FCS football review: Week 3 takeaways

NCAA Football

(Stats Perform) – Cheers to another big FCS weekend of action! The many happy fans at Portland State’s first victory of the season will explain why (see below).

Oh yes, there were plenty of highlights in addition to the free beer.

Here are 10 takeaways from the Week 3 action:

10 Part I: James Madison cruises in Top 10 matchup

Third-ranked James Madison’s poise and precision stood out while it handled No. 9 Weber State 37-24 in the first Top 10 matchup of the season. Quarterback Cole Johnson threw a pair of touchdowns to Antwane Wells Jr. and rushed for another score, and Josh Sarratt’s 88-yard fumble return for a TD in the second quarter provided huge momentum. The CAA power led by as much as 37-10 in winning their 19th straight regular-season game. It was the third all-time meeting as the Dukes previously beat the four-time defending Big Sky champ in the 2017 FCS playoff quarterfinals and 2019 semifinals.

10 Part II: FCS in double figures against FBS

FCS teams are up to 10 wins over the FBS this season, which ties for the most since notching a sweet 16 in 2013. UIW (2-1) downed Texas State 42-34 for its first-ever FBS victory. Jerry Rice Award-winning quarterback Cameron Ward was at it again, completing 31 of 47 passes for 376 yards and four touchdowns, including two to wide receiver Robert Ferrel. In eight of Ward’s nine career starts, the Southland squad has scored at least 40 points, and he’s been over 300 passing yards. Northern Arizona tripped Arizona 21-19 for its first-ever win over a Pac-12 opponent, and the Big Sky’s fourth over the FBS this season. The Lumberjacks (1-2) trailed 13-0 late in the first half and earned the win after freshman quarterback RJ Martinez was inserted into the lineup in the second quarter. Linebacker Harrison Beemiller had game highs of 10 tackles and 4.5 for loss, and the defense forced three turnovers and denied Arizona of a potential-tying two-point attempt with 2:16 remaining,

10 Part III: Campbell’s takeaways stop slide

Campbell’s 10-game losing streak entering its matchup with Presbyterian was a bit deceptive considering half of the losses were against FBS opponents. The Camels ended the slide in remarkable fashion, winning 72-0 over a Presbyterian squad that had scored a combined 152 points in two season-opening wins over sub-FCS opponents. The Big South squad forced 10 turnovers – seven interceptions and three fumbles, including one each by cornerback Joe Johnson – in their largest margin of win over a Division I opponent. Sophomore quarterback Wiley Hartley, subbing for injured starter Hajj-Malik Williams, set Campbell single-game records with 342 passing yards and six TD passes.

Ivy League posts winning return

With a 5-3 record, the Ivy League had a solid return after going 665 days between games (it was the only NCAA Division I league not to have competition during the 2020-21 school year due to the pandemic). The highlights included Harvard coach Tim Murphy tying for the all-time Ivy wins mark (179, along with the late Carm Cozza of Yale), and Princeton’s Cole Smith (412 passing yards, three TD passes) and Penn’s John Qunnelly (303 yards of total offense, two TD passes, 202.4 passer rating) leading victories in their first career starts behind center. In addition, Columbia and Dartmouth posted wins.

First regular-season meetings, but same old results

Like James Madison vs. Weber State, two other Week 3 matchups had been played twice in the postseason but never in the regular season, and the road teams also raised their series leads to 3-0. Fifth-ranked North Dakota State handled Towson 35-7 – the same score as the Bison’s win when they met in the 2013 FCS championship game. NDSU (3-0) has limited to opponents to averages of 196.7 yards and 4.3 points per game. Kennesaw State (2-1) solidified its No. 24 ranking with a 31-10 defeat of Wofford. Quarterback Xavier Shephard passed for two touchdowns and rushed for a 56-yard score, and the Owls held Wofford to 67 yards on 25 carries, almost unheard-of rushing numbers for the Terriers even as they move more away from the triple option offense.

Barriere, Sampson put on a show as Eastern holds off Western

“Dizzying” may be the best way to describe Eastern Washington’s 62-56 win at Western Illinois in the Big Sky-MVFC Challenge Series (ultimately won by the Missouri Valley 4-2). Eastern’s Eric Barriere completed 31 of 45 passes for a career-high 542 yards and six first-half touchdown passes. His 487 yards before intermission set an FCS record for a half (seven more yards than Old Dominion’s Taylor Heinicke had in the second half of his record-setting 730-yard game against New Hampshire on Sept. 22, 2012). Western’s Connor Sampson passed for career highs with 425 yards and four TDs, nearly rallying the Leathernecks all the way back from a 62-28 deficit. The two teams combined for 1,397 offensive yards in addition to the 118 points.

Hampton wins rivalry, but Howard has the VP

Sorry, FBS, recent U.S. vice presidents prefer the FCS. Joe Biden was famously in attendance at the 2010 FCS championship game on Jan. 8, 2011 in Frisco, Texas, to support Delaware, his alma mater, in its 20-19 loss to Eastern Washington. Ten-plus years later, the current U.S. President’s VP, Kamala Harris – Howard Class of 1986 – did the pre-game coin toss before her alma mater fell 48-32 to rival Hampton in the first-ever college football game at Washington’s Audi Field. Hampton’s Jett Duffey and Hezekiah Grimsley connected on a 95-yard touchdown pass – the longest ever for a Big South program – as part of the Pirates’ fifth straight win in the series.

HBCUs continue to command a spotlight

Defending SWAC champ Alabama A&M is riding the second-longest winning streak (eight) behind coach Connell Maynor and record-setting quarterback Aqeel Glass. SWAC members Jackson State (12-7 to ULM) and Alcorn State (28-21 to South Alabama) both had chances to end the conference’s long losing streak to FBS competition (since 1985). MEAC favorite South Carolina State made a late run at New Mexico State before falling 43-35. Coaches Eddie George of Tennessee State and Dawson Odums of Norfolk State collected their first wins. The “H” in HBCUs is as much “hot” as “historically.”

Cheers to the Portland State victory

Portland State coach Bruce Barnum promised a free beer on his weekly radio show last week, and he delivered on the offer to fans at the Vikings’ home opener, as did his team with a 21-7 victory over Western Oregon. There were 2,016 free beers given away in the Hillsboro Stadium beer garden that’s named after Coach “Barney.” While the game was somewhat of a defensive struggle, Vikings quarterback Davis Alexander threw two touchdowns to Beau Kelly.

Greenhagen with the tackle, Greenhagen again with the tackle …

Where would an FCS week be without Fordham linebacker Ryan Greenhagen smothering ball carriers. His 17 tackles in a 45-14 loss at FAU paled to the FCS-record 31 and then 28 he had in the Rams’ first two games, but they were still the fifth-most in an FCS game this season, giving him three of the top five performances and 76 stops overall. The FCS record since the NCAA began keeping tackles as an official statistic in 2000 is Norfolk State’s Kevin Talley with 195 in 2003. Fordham has eight remaining regular-season games, so an average of 15 an outing would better the mark.

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