to Kentucky.
Southern Miss did plenty right. The defense held Kentucky to 254 yards total offense, including 76 rushing. The offense took 78 snaps compared to Kentucky’s 55, and gained 364 yards.
But the Golden Eagles did more than enough wrong to come up short. Three lost fumbles that led to 14 Kentucky points. A failed fake punt that set up a Wildcat field goal. A 48-yard kickoff return with a personal foul penalty that set up a 37-yard scoring drive by Kentucky. A slew of end-game penalties that short-circuited the Golden Eagles’ comeback hopes.
Nebraska 43 Arkansas State 36 (Lincoln, Neb.)–Arkansas State took two shots at the end zone from 11 yards out in the final seconds of its season-opening game at Nebraska, but the Huskers held off the Red Wolves. A-State quarterback Justice Hansen completed 46-of-68 passes for 415 yards and three touchdowns. His 46 completions established a single-game school record and he connected with nine different receivers. Chris Murray had nine catches for 90 yards and a touchdown while Kendrick Edwards hauled in eight passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. Christian Booker (7-72), Omar Bayless (7-42) and Blake Mack (5-50) each had over five receptions.
Not Quite a G5 Upset over P5 but…
Liberty is still classified as an FCS team this year but is in the transition to FBS. The Flames will be an independent FBS team next year and got off to a great start to that transition in a win over the Big 12’s Baylor.
Liberty 48 Baylor 45 (Waco, TX)–The beginning of Liberty’s two-year FBS transition process started off with an offensive shootout. At the end it was the Flames standing as the victor, 48-45, over Baylor, Saturday evening, at McLane Stadium. On Feb. 16, the NCAA approved Liberty’s waiver request to begin the two-year FBS reclassification process. Tonight’s game marked Liberty’s final match-up against an FBS team as a FCS program. The Flames recorded their fifth win over an FBS program in school history with their victory.
Can’t Escape the FCS Upset
These three G5 schools could not escape the FCS upset.
Tennessee State 17 Georgia State 10 (Atlanta, Ga.) (Thurs.)–Georgia State fell to FCS Tennessee State 17-10 in the inaugural game at Georgia State Stadium, and the debut for GSU head coach Shawn Elliott. A crowd of 24,333 filled the former Turner Field, which has been converted into a new home for Georgia State football, but the Panthers (0-1) struggled offensively, hurting themselves with five turnovers.
James Madison 34 East Carolina 14 (Greenville, N.C.)–ECU never could contain James Madison’s rushing game led by Cardon Johnson, and the result was a 34-14 loss to the defending FCS national champion Dukes in the season-opener on Saturday at Bagwell Field inside Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Johnson set a career-high for yards as he rushed for 265 on 17 carries, with touchdown runs of 85 and 80 yards. Marcus Marshall had 10 carries for 94 yards, including a 70-yard touchdown to close out JMU’s scoring in the fourth quarter. Overall, ECU was outgained 614-372, with the Dukes rushing for 422 yards.
Howard 43 UNLV 40 (Las Vegas, Nev.)–UNLV was stunned in its season opener at the hands of Howard University, 43-40, in a game at Sam Boyd Stadium that featured multiple twists and turns and four lead changes Saturday night to open the 50th season of Rebel Football.
UNLV won nearly all statistical categories but two costly turnovers and too many penalties (13 for 90 yards) allowed the upstart Bison to win the first meeting between the programs. Caylin Newton, the younger brother of NFL star Cam Newton, rushed for 190 net yards and two touchdowns to lead the way for the visitors from the FCS MEAC.
And Just Squeaking By the FCS
Central Michigan 30 Rhode Island 27 (3OT) (Mount Pleasant, Mich.)–Devon Spalding scored from 4 yards out in the third overtime to lift Central Michigan to a 30-27 win over Rhode Island in its season opener Thursday night. Tyler Harris threw a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes, including an 80-yard strike to Marven Beauvais, to bring the Rams back from a 21-7 deficit and force overtime, 21-21.
The teams traded field goals in the first overtime and C.J. Carrick pushed a 33-yard attempt from the left hash wide right to cap a scoreless second overtime. Carrick booted a 36-yard field goal to open the third OT.
Shane Morris was 25 of 49 passing for 226 yards and a touchdown to lead the Chippewas. Jonathan Ward carried 19 times for 147 yards and a score.
