football-fcs flag | November 23, 2013

Notes: Selections loom Sunday

North Dakota State football

The 2013 FCS Selection Show will take place this Sunday at 11:30 a.m. (ET) on ESPNU. The 24-team bracket will be announced. You can learn more about the selection process by visiting our special FCS 101 page.

The institutions that have already earned their conference’s automatic berth are:

Eastern Washington -- Big Sky Conference
Maine -- Colonial Athletic Association
North Dakota State -- Missouri Valley Football Conference
Sacred Heart -- Northeast Conference
Eastern Illinois -- Ohio Valley Conference
Butler -- Pioneer Football League
Southeastern Louisiana -- Southland Conference

Teams prove their mettle

There are now 15 FCS wins against FBS schools this year, surpassing the previous record of 13 (set in 2000). Six of those 15 victories include wins vs. teams from BCS conferences.

Quarterback Brock Jensen of North Dakota State has won 43 games at NDSU. He’s now tied with former Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards, who won an FCS-record 43 games as APSU’s QB (2006-09).

Key battles

Lafayette and Lehigh will play their landmark 150th meeting at Yankee Stadium in 2014, but it turns out the 149th matchup on Saturday cannot be overlooked as the squads face off for the Patriot League title and FCS playoff berth. It is the first time since 2006 when the league title is at stake in their matchup.

No. 2 Eastern Illinois at UT Martin2 p.m.
No. 4 Maine at No. 24 New HampshireNoon
No. 6 Montana at No. 13 Montana State2:05 p.m.
No. 12 Northern Arizona at No. 22 Southern Utah3:05 p.m.
Liberty at No. 16 Charleston Southern11 a.m.
No. 17 South Dakota State at No. 18 Youngstown State2 p.m.
No. 21 Chattanooga at Alabama2 p.m.

It’s ironic that the most-played rivalry in college football will be decided by two quarterbacks who were still in high school at this time last year. Lafayette’s Drew Reed and Lehigh’s Nick Shanfisky are members of the first class of scholarship athletes in the Patriot League, and have been put into the spotlight in the infancy of their careers.

Reed has sparkled in his four games as the starter and has 1,303 passing yards and 14 touchdowns for the year, while Shafnisky became Lehigh’s first freshman starting quarterback since 1996 on Saturday at Colgate and has 379 total yards and five total touchdowns this season.

Bethune-Cookman and Florida A&M will compete in the annual Florida Classic on Saturday, the game is televised live on ESPN Classic and streamed on ESPN3.

• "The Game” -- the annual showdown between Harvard and Yale -- has been responsible for a number of originals: the first on-sides kick (1881 by Yale), the flying wedge (1892 by Harvard), the first game at the Yale Bowl (1914), the first crowd at an American sporting event with 80,000+ spectators (1920 at the Yale Bowl) and the first three-overtime game in league history (2005).

Jackson State and Southern will meet in the SWAC Football Championship Game for the second time  on Dec. 7 at Reliant Stadium in Houston. Both teams played in the first SWAC Football Championship Game on Dec. 11, 1999. SU defeated JSU 31-30 in Birmingham, Ala. at Legion Field. To date, it has drawn the largest crowd in SWAC title-game history (47,621).

FCS numbers 

Eastern Washington’s freshman WR Cooper Kupp has tied the FCS record for consecutive games with a touchdown catch with 11. Last week, Kupp broke the single-season record for receiving yards by a freshman in the FCS. He enters the final week of the regular season with 68 catches for 1,231 yards and 16 TDs. EWU’s quarterback Vernon Adams enters the Portland State game with 41 TDs, one shy of the Big Sky regular-season record.

Southern Utah has matched the school record for victories in a season with eight. The Thunderbirds enter Saturday’s home game against Northern Arizona with a record of 8-3. Southern Utah last won eight games in a season in 1999. The Thunderbirds are seeking their first trip to the FCS playoffs.

Gardner-Webb defensive lineman Shaquille Riddick has set the Big South single-season record with 8.5 sacks while his 19.0 TFL are third-most in a season in Big South history.  He has been part of a defense that has recorded a league-record three wins against nationally-ranked opponents this season.

