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Quinton Zielke | NCAA | November 18, 2017

Walk-off Hail Mary, state bragging rights and AQs set for playoffs

  The Thunderbirds won the Big Sky Conference championship with a 48-20 win over No. 23 Northern Arizona.

And that's a wrap, folks.

The FCS regular season has come to a close, all 10 automatic qualifiers to the FCS Championship have been secured and all that's left is for the committee to decide on the 14 at-large teams to complete the playoff field.

Take a look back at the final week of the final regular season:


1. Three top 10 teams clinch their ways back to the playoffs

In result of a Nicholls loss, No. 3 Central Arkansas clinched the Southland before stepping foot on the field. To prove their worthiness in the playoffs, the Bears hit the gas early and kept their foot on the pedal against Abilene Christian. Production came from both sides of the ball, led by running back Carlos Blackman who had 123 yards and a touchdown. Central Arkansas won 34-0.

No. 1 James Madison completed its perfect season to clinch the Colonial Athletic Association title. The defending champs found success with their ground attack. Quarterback Bryan Schor had nine carries for 76 yards and three touchdowns. He also tossed for 214. Aided by a D’Angelo Amos' six-yard blocked punt return touchdown, the Dukes sealed another trip to the playoffs and defeated No. 15 Elon 31-3.

The No. 6 Bison of North Dakota State won their seventh consecutive Missouri Valley Conference championship after defeating No. 20 Illinois State 20-7. With the turf covered in snow, neither team could spark its offense. After a first half of only punts, Easton Stick and Bruce Anderson ran in scores on back-to-back possessions to open the second half. Stick later scored his second rushing touchdown of the afternoon.

2. Kennesaw State, Southern Utah and Lehigh round out 10 AQs

The turnover plank lives on. No 21 Kennesaw State clinched the Big South with its 52-22 victory over No. 22 Monmouth. Running back Chandler Burks controlled the line of scrimmage from start to finish. Burks rushed for 131 yards and four touchdowns. In just their third season, the Owls are headed to the playoffs.

No. 18 Southern Utah stuck with the same plan most of the country had on Saturday. Run the football. With six total rushing touchdowns, the Thunderbirds saw three different players enter the endzone. Quarterback Patrick Tyler scored three touchdowns, running backs Jay Green had two and Isaiah Diego-Williams had one. Southern Utah clinched the Big Sky and punched their playoff ticket by defeating No. 23 Northern Arizona 48-20.

The Patriot League determined its automatic qualifier after college football’s most-played rivalry finished up Saturday. The Lehigh Mountain Hawks rallied back and beat the Lafayette Leapords 38-31. After trailing 10 points midway through the third quarter, quarterback Brad Mayes took over and led Lehigh back ahead in the fourth. Mayes ended with 400 yards and three touchdowns.

3. South Dakota State takes home state’s bragging rights.

After a scoreless first quarter, No. 5 South Dakota State may have belied a 45-yard Chase Vinatieri field goal was all they needed to defeat in-state rival No. 16 South Dakota. However, the field sparked both offenses and 28 more second quarter points between the squads. Taryn Christion tossed 11 and 69-yard touchdown passes for SDSU and Michael Fredrick scampered in from 49 and 17-yards out for the Coyotes. Both offenses continued their rhythms and South Dakota saw its first lead with three minutes remaining in the third. A quick answer from the Jackrabbits put them back up three, and with five minutes to play, Christion tossed his third touchdown for the 10-point lead. South Dakota scored with two minutes remaining, but did not recover the ensuing onside kick. The difference proved to be Vinatieri’s 45-yard kick

South Dakota State 31, South Dakota 28

4. North Carolina A&T completed perfection

No. 7 North Carolina A&T secured the Mid-Eastern Athletic conference and its perfect season with a victory over North Carolina Central. In a game that did not feature much offense, Lamar Raynard found Elijah Bell for the Aggies’ first score late in the second. After only being up four points at half, running back Marquell Cartwright put the undefeated season in his hands and rushed for a pair of touchdowns within five minutes of each other. A field goal from each team finished out the scoring. The season featured victories in both blowout fashion and games that went down to the wire. It was the first undefeated season for the Aggies since they went 4-0 in 1943.

North Carolina A&T 24, North Carolina Central 10

5. Stony Brook walks off on a final heave

The No. 12 Stony Brook Seawolves and the Maine Black Bears needed all 60 minutes to determine a winner.  Maine needed just 59 seconds to complete two drives and jump out to a 12-0 lead. David Liotone finally put the Seawolves on the scoreboard late in the second, but Maine answered with a 59-yard pass from Chris Ferguson to Jared Osumah for a comfortable 19-7 halftime lead. However, midway through the third, Stony Brook made things interesting as Joe Carbone found Donavin Washington for the 11-yard passing touchdown. With just 31 seconds to play and the ball on their own 27, a win appeared far out for the Seawolves, but a penalty and 23-yard completion put the ball at the Maine 35. As time expired, Carbone slung a pass 35 yards where receiver Harrison Jackson reeled it in between four Black Bear defenders.

MORE: Watch the walk-off Hail Mary here 

Stony Brook 20, Maine 19

Other notable games:

  • No. 13 Samford defeated No. 24 Furman 26-20
  • Southeastern Louisiana hung on to beat No. Nicholls 21-17 (Thurs.)
  • No. 4 Sam Houston State rolled over Houston Baptist 55-33
  • No. 2 Jacksonville State outlasted Tennessee State 36-6 (Thurs.)
  • Albany upset No. 15 New Hampshire 15-0

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