football-fcs flag | September 27, 2013

Top 10 Preview

No. 1 North Dakota State at No. 6 South Dakota State, 3 p.m. ET Saturday

Missouri Valley Football Conference play opens this week and the Dakota Marker will be on the line when No. 1 North Dakota State (3-0) travels to No. 6-ranked South Dakota State (3-1). The Jackrabbits have won nine consecutive home games since NDSU's 38-14 win there in October 2011.

North Dakota State has won four in a row to take a 55-40-5 lead in the all-time series but South Dakota State has a 27-22-2 edge at home. This is the 10th meeting for the Dakota Marker, which was introduced as the traveling trophy in 2004 when the teams moved to Division I.  NDSU has a 5-4 edge in Dakota Marker games. Last year's second round playoff game did not count.

Quarterback Brock Jensen broke the NDSU career record for pass completions last Saturday against Delaware State. He passed Steve Walker (535 completions from 2004-07) and is now the school's all-time leader in completions (538) and attempts (868). Jensen also passed Walker for second place in total offense (7,152), just 90 yards shy of record-holder Kevin Feeney (7,242 yards from 1995-98).

SDSU is plus-10 in turnover margin this season, forcing five lost fumbles and intercepting nine passes.The Jackrabbits had not turned the ball over offensively until committing three miscues last week at Nebraska.

Quarterback Austin Sumner enters Saturday’s game 291 yards away from setting the Jackrabbit career passing record currently held by Ryan Berry (6,023 yards from 2005-08).

No. 2 Towson at No. 23 Stony Brook, 6 p.m. ET Saturday

Seeking its ninth consecutive victory, Towson will open its Colonial Athletic Association schedule at Stony Brook. The Tigers have won or shared the past two CAA championships.

Stony Brook is a first-year member of CAA football. Last season, the Seawolves posted a 10-3 record and earned an at-large bid to the FCS playoffs. Stony Brook has a 1-2 record this season, including a 1-1 CAA mark.

With a 4-0 record, the Tigers have the second-longest winning streak in the FCS. They are playing their fourth road game this season.

The Tigers come into the game with one of the top defenses in the FCS. The Tigers are ranked fourth in the nation, allowing only 12.3 points per game. The Tigers have been very tough against the run, allowing only 53.0 yards per game. That mark places the Tigers third in the nation. Towson has not allowed a rushing touchdown this season. With 17 sacks in four games, Towson is fourth nationally.

Stony Brook has been outscored by its opponents 35-7 in the second and third quarters combined through the first three games of the season. The Seawolves also have not scored in the first half in the past two games.

Stony Brook, playing its first home game of the season, is an experienced team loaded with FBS transfers. However, one of the their top transfers, running back Marcus Coker from Iowa, is out due to a knee injury. Coker rushed for 193 yards in the first two games and 1,211 yards in his career with Stony Brook. Cincinnati transfer Jameel Poteat has 267 career rushing yards.

Towson running back Terrance West has 498 yards rushing with 11 touchdowns.

No. 3 Eastern Washington at No. 4 Sam Houston State, 3 p.m. ET Saturday

The Eastern Washington-Sam Houston State game is a rematch of last year’s 45-42 loss in the semifinals of the FCS playoffs, when the Eagles scored 42 second-half points to rally from a 35-0 deficit before falling a field goal short.

Sam Houston State running back Timothy Flanders, who last week became the Southland Conference’s all-time leading rusher, had the second-best performance of his career when he rushed for 231 yards in the Bearkats’ playoff victory against Eastern Washington.

The Bearkats are currently 3-1 this season and are the top-scoring team in the FCS with an average of 52.3 points per game. Eastern Washington (2-1) is fourth in the FCS in total offense (533.0 yards per game) and fourth in passing (364.7).

Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams in ranked in the top four in the FCS in four separate categories: He is second in points responsible for with an average of 28.7 per game (total of 86 with 12 TD passes, two rushing touchdowns and one 2-point conversion);  fourth in passing efficiency (192.1); fourth in passing yards (345.0 per game);  and second in total offense (396.3).

With both the Eagles and Bearkats ranked in the top four in the FCS, Eastern Washington has never had a bigger non-conference matchup.

No. 9 McNeese State at No. 5 UNI, 5 p.m. ET Saturday

It’s been 14 years since McNeese State (4-0) and UNI (3-0) last played but they are set to renew an 11-game acquaintance in a top-10 matchup. UNI holds a 7-4 advantage in the series.

The last time there was a top-10 battle in the UNI-Dome was in 2009 when No. 2 UNI faced off against No. 5 Southern Illinois. UNI is the highest ranked opponent McNeese has faced since losing to No. 5 Stephen F. Austin in 2010.

UNI’s Sawyer Kollmorgen ranks No. 2 in the nation among active FCS career leaders in passing efficiency. Kollmorgen has an efficiency rating of 146.83 and trails only Mason Mills (San Diego) at 147.95. David Johnson ranks No. 3 in the nation among active FCS career leaders in touchdowns scored with 36. Johnson also ranks No. 3 in the nation this year among FCS rushers at 154.3 yards per game. Collin Albrecht ranks No. 3 in nation this year among FCS quarterback sacks at 1.7 sacks per game. Jake Farley ranks No. 5 in the nation this season among FCS tacklers at 12.3 tackles per game.

