2019 FCS Playoffs, Round 1 Review: CSJ Staff Gives Their Opinions

With the first round of the FCS Playoffs now complete, we give you links to all our recaps and our writers’ impression of the games.

Monmouth 44, Holy Cross 27

FCS 1st Round Playoffs: Monmouth Overwhelms Holy Cross 44-27 For Hawks First-Ever Playoff Victory

Chuck: Monmouth proved they have a balanced offense that can give teams fits and have tons of big-play potential on every play.  James Madison will need to shut down that big-play engine next week or they could be Monmouth’s next victims.

Kent: The Big South winners had an easy time with the Patriot League winners in this game.  That ease will be tested this week in a big way at James Madison.

Jamie: This game went about how I thought it would. Monmouth won easily behind a huge game from Pete Guerriero, the leading rusher in the FCS. It’ll be a huge step up in defensive line play for Monmouth when they travel to Harrisonburg next weekend to face the Dukes.

Ray: Monmouth lost yards on the very first play of the game. It was the only thing that went against the Hawks on a day that ended the way most people thought. The game also put Kenji Bahar and Pete Guerriero on a bigger stage. That two-headed monster will be something JMU has not seen all year and I think Monmouth is primed for the upset of the Dukes.

Courtesy Bill Zizkin/Albany Athletics

Albany 42, Central Connecticut State 14

FCS 1st Round Playoffs: Undercuffler’s Record-Setting Day Lifts Albany Over Central Connecticut State, 42-14

Chuck: I was surprised at the ease in which Albany dispatched the Blue Devils, especially after CCSU gave them a game in the early going.  It is absolutely not out of the question that Albany goes into Bozeman and exposes Montana State and pulls of the upset, but they can’t come up with the same slow start they did last Saturday if they want to do so.

Kent: Albany started slow but turned it on quick from the second quarter on to easily dispatch CCSU.  Albany has a team that could match-up well against Montana State this week in what might be one of the most highly-contested games in Round Two.

Jamie: It took a while, but once Jeff Undercuffler got going, he was unstoppable. Six touchdown passes in a game is impressive, six by a freshman in a playoff game is even more impressive. Albany has the offense to give Montana State a hard time, but I am not sure their defense can keep up with the run game of the Bobcats.

Ray:  I must admit to knowing little about either team heading into the playoffs, but Albany clearly showed itself to be a team with some talent and a team that could give some troubles to Montana State. In looking ahead to this weekend’s round of games, I am looking forward to seeing what kind of success Albany has against the Bobcats and I think it will be one of the two best games, along with Austin Peay at Sacramento State.

Illinois State 24, Southeast Missouri State 6

FCS 1st Round Playoffs: Illinois State Uses James Robinson’s Record Setting Day to Defeat Southeast Missouri State, 24-6

Chuck: Had I known SEMO QB Daniel Santacaterina wasn’t starting and had multiple injuries, I might not have picked SEMO.  Illinois State RB James Robinson can carry a team on his back to a certain degree, and he certainly did this Saturday – the Redhawks had no answer for him.  Central Arkansas could be vulnerable to the same type of brute force attack and tough defense, and it might be enough for the Redbirds to advance.  Illinois State will need something other than Robinson to carry them past North Dakota State, however, if they get there.

Kent: It was the James Robinson show in this game in running for the most postseason yardage in the storied MVFC history.  Now the Redbirds have a chance to avenge the team that put them out of the playoffs last year in Central Arkansas.  I worry a little as being one dimensional will not work for the long haul but still should give UCA a fairly close game with its strong defense.

Jamie: James Robinson put that team on his back today. The Redbirds have a lot of injuries, but they have two things; one of the best running backs in the country and a hell of a strong defense. Their game against Central Arkansas should be a good one.

Ray: It was a showcase for James Robinson, ISU’s Mr. Everything. And while many scoff at the notion of a moral victory, SEMO heads into an offseason with knowledge of just how close the Redhawks are to becoming among the elite in the nation and what needs to be done to climb that ladder.

Northern Iowa’s Brawntae Wells lunges over the goal line after intercepting San Diego quarterback Reid Sinnett, left, in the first quarter of Saturday’s FCS playoff game in the UNI-Dome.

Northern Iowa 17, San Diego 3

FCS 1st Round Playoffs: Defense Key to Northern Iowa Defeating San Diego 17-3

Chuck: Some props need to be given to the Toreros, who have proven time and again to be one of the tougher outs in the early rounds of the FCS playoffs.  San Diego played the Panthers tough and gave themselves a chance to win in Iowa, but UNI’s defense was just a little be stronger.  Looking at the Panthers, this team doesn’t seem equipped for a long run.  However SDSU isn’t the same team pre-NDSU, so UNI could be in position to get some revenge on South Dakota State from their last meeting, a Jackrabbit blowout.  If they enact revenge on SDSU, hard to see them potentially beating JMU the following week.

Kent: I will admit that this game was one if you liked defense.  UNI won with its defense and will likely have to continue that with a very average at best offense.  The Panthers get a rematch with South Dakota State this week and were blown out two weeks ago in Brookings.  I have to believe this playoff result will not too much different.

Jamie: The Panthers locked down on defense, which I thought they would do. But they did struggle on offense a little more than I anticipated, and as usual, UNI got past the first round. Even though they got blown out by the Jackrabbits a couple weeks ago, I expect a much closer game this time around.

Ray: This was much closer than I thought it would be. But, in the end it was defense, a trademark of play in the MVFC that carried the day for the Panthers. 

