football-fcs flag | October 4, 2013

Preview: UNI-NDSU tops ranked FCS games

No. 4 UNI at No. 1 North Dakota State, 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday

Two of the top defenses in the FCS will meet when North Dakota State (4-0, 1-0 Missouri Valley Football Conference) plays host to UNI (4-0, 0-0). NDSU leads the nation in scoring defense allowing just 7.8 points per game and UNI is third allowing 11.8 points per game.

North Dakota State has also allowed only one rushing touchdown this season. UNI has also allowed only one rushing touchdown to the opposition this season through four games. NDSU has allowed only four touchdowns all season; UNI has allowed six.

North Dakota State snapped South Dakota State's nine-game home winning streak with a 20-0 win last week. SDSU crossed midfield only twice and was 1 of 12 on third down. The Bison defense registered seven sacks, including two by Grant Olson, who had a team-high eight tackles. South Dakota State's minus-32 yards rushing was the lowest total allowed by North Dakota State in Division I football. The Bison are second in the FCS allowing 67.8 rushing yards per game.

North Dakota State has posted back-to-back shutouts for the first time since 1987. NDSU has held opponents scoreless for nine consecutive quarters and has not allowed a touchdown in 10 quarters.

UNI is coming off a 41-6 win against then-No. 9 McNeese State. The Cowboys went into the game averaging 49.5 points a game. UNI is 77-5 in during head coach Mark Farley’s tenure (2001-present) when holding the opposition to 20 points or less. UNI has won 15 consecutive games when holding the opposition to 20 points or less.

This is the 46th meeting between North Dakota State and UNI. The Panthers have a 25-20 lead in the series but NDSU has won the past two in a row after dropping three in a row.  UNI is 1-1 in the Fargodome with a 42-27 win in 2009 and a 27-19 loss in ‘11.

UNI has won four consecutive road games for the first time since the 2008 season.

No. 18 New Hampshire at No. 2 Towson, noon ET Saturday

Towson (5-0, 1-0 Colonial Athletic Association) puts its nine-game winning streak on the line against New Hampshire (1-2, 0-0).

Towson had scored a grand total of 114 points in the first seven meetings against the Wildcats -- all UNH victories -- between 1980-2010. In the past two years, though, the Tigers have erupted for 120 points in handing the Wildcats back-to-back losses, including last year's home finale for UNH that snapped a 10-game home winning streak.

The Wildcats’ defense has yielded a grand total of 442 rushing yards (147.3 per game) in three games. Towson junior RB Terrance West has totaled 497 rushing yards and six TDs in two career matchups against UNH. West leads the CAA in rushing (129.6 yards/game) and scoring (14.4 points/game) through five games this season.

Towson averages 40.2 points per game, 213.6 yards per game on the ground and 413 yards per game overall.

UNH boasts the CAA's top rushing offense (236.7 yards per game) and total offense (459.0 yards per game). The Wildcats accumulated a season-high 289 rushing yards in a loss at Lehigh last week.

Defensively, Towson leads the CAA, allowing 271.6 yards per game. Defensive end Ryan Delaire tops the league rankings with 6.5 sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss.

No. 17 Northern Arizona at No. 7 Montana State, 4:05 p.m. ET Saturday

Northern Arizona (3-1, 1-0 Big Sky Conference) puts its three-game winning streak on the line when it plays at Montana State (3-2, 1-0 Big Sky), which is celebrating Homecoming. The Bobcats have won the past two meetings.

Northern Arizona is led by running back Zach Bauman. He became the first NAU player to reach the 4,000 career rushing yards mark in last week’s game. Bauman has 396 rushing yards and 504 all-purpose yards so far this season.

Quarterback DeNarius McGhee returned to the lineup for the Bobcats last week after missing two games with a separated shoulder. McGhee has completed 49 of 72 passes for a total of 652 yards.
Cody Kirk is Montana State’s top rusher with 336 yards and 10 TDs, the latter ranking second in the FCS. He scored five touchdowns in a victory last week at North Dakota.

Montana State leads the league in pass defense efficiency (110.3) and interceptions (8). The Bobcats lead the Big Sky in turnover margin at plus-8. They average 3.6 sacks per game, ninth in the FCS and first in the Big Sky.

Montana State has gained at least 20 first downs in all five of the team's games in 2013.

Weber State at No. 8 Eastern Washington, 7:05 p.m. ET

Eastern Washington (2-2) begins defense of its Big Sky Conference title when it plays host to Weber State (1-4, 0-1)). The Eagles are seeking a seventh league championship.

Eastern leads the all-time series against Weber State 17-14, and is just 6-5 in games played in Cheney. Eastern eked out a 27-21 win the last time the two teams met at Roos Field in 2011, but were thumped two years earlier at home by a 31-13 score. Eastern has won the last three meetings, but by just a collective total of 23 points.

