football-fcs flag | December 5, 2013

FCS Notes: Payton Award names finalists

Eastern Illinois' Jimmy Garoppolo

• There were 16 FCS wins against FBS schools this year, surpassing the previous record of 13 (set in 2000). Seven of those victories included wins vs. teams from BCS conferences.

• QB Vernon Adams of Eastern Washington, QB Jimmy Garoppolo of Eastern Illinois and RB Terrance West of Towson have been invited to the announcement of the 27th Walter Payton Award. The winner will be announced at The Sports Network’s FCS Awards Banquet and Presentation on Dec. 16 in Philadelphia.

• The Toyota SWAC Football Championship pits Jackson State (8-3) against Southern (8-4) at 2 p.m. Saturday (ESPNU).

Second-round FCS playoff games (Saturday)
• Fordham (12-1) at Towson (10-2) at Towson, Md., 1 p.m. ET (ESPN3/GamePlan) 
• Coastal Carolina (11-2) at Montana (10-2) at Missoula, Mont., 2 p.m. ET (ESPN3/GamePlan)
• New Hampshire (8-4) at Maine (10-2) at Orono, Maine, 2 p.m. ET (ESPN3/GamePlan)
• Tennessee State (10-3) at Eastern Illinois (11-1) at Charleston, Ill., 2 p.m. ET (ESPN3/GamePlan)
• Furman (8-5) at North Dakota State (11-0) at Fargo, N.D., 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN3/GamePlan)
• South Dakota State (9-4) at Eastern Washington (10-2) at Cheney, Wash., 4 p.m. ET (ESPN3/GamePlan)
• Jacksonville State (10-3) at McNeese State (10-2) at Lake Charles, La., 7 p.m. ET (ESPN3/GamePlan)
• Sam Houston State (9-4) at Southeastern Louisiana (10-2) at Hammond, La., 8 p.m. ET (ESPN3/GamePlan)

Conference tidbits
Big Sky
• Northern Arizona’s Zach Bauman closed his illustrious career with his 25th 100-yard rushing game, gaining 101 in the playoff loss to South Dakota State. He scored the only TD and in the process became the school’s all-time leading scorer with 310 points. A three-time First-Team All-Big Sky selection, Bauman finished his career with 5,132 career rushing yards -- third-best in Big Sky history. The Walter Payton Award candidate also amassed 6,316 all-purpose yards in his career, which ranks sixth all time in conference history.

• No. 3 seed Eastern Washington is 5-1 in home playoff games on the red turf, installed in 2010. The Eagles are 21-3 all-time at “The Inferno.”  No. 8 seed Montana hasn’t lost a home playoff game since 2007, and Montana is 27-6 all time in playoff games at home. Five of those losses, however, have come in the Round of 16.

Big South
• The Big South has now advanced to the second round of the FCS playoffs for the third consecutive year to move to 4-5 all time in the postseason. Three of those wins were against ranked teams, and the Big South is now 5-7 all time against ranked non-conference foes -- including 2-0 this season.

• Coastal Carolina, which is the second Big South member with two playoff victories, is the Big South’s first 11-win program. The Chanticleers are also the first team in league history to play 14 games in a season.

Colonial Athletic Association
• CAA Football joins the Ohio Valley and Southland as the only conferences to have three teams remaining in the 16-team second-round playoff field.

• Towson plays host to Fordham in a battle between two top-10 teams that both defeated FBS opponents this season (Tigers vs. Connecicut, Rams vs. Temple).

• Maine will host its first FCS playoff game when it welcomes a New Hampshire team that has won seven of its past eight games and 10 of 11 against the Black Bears.

Ivy League
• Princeton QB Quinn Epperly and DL Caraun Reid, Harvard DL Zach Hodges and Brown TB John Spooney were named the finalists for the 2013 Asa S. Bushnell Cup, which honors the Ivy League players of the year. Epperly and Spooney are finalists for offensive player of the year, while Hodges and Reid are finalists for defensive player of the year. The Bushnell Cup recipients will be unveiled at a special reception and press conference at the famed Waldorf-Astoria Hotel in New York City on Dec. 9.

All four finalists were named first-team All-Ivy last week. Reid garnered his third consecutive first-team nod, while Hodges was voted to the first team for a second consecutive year and Epperly and Spooney earned spots on the first team for the first time.

Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference
• North Carolina A&T’s Tarik Cohen led the MEAC in rushing, averaging 104.4 yards per game on 195 attempts with eight touchdowns. He earned the conference’s offensive player of the week accolades three times and rookie of the week honors twice this season. A native of Bunn, N.C., Cohen became the first freshman in North Carolina A&T history to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season.

• For the first time since 2010, two MEAC schools represented the conference in the FCS playoffs as Bethune-Cookman and South Carolina State played in this year’s 24-team tournament.  In the past 17 seasons, the MEAC has had two teams selected five times, including three years in a row from 1997-99.

Missouri Valley Football Conference
• QB Brock Jensen of North Dakota State (fourth place) and RB Zach Zenner of South Dakota State (sixth place) represented the MVFC in the top 10 of the Walter Payton Award voting.  Jensen is the winningest QB in FCS history (44 wins), and Zenner is 56 yards shy of topping 2,000 rushing yards for a second consecutive season.

• The MVFC has a 15-6 record this decade (2010-present) in the playoffs, better than any other league.

