Early-season FCS Roundup

While the North Dakota State Bison football team enjoyed an unseasonably early bye week, action across the FCS continued to get underway. Even in just two weeks of play, the subdivision has seen major upsets, upheaval in the rankings and sensational individual performances. We round up the top headlines from the early-season action.

Six FCS teams pull off FBS upsets; three come close

UC Davis is seeking their first winning season since the 2010 campaign. The Aggies kicked off that quest in triumphant fashion, traveling two hours south and downing San Jose State 44-38. Tied at 14 at the end of the first quarter, UCD never looked back, scoring three touchdowns in the second quarter. Gunslinging junior Jake Maier threw for 446 yards and tossed three touchdowns while running back Ulonzo Gilliam rushed for 132 yards and two scores.

Villanova ranked ninth in the nation a year ago in scoring defense. Against Temple, they told the FCS to expect more of the same, defeating the Owls 19-17. The play of the game came when signal caller Zach Bednarczyk connected for a 30-yard score on fourth-and-9 in the fourth quarter. Two missed extra points nearly cost the Wildcats, but ‘Nova earned Philadelphia bragging rights for the third time since 2003.

Perhaps the best win for the FCS came when Nicholls State triumphed over Kansas 26-23 in overtime. The Colonels forced overtime when Lorran Fonseca drilled a 43-yard field goal to tie the score at 20 with 47 seconds remaining in the contest. Kansas received the first possession of the extra frame, settling for a field goal. Quarterback Chase Fourcade scored from four yards out to give the Colonels their first ever win against a Power Five opponent.

After upsetting Jacksonville State in their first game, North Carolina A&T set their sights on a second upset win. The Aggies, undefeated in 2017, downed East Carolina 28-23 thanks to two fourth quarter touchdowns. NC A&T trailed at halftime, but limited the Pirates in the second half to take the lead.

Northern Arizona bossed listless UT El Paso en route to a 30-10 victory. The Lumberjacks sacked UTEP five times and played stingy defense throughout to seal the victory.

A blocked field goal sealed Maine’s 31-28 victory over Western Kentucky to give the FCS its sixth win over FBS competition.

Samford, South Dakota, Southeastern Louisiana and Southern Illinois all took leads into the locker room against FBS foes, but failed to complete the upset. Kennesaw State, USD and SLU both came within one score of victories.

Big-time wins shuffle rankings

Neither Maine nor Rhode Island found themselves in the preseason top 25 in the Coaches Poll. Both squads, however, threw the Colonial Athletic Association into early chaos, pulling off huge upsets. Rhode Island narrowly edged previously No. 16 Delaware by a score of 21-19. The Blue Hens put up 351 yards of offense, but lost three fumbles and threw an interception, allowing URI to steal a road victory.

A 22-point outburst in the second quarter set Maine off to the races against preseason No. 9 New Hampshire. UNH managed one touchdown in the final frame, unable to catch the Black Bears in a 35-7 road loss.

Delaware fell out of the top 25, while New Hampshire dropped 13 spots in the rankings. Delaware comes to Fargo on Sept. 22.

NC A&T’s triumph over Jacksonville State lifted them to a well-deserved top-10 ranking, while the Gamecocks fell to No. 12.

Non-scholarship Butler shook the Missouri Valley by knocking off Youngstown State in week one. The Bulldogs scored a touchdown to draw within one, but failed to take the lead on a two-point conversion. With only 80 seconds remaining, Butler lined up for a desperate onside kick, which they recovered. YSU allowed Butler into field goal range, and the Bulldogs nailed a 44-yarder for the win. The loss dropped the Penguins out of the top 25.

Trevor Knight suffers shoulder injury

Not only did New Hampshire lose their season opener, they also lost their starting quarterback to a shoulder injury. Senior Trevor Knight missed the Wildcats’ tilt with Colgate this past Saturday, and head coach Sean McDonnell intimated his starter might miss more than that with an AC sprain.

Knight had completed 3 of 8 passes before exiting because of injury. In 2017, the New Hampshirite threw for 3,433 yards and 26 scores.

In Knight’s absence, UNH looked feckless against Colgate. The Wildcats managed only three points against the Patriot League’s second place finishers from a year ago, falling 10-3.

Lopez, North Alabama come out with a bang

Making the move from Division II to the FCS, North Alabama faced challenging road contests right off the bat. The Lions traveled roughly 2,000 miles to Cedar City, Utah to square off with Southern Utah, the reigning Big Sky champions. UNA opened their FCS-era with a thrilling 34-30 triumph over the Thunderbirds. A nine-play, 75-yard drive in the fourth quarter was capped by a touchdown pass to erase a three-point deficit and give the Lions the lead.

A transfer from junior college, quarterback Christian Lopez broke out in UNA’s opener. Lopez threw for 350 yards, rushed for 105 more and accounted for four touchdowns in the massive win.

Week two provided more of the same for the Lions. UNA picked up another victory, this time against in-state rival Alabama A&M, edging the Bulldogs 25-20. The Lions will face the Bison in Fargo this Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

Simmons sparks ‘Yotes in early going

South Dakota entered 2018 unranked, largely due to the departure of star Chris Streveler. That will change this Monday thanks to up-and-coming star Austin Simmons. The Council Bluffs, Iowa man nearly steered the Coyotes to a Big 12 win against Kansas State, falling 27-24.

Though his performance against K-State was less-than-stellar, Simmons rebounded at home against Northern Colorado. The junior exploded for 542 all-purpose yards against the Bears, spearheading a 43-28 win. He threw for four scores and ran one in himself, a performance which ought to launch USD into the thick of the Coaches Poll.

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