In an unannounced and surprise start, Vernon Adams made his first career start last year in EWU’s 32-26 victory at Weber State, and used his arm and his feet to lead the Eagles’ to a 20-3 halftime lead. Adams led Eastern to scores on four of five drives in the first half, including a 75-yard touchdown march on his first drive as an Eagle. He finished the game 7 of 12 for 75 yards, and ran five times for 62 yards, but missed most of the second half with cramping. Of his five rushes, four were for first downs; of his seven completions, four more resulted in EWU first downs.

Adams is ranked in the top four in FCS in five separate categories this week. He is second in points responsible for with an average of 26.0 per game (total of 104 with 15 TD passes, two rushing touchdowns and one 2-point conversion). He is third in passing efficiency (189.9), fourth in passing yards (347.5 per game) and second in total offense (394.8). Adams has been added to the Walter Payton Award watch list.

As a team, EWU is fifth in FCS in total offense (523.8 per game) and fourth in passing (362.3) Defensively, EWU is 101st in total defense (457.5), 98th in rushing (227.0), 70th in passing (230.4) and 95th in scoring (35.5). In addition, the Eagles are the 12th-most efficient team in red zone offense (92.3 scoring percentage), and are 25th in third-down conversions (45.8 percent) and 20th in fourth-down conversions (71.4 percent).

Out of 122 FCS schools, Weber State is 112th in total offense (273.8), 54th in rushing (170.8), 119th in passing (103.0), 121st in passing efficiency (78.25) and 108th in scoring (14.4), and already has 13 turnovers this season. Defensively, the Wildcats are ranked 121st in total defense (549.2), 121st in scoring defense (50.8), 118th in passing defense (234.6), 119th in passing efficiency (170.2) and 101st in rushing (234.6).

Southern Illinois at No. 9 South Dakota State, 3 p.m. ET Saturday

South Dakota State will attempt to end a two-game losing skid as it plays host to Southern Illinois.

Both teams are coming off home losses on the opening weekend of Missouri Valley Football Conference action. The Jackrabbits (3-2) were shut out 20-0 by top-ranked North Dakota State.

Southern Illinois (2-3) dropped a heart-breaking 28-27 decision to Youngstown State.

SDSU is plus-11 in turnover margin this season, forcing five lost fumbles and intercepting 10 passes.

Junior quarterback Austin Sumner enters Saturday’s game 135 yards away from setting the Jackrabbit career passing record currently held by Ryan Berry (2005-08) with 6,023 yards.

The Salukis have lost by a combined 12 points in their three setbacks this season.

The Saluki offense has been spearheaded this season by senior quarterback Kory Faulkner, who leads the MVFC in total offense with 289.6 yards per game. Faulkner has thrown for 1,297 yards and 14 touchdowns this season, while rushing for another 151 yards. He is completing 60.5 percent of his passes and has thrown only two interceptions.

The Saluki defense has been stout against the run this season, allowing averages of only 93.2 yards per game and 2.9 yards per carry.

Saturday’s game marks the sixth matchup in football between South Dakota State and Southern Illinois, a series that dates to when the Jackrabbits joined the MVFC in 2008. SDSU took a 3-2 series lead after recording a thrilling 16-12 come-from-behind victory last season, their third consecutive win in the series.

No. 10 Lehigh at No. 13 Fordham, noon ET Saturday

Lehigh heads to the Bronx to face its second nationally ranked opponent in as many weeks as the Mountain Hawks visit Fordham in a nationally televised (CBS Sports Network) battle of undefeated Patriot League teams.

The Mountain Hawks moved to 4-0 with a 34-27 win against New Hampshire last week. Quarterback Brandon Bialkowski had a stellar day, throwing for 359 yards and two touchdowns as Lehigh rallied from a 16-point second-quarter deficit to beat UNH for the first time since 1982.

For the season, Bialkowski has completed 65 percent of his passes for 1,530 yards, 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. He is ranked in the top five in the FCS in passing yards (total and per game), total offense and completions per game. Bialkowski has thrown for 300-plus yards in all four games this season, the longest streak for a Lehigh quarterback since Chris Lum eclipsed the 300 yard mark in the first seven games in 2011.

In its past two wins, Lehigh's offense has relied less on the big play and more on long sustained drives. The Mountain Hawks have had 11 scoring drives in their past two games with those drives having consisted of an average of 11.3 plays.

Fordham has won its first five games this season, highlighted by victories against Villanova and FBS member Temple. Rams running back Carlton Koonce, named to the Walter Payton Award watch list, currently leads the Patriot League and is 11th in the FCS in rushing with 125.0 yards per game.

Fordham quarterback Mike Nebrich has completed 129 of 175 passes on the season for 1,377 yards and 12 touchdowns, including 31 of 41 for 253 yards and three scores in a 30-28 win at Saint Francis (Pa.) last week.

Lehigh has played Fordham 25 previous times with the Mountain Hawks winning 23 of those meetings. Lehigh has won the past five meetings, including a last second 34-31 win last year.

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