UNI ranks No. 3 in the nation in quarterback sacks with a 4.67 per game average. UNI’s defense also ranks as the third-best team in the nation in third-down conversion defense. UNI is allowing only 23.8 percent of third downs to be converted into first downs. UNI hasn’t started 4-0 since the 2007 season.

The Cowboys are ranked second in the nation in points scored (49.5) and seventh in total offense (510.0). The 198 points scored is the most in school history through the first four games. They have scored 40 or more points in four consecutive games for the first time in school history. McNeese’s offense has scored on 31 of its 50 possessions this season (62 percent).

McNeese State QB Cody Stroud has thrown a TD pass in nine consecutive games. He is one of just three quarterbacks in the Southland Conference with more than 1,000 yards passing (third with 1,013) and is tied for second with 10 TD tosses.

T-7 New Hampshire at No. 17 Lehigh, 12:30 p.m. ET Saturday

What does New Hampshire-Lehigh have in store after last year’s 48-41 overtime thriller won by the Wildcats? New Hampshire leads the all-time series 11-2, including nine consecutive wins. Lehigh’s last win against the Wildcats came during the 1982 season.

Lehigh is a 3-0 after rallying from a 22-3 halftime deficit to defeat Princeton 29-28 on the road last week. Lehigh’s three wins have been by a combined 11 points. The largest margin of victory was the 51-44 double overtime win vs. Central Connecticut State in which Lehigh erased a 20-point fourth quarter deficit. The Mountain Hawks rank second in the nation in passing offense (398.7 yards per game) and sixth in total offense (524.7 yards).

Quarterback Brandon Bialkowski completed a Lehigh single-game record 42 passes (on 57 attempts) for 430 yards and two touchdowns at Princeton to garner the Patriot League Offensive Player of the Week award. The 430-yard effort ranks sixth in program history. For the season, Bialkowski is 84 of 125 for 1,171 yards, nine TDs and four interceptions for a 163.25 pass efficiency. Wide receiver Lee Kurfis leads the FCS in receiving yards per game (195.0) and ranks second in both receptions per game (10) and receiving yards (585).

The Wildcats (1-1) have raced out of the gate in both games this season, outscoring their opponents 53-6 in the first half. UNH shut out Central Michigan of the FBS in the season opener and has yet to yield a second-quarter point in 2013.

T-7 Montana at No. 22 Northern Arizona, 9 p.m. ET Saturday

Montana and Northern Arizona open Big Sky Conference action in the 46th meeting between the two schools. Montana has won 23 of the past 25 games, including 14 in a row before Northern Arizona won 41-31 last season.

Montana (3-0) leads the league in scoring offense (44.0 points per game) and scoring defense (12.3). The Grizzlies are balanced on offense, having passed for 755 yards and rushing for 741 yards. Jordan Johnson has been the main quarterback for Montana, completing 37 of 48 passes with eight TDs and no interceptions.

Northern Arizona (2-1) has one of the top running backs in Big Sky history in 5-10, 200-pound senior Zach Bauman, who rushed for 253 yards the Lumberjacks’ victory against Montana last year. So far this season he has 61 carries for 278 yards and a TD, and leads the Lumberjacks with 12 receptions.

Northern Arizona has a veteran defense with eight senior starters, led by linebacker Austin Hasquet with 18 tackles and safety Luck Dozier and end Steven Garcia with 16 stops each. Cornerback Anders Battle is coming off Big Sky Defensive Player of the Week honors. He had a 49-yard INT return for a touchdown to go along with three tackles and three pass breakups.

No 10. Montana State at North Dakota, 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday

North Dakota’s entry in the Big Sky Conference last year has renewed a longstanding series between the Green and White and Montana State. The Bobcats lead the all-time series 16-13-1, but North Dakota holds a 7-6-1 edge at home.

Montana State (2-2) is the third consecutive top-25 opponent for North Dakota (1-2), which has yet to play a road game this season.

Greg Hardin started the season trailing former North Dakota standout Weston Dressler by 489 yards for the school’s all-time regular season receiving yardage record. After three games with 17 catches for 416 yards, Hardin has shrunk that deficit to just 73 yards. He is averaging 138.6 receiving yards per game, which ranks fourth in the FCS and first in the Big Sky. Hardin has added three touchdown receptions, as well, to bring his career total in that category to 29. Dressler holds that all-time record, too, at 35.

Redshirt freshman quarterbacks Ryan Bartels and Joe Mollberg share reps under center for North Dakato. With 614 passing yards so far, Mollberg ranks fourth among FCS freshmen in that category. Bartels has thrown for 390 yards in his three contests, completing 23 of 36 passes. Both quarterbacks are completing 63 percent of their passes and have combined for six TD passes.

Quarterback Jake Bleskin is only the second Bobcat to throw for 300 yards in his first two career starts. Brother Tanner Bleskin set a Montana State career receiving record when his 2,268 career yards jumped him past Chip Hobbs and Elvis Akpla.

Bobcats defensive end Brad Daly leads the FCS with eight sacks. Montana State is tied for the Big Sky lead with nine takeaways.

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