Austin Peay 42, Furman 6

FCS 1st Round Playoffs: Craig, Austin Peay Roll Past Furman, 42-6

Chuck: I was surprised that the Governors won so resoundingly, but Austin Peay sort-of flew under the radar as they were quietly beating some fairly tough OVC competition at the end of the year.  Sacramento State could be jittery in their first playoff appearance since forever, and I think APSU is ripe to pick them off.  This is a very good team.

Kent:  I will admit I did not think too highly of Austin Peay but they proved me wrong in easily winning this game in a weather delayed game.  The Governors very well could give Sacramento State a run for their money in Round 2.

Jamie: Wow. I did not see that coming. I am not overly surprised that Austin Peay won, even though I picked Furman.  But I was shocked at the ease with which Peay controlled the game. The Governors looked like they had their hand on the throttle all game on both sides of the ball. They are even better than I thought they were. They should give Sacramento State one heck of a game.

Ray: In a way, Austin Peay has been lurking in the shadows all season. Picked to finish fourth in the OVC in the preseason, and with a new coach, the Govs simply went out each week and got the job done with little fanfare. One of the scariest of all foes are the ones who have the attitude that they have nothing to lose … kind of like a chihuahua, those things don’t back down to anybody.

Kennesaw State 28, Wofford 21

FCS 1st Round Playoffs: Backup QB Leads Kennesaw State to Victory over Wofford, 28-21

Chuck: I’m honestly surprised the SoCon is eliminated from the FCS Playoffs, and especially surprised Kennesaw State won with their new legendary hero, QB Jonathan Murphy, beating Wofford at their own game!  The irony of two triple-option teams playing each other is that Weber State has known for two weeks they’ll be facing a triple-option team.  Their tough defense should handle KSU next round with ease because of this.

Kent:  Kennesaw State showed they were really deserving of the at-large playoff bid in winning on the road in this game.  Wofford was in the running for a Top 8 seed by most prognosticators but the Owls won this one with timely offense and a good enough defense.  Now a trip across the country to Utah awaits KSU in Weber State.  The Owls may keep this game closer than experts think.

Jamie: I thought whoever threw the ball more in this game would lose. Wofford wound up throwing 20 passes. The Owls really bottled up the Terrier run game, only allowing 3.1 yards per carry. Full marks to Kennesaw for proving they belong in this tournament. It’s a step up in competition next week at Weber State. I don’t think they get past that test.

Ray: This was THE surprise for me on the weekend. Both teams have clearly relied on running the football all season, but I thought Wofford would prevail, perhaps based largely on my perceived strength of the Southern Conference. I might have to look at that again.

Nicholls 24, North Dakota 6

FCS 1st Round Playoffs: Julien Gums Helps Nicholls Run Past North Dakota, 24-6

Chuck: “Tentgate” aside – some FCS football fans noted that the visiting locker rooms at Nicholls were only tents – I thought North Dakota would struggle outside the comfortable confines of the Alerus Center and outside any dome, so I wasn’t too surprised at the outcome.  Gums and Fourcade won’t find it easy to get the same sort of rhythm offensively in the Fargodome, though, and I am anticipating a blowout.

Kent: Nicholls proved why they won the Southland in dispatching the Fighting Hawks fairly easily.   The Colonels now will have to prove they can perform on the road and the test could not be too much more daunting with the other state of North Dakota team in NDSU awaiting.  The Fargodome crowd and the strong Bison team will most likely mean Nicholls is out in Round 2.

Jamie: This game went pretty much the way I thought it would. Nicholls has a lot of talent and they completely shut down North Dakota.  Their season comes to a halt next week. They aren’t going to the Fargodome and winning.

Ray: As I mentioned in my preview, championship football is reached by being able to win on the road … something UND struggled in doing. The Hawks struggled and we saw what the results were. But, in hindsight, is a trip to Fargo really considered a prize for the Colonels?

Southeastern Louisiana 45. Villanova 44

FCS 1st Round Playoffs: Southeastern Louisiana Outlasts Villanova 45-44 in Playoff Classic

Chuck: The most fun game of the first round in my opinion, a game with a ton of lead changes and a missed XP being the difference.  SLU impressed me – they belonged in the field.  Virgil is a very, very good FCS QB.  I hope they give Montana a run for their money, but I think that the Lion offense might struggle in the cold up there in Missoula.  Personally I’ve found teams after shootouts like this in one round tend to put up duds the following week – I remember in 2011 a Lehigh team beating Towson in an entertaining shootout, then getting shut out in the Fargodome the following week.

Kent: This game was the most competitive game of the first round.  A missed extra point by Villanova was the difference.  Like Kennesaw State, Southeast Louisiana proved it belonged in the Field of 24.  But winning at home in the nice weather of Louisiana will be much different than winning in near freezing temperatures of Montana next week.

Jamie: What more can be said about this game? It was an excellent playoff contest that saw both teams make a run at each other.  Unfortunately, the kicking problems that plagued Villanova all year became their downfall. I know there was the egregious offensive pass interference call on what would have been the go ahead touchdown, but Villanova cant allow 600 yards of offense. Chason Virgil led the Lions to the next round. I don’t see them making it out of Montana with a win, but I don’t think it will be a blowout.

Ray: I thought if any team had a gripe about not getting a seed it was Villanova and that SE Louisiana would feel the brunt of Nova’s frustrations. Scoring more than 30 points should usually bode well for any team, perhaps it was simply a case of home-field advantage the Wildcats were unable to overcome.

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