Connecticut 27 Holy Cross 20 (East Hartford, Conn.)–The return of Randy Edsall to the UConn head coaching spot was one spot light coming into this game but it was another returning player that gave the Huskies the victory over Holy Cross. Bryant Shirreffs, a starting quarterback in each of the last two seasons, came off the bench to lead three second-half scoring drives.
Nate Hopkins sandwiched touchdown runs of 1 and 3 yards around an 11-yard scoring pass from Shirreffs to Hergy Mayala, made it a seven-point game lead for the Huskies with 6:27 to play. UConn was able to hold on defensively to preserve the opening game win.
South Florida 31 Stony Brook 17 (Tampa, Fla.)–Powered by a 24-point second half, USF improved to 20-1 in home openers with a 31-17 victory over Stony Brook on Saturday. Tyre McCants put USF (2-0) ahead for the final time with a 65-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter and led the team with 74 receiving yards. Darius Tice’s second touchdown of the day extended the Bulls’ nation-leading streak of 30-plus point games to 19.
Senior quarterback Quinton Flowers threw two touchdown passes and led the Bulls’ rushing attack with 67 yards to move into a tie for second on USF’s career rushing list with 2,731 yards. Marquez Valdes-Scantling gave USF its first lead with a 6-yard TD catch in the third quarter and led the Bulls with four receptions.
Old Dominion 31 Albany 17 (Norfolk, Va.)–Old Dominion ran for three touchdowns and the Monarch defense recorded seven sacks, as ODU defeated Albany, 31-17, in the season opener on Saturday evening at Foreman Field at S.B. Ballard Stadium.
Old Dominion (1-0) jumped out to an early lead behind Ray Lawry’s 41-yard rushing touchdown in the first quarter. Brandon Simmons and Gemonta Jackson each added goal-line scores in the second quarter to provide the Monarchs with a 21-3 lead heading into halftime.
Western Kentucky 31 Eastern Kentucky 17 (Bowling Green, Ky.)–D’Andre Ferby ran for two touchdowns and Western Kentucky defeated Eastern Kentucky 31-17 in Mike Sanford’s head coaching debut on Saturday night in the season opener for both teams. Ferby scored on touchdown runs of five and two yards in his return after missing 2016 with a shoulder injury.
The two-time defending Conference USA champion Hilltoppers led 17-0 at halftime and held off a two-score rally in the third quarter from Eastern Kentucky.
Alabama-Birmingham welcomed back its football program after a two year hiatus with a rather easy win over in-state FCS foe Alabama A&M.
UAB 38 Alabama A&M 7 (Birmingham, Ala.)–UAB needed a half to shake off more than 1,000 days of rust before pulling away from Alabama A&M 38-7 on Saturday in the Blazers’ first game following a two-season hiatus.
A.J. Erdely threw two touchdown passes and ran in another as the Blazers (1-0) scored 28 unanswered points in the second half against the FCS Bulldogs (0-1).
School officials shut down the UAB program at the end of the 2014 season for financial reasons, but it was reinstated six months later after a fundraising effort generated what eventually became more than $44 million in contributions. The Blazers then sat out the 2015 and 2016 seasons in order to rebuild their roster.
The Blazers were greeted Saturday by an announced crowd of 45,212, the largest in program history. UAB often played in front of home crowds of less than 10,000 before the temporary shutdown. And there was a true game-day atmosphere outside Legion Field in the hours before kickoff, something the program lacked while going through nine consecutive losing seasons.
Originally from LaMoure, North Dakota, Kent is a 1996 graduate of North Dakota State University. His prior writing experience is over 15 years having previously worked with D2football.com, I-AA.org, and College Sporting News before coming to College Sports Journal in 2016. His main focus is college football in the western half of the United States– the Big Sky Conference and Missouri Valley Football Conference within the Division I FCS. And in 2017, he began also to look at the FBS Group of Five conferences of the American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt.
Originally from LaMoure, North Dakota, Kent is a 1996 graduate of North Dakota State University. His prior writing experience is over 15 years having previously worked with D2football.com, I-AA.org, and College Sporting News before coming to College Sports Journal in 2016. His main focus is college football in the western half of the United States-- the Big Sky Conference and Missouri Valley Football Conference within the Division I FCS. And in 2017, he began also to look at the FBS Group of Five conferences of the American Athletic, Conference USA, Mid-American, Mountain West, and Sun Belt.