We're getting towards the tail end of what has been an incredible FCS regular season, which means the stakes are high and playoff spots are starting to crop up. As always, we watched everything and have the highlights for you right here:
1. Four tickets were punched to the FCS playoffs
No. 2 Jacksonville State was one of five teams to cement their place in the postseason Saturday. Running back Roc Thomas scored a pair of first half touchdowns and 14 proved to be enough. The Gamecocks escaped UT Martin 14-7 to win the Ohio Valley Conference for the fourth straight time.
No. 8 Wofford clinched the Southern Conference with its 45-14 victory over VMI. Andre Stoddard led the rushing attack and found his way into the end zone twice, two of Wofford’s six rushing touchdowns. It was all Terriers from the start.
Central Connecticut State wrapped up the Northeast Conference race with its thrilling 28-27 win over Duquesne. The Blue Devils’ Jake Dolegala had a day he’ll never forget rushing and throwing for a total of four touchdowns. His 16-yard rushing and 18-yard passing touchdowns within the final five minutes were the difference.
The Toreros of San Diego won in dominating fashion over Davidson and became Pioneer Football League champions. Quarterback Anthony Lawrence threw for 403 yards and three touchdowns, and five running backs tallied a touchdown as San Diego won 63-7.
2. South Dakota State and Illinois State needed overtime to find a winner
In a game where points were answered with points, the No. 5 South Dakota State Jackrabbits and the No. 20 Illinois State Redbirds could not determine a winner after 60 minutes. Taryn Christion threw a 33-yard pass for SDSU to open up the scoring, but Illinois State’s James Robinson quickly answered. Two drives later, the Redbirds found themselves down 10, but again answered thanks to a Christian Uphoff 100 kickoff return touchdown.
The game was tied at half and the third quarter featured multiple turnovers by both squads. Christion put the Jackrabbits back ahead with an 84-yard touchdown run with eight minutes to play. However, once again the Redbirds answered by churning out a 10 play, 75-yard drive which ended with another Robinson score and another knotted score. Overtime. A missed field goal from 39-yards out gave the Jackrabbits a shot to win and kicker Chase Vinatieri split the uprights to seal the deal.
South Dakota State 27, Illinois State 24
3. North Carolina A&T kept the wins rollin’
No. 7 North Carolina A&T became the first team to double-digit wins as their historic, undefeated season continued against Savannah State. The Aggies secured a fumble and jumped out to a 7-0 lead just 45-seconds into the game on a 1-yard Marquell Cartwright touchdown run. Kicker Noel Ruiz connected from 25 and 30-yards to give N.C. A&T the 13-3 halftime lead.
The offense kept in stride and opened the second half with a 54-yard toss from Lamar Raynard to Trey Scott. The Tigers made things interesting in the third quarter by cutting the lead to nine points, but scores by Cartwright and Raynard and another field goal from Bell propelled the Aggies to 10-0. With North Carolina Central’s last second loss to Bethune-Cookman, the Aggies secured the MEAC title and a spot in the Celebration Bowl.
North Carolina A&T 36, Savannah State 17
4. Sam Houston State and James Madison survived scares
No. 1 James Madison faced a scare early against previously-ranked Richmond. The Spiders jumped out to a 7-0 lead after Kyle Lauletta found Tyler Wilkins for a score. The Dukes answered with a Marcus Marshall 4-yard touchdown run and an Ethan Ratke field goal to lead at the half.
Another Ratke field goal and a pair of Richmond kicker Griffin Trau field goals and the game was tied again with four minutes to play. The Dukes used the final minutes to milk out a 10 play, 71-yard drive that was capped by Trai Sharp with :44 seconds left.
James Madison 20, Richmond 13
No. 4 Sam Houston State needed every ounce of Jeremiah Briscoe to battle back against Abilene Christian. The Bearkats looked to have the game in their grasp after a trio of Briscoe touchdowns put them ahead 24-0 after the first quarter.
However, the Wildcats’ quarterback Luke Anthony answered with five touchdowns of his own to take the lead 35-31 with five minutes remaining. Another Briscoe touchdown and a Davion Davis punt return locked up the Bearkats victory. SHSU senior PJ Hall broke the PJ Hall broke the FCS career tackles for loss record Saturday with 81 TFL.
Sam Houston State 44, Abilene Christian 35
5. The Wildcats cooled off the Phoenix
No. 9 Elon rolled into No. 16 New Hampshire winners of 8-straight games. The first half was filled with punts and three total missed field goals, but New Hampshire scored late on an 11-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Knight to Justin Malone-Woods.
The Wildcats kept the chains moving to begin the second half marching 84-yards on 17 plays. The nine-minute drive resulted in an Evan Gray 2-yard rush for 6. Following a fumbled punt, New Hampshire added a field goal to lead 16-0. With just over three minutes left, the Phoenix finally marked a touchdown on a pass from Davis Cheek to De’Sean McNair, but a failed two-point conversion put the game out of reach.
New Hampshire 16, Elon 6
Other Notable Games:
- North Dakota State bounced back and rolled over South Dakota, 49-14
- Central Arkansas clinched a share of the Southland title by beating Incarnate Word, 56-10
- Mercer held on to upset Western Carolina 35-33
- Nicholls continued its best start with a win over Stephen F. Austin, 34-13
- Southern Utah soared over UC Davis, 47-27
- Weber State ran all over Portland State, 63-17