Coastal Carolina running back Lorenzo Taliaferro has set the Big South single-season record for most points (144), most touchdowns (24) and most rushing touchdowns (23). His league-leading 1,466 rushing yards are fourth-most in a season in Big South history.

Maine senior Marcus Wasilewski has not thrown an interception in six games, going 124-for-170 with 14 touchdowns in that stretch to lead the Black Bears to the conference title last week.

Princeton is looking to hoist the Class of 1925 trophy for the first time since 2006 and record its first perfect mark in Ancient Eight play since 1964. To force a co-championship, Harvard needs a win against Yale and a Princeton loss. Incidentally, Princeton head coach Bob Surace is the second to win an Ivy League title as a player and head coach. Dartmouth’s Buddy Teevens is the other, winning as player in 1978 and as coach in 1990 and '91.

Albany (N.Y.) head coach Bob Ford will coach his final game Saturday against former player and assistant Chuck Priore of Stony Brook.

Sacred Heart is responsible for the top turnaround in FCS this season, second-year coach Mark Nofri is a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Coach of the Year Award as a result. After a 2-9 record in 2012, Sacred Heart posted a 10-2 mark and secured the program’s first FCS playoff berth in 2013. Despite having to start a rookie quarterback and being picked for last, Nofri guided the Pioneers to their first NEC title since 2001. That freshman quarterback, RJ Noel, has been responsible for 30 touchdowns (23 pass, 7 rush) this season, while only committing 10 turnovers (7 INT, 3 fumbles). Noel has not been sacked in any of his past four games and hasn’t lost a fumble in six weeks. Sacred Heart owns a +22 turnover margin this year.

• Running back Martin Ruiz of Youngstown State became just the fourth freshman in Missouri Valley Football Conference history to rush for 1,000 yards.  He holds YSU freshman records for carries, yards, and touchdowns. The Penguins host South Dakota State on Saturday.

South Dakota State leads the MVFC with a +13 turnover differential, and the Jackrabbits have caused 26 miscues this year.

North Dakota State became just the third team in league history to claim three consecutive titles (joining UNI, which had seven in a row from 1990-96; and Southern Illinois, 2003-05).

Eastern Illinois running back Shepard Little became the first player in the Ohio Valley Conference to throw, pass and run for a touchdown in a single game since 2011 on Saturday. Little took it a step further, however, doing all three things in the first quarter of Eastern Illinois’ 52-14 victory against Jacksonville State. Little finished the day with 264 all-purpose yards (245 rush, 19 receiving) and four total touchdowns (two rush, one pass, one receiving) as the Panthers won the OVC championship. EIU scored a school record 35 points in the first quarter of that victory.

• Butler has clinched a share of its second consecutive PFL title and earned the automatic qualifier from the league. It was the Bulldogs fourth title all-time, including a share of the 2012 crown. Butler opened the PFL season with four consecutive wins and concluded the season with three consecutive wins.

Marist wrapped up its 2013 campaign with five consecutive wins and that was enough to help it claim a share of its first PFL title. The Red Foxes earned their first championship in their fifth season as a member of the PFL.

Furman and Samford can each earn a share of the Southern Conference title with wins on Saturday. Furman hosts Wofford, while Elon visits Samford.

• Fifteen of the Southern Conference’s 33 games have been decided by one possession or have gone into overtime.

• Both Southeastern Louisiana and McNeese State have a chance to finish the regular season with 10 wins. The Southland Conference has never had two teams reach 10 wins before the start of postseason play. The league had multiple double-digit winners in 1988 and '95, but in both seasons, one or both teams needed the postseason to get there.

• The Southland Conference has three teams ranked in the top 10 of this week’s FCS polls. McNeese State, Sam Houston State and Southeastern Louisiana carry top-10 rankings, marking a first for the conference since the final poll of the 1988 season when Northwestern State (No. 8), Stephen F. Austin (No. 9) and North Texas (No. 10) all appeared in the top 10.

Towson junior Terrance West is the first Tiger to rush for more than 4,000 career yards and has done so in just 32 career games.

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