2021 Division I FCS Playoff First Round Preview: Stephen F. Austin at Incarnate Word

GAME PREVIEW: #20 Stephen F. Austin vs. #13 Incarnate Word
When: Saturday, November 27 at 2:00 PM CST
Where:  Benson Stadium; San Antonio, Texas
TV/Streaming: ESPN+

Stephen F. Austin finished the regular season at 8-3 behind a stellar performance from wide receiver Xavier Gipson – he caught six passes for 164 yards in the Lumberjacks’ 42-6 win over Lamar in Beaumont. The Lumberjacks led from start to finish, notching 14 points in the opening frame behind a pair of rushing touchdowns from quarterback Trae Self. Self finished 15-of-23 for 262 yards and two touchdowns through the air; he also rushed for three scores. 

Incarnate Word is coming off a statement season, defeating some powerhouse conference opponents to register the most wins in program history. The Cardinals beat Texas State, their first win over an FBS opponent, in a victory that sparked the historic season. UIW went on to defeat then-No. 6 Southeastern Louisiana and Nicholls, who were projected to finish first and second in the Southland Conference. Incarnate Word secured the 2021 Southland Conference title after defeating Houston Baptist 55-14 last Saturday afternoon in Houston. Linebacker Kelechi Anyalebechi broke the UIW program record for most tackles in a single season against HBU – he has 112 tackles in fall 2021. Cameron Ward had another 300-plus yard passing game with 314 yards against the Huskies.

Path to Frisco

The winner of this game will head to Huntsville to face off against No. 1 seed Sam Houston.

SFA Lumberjacks (8-3, 4-1 in WAC)

SFA is one of the more balanced teams in the FCS – offensively the Lumberjacks are scoring 34.8 points per game, which is 14th in the FCS; they’re averaging 427.2 yards per game, which is 23rd in the FCS. Quarterback Trae Self has completed 222-of-346 passes (64% comp. pct.) for 2,958 yards and 25 touchdowns with just seven interceptions. Running back Miles Reed has carried the ball 144 times for 592 yards (4.1 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. Wide receiver Xavier Gipson has 68 receptions for 1,266 yards (18.6 yards per catch) with 14 touchdowns. The Lumberjack defense is stout – they’re only allowing 17.1 points per game, which is 14th in the FCS; they’re giving up 303.3 yards per game, which is 17th in the FCS.

Incarnate Word Cardinals (9-2, 7-1 in SLC) 

Incarnate Word’s offense is hard to stop – they’re scoring 39.6 points per game, which is 4th in the FCS; they’re producing 484.8 yards per game, which is 6th in the FCS. Quarterback Cameron Ward has completed 306-of-475 passes for 3,839 yards and 38 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. Running back Kevin Brown has carried the ball 128 times for 848 yards (6.63 ypc) with 12 touchdowns. Wide receiver Taylor Grimes has caught 68 passes for 923 yards (13.57 ypc) and 11 touchdowns. The Cardinals have struggled defensively – while they’re only allowing 24.82 points per game, which is 42nd in the FCS, they’re giving up 420.5 yards per game, which is 94th in the FCS.

Prediction

The Cardinals win at home before advancing to face Sam Houston in Huntsville on December 4. 

Incarnate Word 31 SFA 30

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