While North Dakota State enjoyed a bye week, eight of the Missouri Valley Football Conference’s nine other teams were in action, with the exception being Western Illinois University. Through the first month’s games, the MVFC appears to be a top conference again, with seven teams ranked in the FCS Coaches’ Poll Top 25.
No. 23 South Dakota (3-0)
The upstart Coyotes have opened the season on a tear. After thumping Drake University 77-7 in their season opener, the Coyotes followed up with a 35-27 victory over Bowling Green State University of the FBS.
This past weekend, USD knocked off the No. 11 ranked University of North Dakota Fighting Hawks 45-7 in a statement win.
Quarterback Chris Streveler has led what has proven to be an explosive offensive unit. The senior, who transferred from the University of Minnesota following the 2015 season, has emerged as one of the FCS’s top signal callers.
Streveler has posted a 67.1 completion percentage, 840 yards passing and seven touchdowns through the air. The dual-threat quarterback is also the leading rusher for the Coyotes with 254 yards rushing and six rushing touchdowns.
No. 4 South Dakota State (3-0)
A team with national title aspirations, the Jackrabbits have opened up to a dream start, defeating Drake 51-10, Duquesne 51-13 and Montana State 31-27.
Run-and-gun signal caller Taryn Christion has teamed up with NFL caliber prospects Jake Wieneke and Dallas Goedert to form a three-pronged attack for SDSU.
While the prolific Jackrabbits offense has put up gaudy numbers so far, their competition will increase dramatically when conference play begins. An opening clash with Youngstown State will go a long way in determining their fate in the Missouri Valley.
No. 14 Illinois State (2-0)
The Redbirds have opened what hopes to be a bounce back season with two wins. Illinois State beat Butler 45-0 and defeated Eastern Illinois 44-13.
ISU has utilized a revolving door of running backs, primarily featuring sophomore Markel Smith. Smith has electrified the Redbirds offense, averaging 7.8 yards per carry and recording two rushing touchdowns.
No. 22 Western Illinois (2-0)
The Leathernecks opened their season with two victories, topping Tennessee Tech 41-14 in their home opener and Northern Arizona University 38-20.
The Leathernecks will face Coastal Carolina University next week before beginning conference play.
WIU’s offense has not missed a beat since losing wide receiver Lance Lenoir, who presently resides on the Dallas Cowboys’ practice squad.
Running back Max Norris showcased his abilities as playmaker for the Leathernecks. The 5-foot-10-inch sophomore has averaged 118 yards per game and has found the end zone once.
Quarterback Sean McGuire played a great game against NAU, going 20 for 26 with 215 yards and a passing touchdown.
The true test of WIU’s improvement will come when conference play begins. The Leathernecks began 2016 3-0, but tumbled down the stretch, going 3-5 in conference play.
Southern Illinois (2-0)
Head coach Nick Hill laid the foundation for a new offense when he took his position in 2016. This year, Hill’s vision is coming to fruition.
The Salukis beat Mississippi Valley State University 55-3 in their first game and defeated Southeast Missouri 35-17 this past weekend.
Southern Illinois will face Memphis University of the FBS next Saturday.
On defensive, freshman Anthony Knighton leads a young and talented defensive line with three sacks. The standout defensive end has also contributed five tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
No. 5 Youngstown State (2-1)
The Penguins set a program record this weekend, scoring eight rushing touchdowns in their dominant 59-9 win over Central Connecticut State University.
The Penguins nearly managed to pull an upset against University of Pittsburgh in their first game, but fell short 28-21.
The loss was followed by a 30-0 shutout victory of Robert Morris in the following week.
YSU has seen a change at quarterback, as Nathan Mays has been forced into action to fill in for the injured Hunter Wells. Wells suffered a shoulder injury in the victory over Robert Morris. Mays, a native of Urbana, Ohio, has rushed for 161 yards and three scores, becoming a dynamic addition to the Penguins’ attack.
YSU’s pass rush, which lost stars Avery Moss and Derek Rivers to the New York Giants and New England Patriots, has not skipped a beat. The Penguins have given opposing offensive coordinators headaches with 10 sacks, 15 quarterback hurries and 17 tackles for loss.
No. 18 Northern Iowa (1-2)
Another team looking to rebound from a disappointing 2016, the Panthers began their season with a challenging non-conference schedule. UNI beat Cal Poly 45-38 in overtime, but lost to both Iowa State and Southern Utah.
Quarterback Eli Dunne is relying on senior wide receiver Daurice Fountain to be his primary target this season. Fountain has found the end zone three times and piled up 243 yards.
Fountain will be leaned upon, especially if the running game cannot pick up the slack. In three games, UNI has averaged 66.3 rushing yards per game and just one touchdown.
Missouri State (1-2)
Missouri State opened their season with a moral victory.
The Bears lost to Mizzou 72-43, but the 43 points were a program record against an FBS opponent.
MSU brimmed with potential, but then were given a dose of reality, losing to UND in the following week. After being named MVFC newcomer of the week for his performance against Mizzou, QB Peyton Huslig was abysmal against UND.
Huslig threw for 353 yards, 2 touchdowns and completed 68.6 percent of his passes against Mizzou, but managed only 132 yards and a completion percentage just north of 50 percent against the Fighting Hawks. Huslig rebounded against Murray State, but still threw two picks. Huslig will need to cut down on his interceptions to continue his progression.