• NDSU has won 20 in a row (the FCS record is 24), and South Dakota State carries a five-game win streak into this weekend, including three consecutive victories on the road.

Northeast Conference
• NEC Offensive Player of the Year: Keshaudas Spence, RB (Sacred Heart).

• NEC Defensive Player of the Year: Troy Moore, DT (Sacred Heart).

• Only five FCS running backs have reached the 1,600-yard rushing mark thus far (as of Nov. 30), and two of those men are All-NEC first-team selections. Sacred Heart’s Keshaudas Spence ran for 194 yards and two touchdowns in a FCS first-round loss at Fordham, and finished his junior season with 1,669 yards rushing. Kyle Harbridge of Saint Francis (Pa.) needed only 11 regular-season games to top the 1,600-yard mark. Harbridge, who is the eighth-leading rusher in NEC history (4,126), ran for 1,619 yards and sits fourth on the FCS season leaderboard.

• Accounting for the top turnaround in the FCS this season (an eight-win improvement from the 2012 season), Sacred Heart (10-3) posted only the seventh double-digit win campaign in Northeast Conference history. The Pioneers, who are NEC champions for the first time since 2001, are actually responsible for three of the NEC’s seven double-digit win totals. Sacred Heart went 10-1 in 2000 and 11-0 in '01.

• The only head coach Robert Morris has ever known -- Joe Walton -- coached his last game on Nov. 23 at Saint Francis (Pa.). Walton, a former tight end for the New York Giants and head coach of the New York Jets, led the program for its first 20 years of existence. He turns the keys over to another man with NFL pedigree -- former Pittsburgh Steeler and three-time Super Bowl champion John Banaszak.

Ohio Valley Conference
• The OVC snapped a 19-game losing streak (dating to 2000) in the playoffs as Tennessee State topped Butler 31-0 and later in the day Jacksonville State bested Samford 55-14. The shutout by TSU was only the second for an OVC team in the playoffs and the road victory for the Tigers snapped a 29-game road losing streak in the playoffs for OVC teams dating to 1986. The 55 points scored by Jacksonville State were the most by an OVC team in its playoff history.

• Eastern Illinois-Tennessee State will mark only the third time in OVC history that two OVC teams meet in the playoffs. In the two previous (Eastern Kentucky-Middle Tennessee, 1984 and '91) the team that won the regular-season meeting also won the rematch. EIU topped TSU 34-16 this season.

Patriot League
• Fordham won a playoff game for the first time since 2002. Fordham’s only quarterfinal trip came in 2002 after a first-round win at Northeastern (29-24) when the bracket was still at 16 teams. Patriot League teams have advanced to the quarterfinals six times.

• Fordham hopes to become the first Patriot League team to make the quarterfinals since Lehigh did it in 2011, and the matchup on Saturday has great parallels with the Mountain Hawks that season. Lehigh brought a dynamic offense into Towson for a second-round matchup and came away with a 40-38 victory. Fordham goes to Towson with the same type of profile, as QB Michael Nebrich leads a team averaging 38.3 points per game.

Dick Biddle announced his retirement from Colgate after 18 seasons and as the winningest coach in league history. He compiled a 137-73 (.652) record and won three out of every four conference games he coached, finishing 81-27 (.750). Associate head coach Dan Hunt is succeeding Biddle as the 29th head coach in school history.

Pioneer Football League
• Tennessee State (10-3), one of the top defensive FCS teams, limited Butler to a season-low 257 yards, including a season-low 122 passing yards this past Saturday. It was the first time this season that the Bulldogs, 36.1 points per game, failed to reach the end zone.

• Marist DL Terrence Fede was the lone unanimous (i.e., received all 11 possible first-team votes) selection to the All-PFL teams -- the second consecutive year he has earned unanimous First-Team All-PFL honors. In addition, Marist offensive lineman Phede Celestin becomes the 42nd student-athlete to earn First-Team All-PFL honors three times during their career.

Southern Conference
• Furman’s 30-20 win at South Carolina State gave the Southern Conference its 100th playoff victory. The SoCon has the most wins and highest winning percentage (.617) in the postseason among all FCS conferences.

• Jairus Hollman returned an interception 34 yards for a touchdown against South Carolina State. The Paladins have now scored a defensive touchdown in four of their past seven games.

• The Paladins visit top-seeded North Dakota State. SoCon teams are 45-22 all-time in the second round of FCS playoffs and 12-7 vs. MVFC opponents in the postseason.

Southland Conference
• The Southland has three teams still alive in the FCS playoffs. Sam Houston State won last week to extend its home win streak to a Division I-best 22 games. The Bearkats improved to 7-0 against the Big Sky the past three seasons with the victory.  Sam Houston State-Northeastern Louisiana this week is one of three intra-conference matchups in the second round. The others are in the OVC -- Tennessee State-Eastern Illinois -- and in the CAA -- New Hampshire-Maine. Southeastern beat Sam Houston State 34-21 to snap a three-game losing streak against the Bearkats in the regular season.

• The Southland is assured a team in the quarterfinals for the third consecutive year since the winner of the Sam Houston-Southeastern game advances to face the winner between New Hampshire and Maine. The Southland’s other playoff entrant, McNeese State, has a home game against former Southland Football League rival Jacksonville State. McNeese, which is making its 15th overall playoff appearance and first since 2009, has never lost to Jacksonville State in seven previous meetings.

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