In the FCS Huddle: A loss wouldn’t help NDSU

Philadelphia, PA ( – North Dakota State was coming off a
season-opening triumph at Iowa State which set a new FCS record for consecutive
victories when winning a game at struggling Weber State appeared to be a
formality early last month.

In the hours leading up to the game, word leaked out on social media that
ESPN’s “College GameDay” preview show would broadcast from NDSU and Fargo
the following Saturday for the second straight season. If, that is, the Bison
defeated Weber State.

The game turned out to be a little more of a struggle than expected as North
Dakota State won 24-7 against a team that still is winless heading into

“I think our guys in that game were playing not to lose as opposed of playing
to win,” first-year coach Chris Klieman said this week.

Such mentality has been the rare exception for the three-time defending FCS
champions during their 32-game winning streak, a record in the division. The
Bison (8-0) have an uncanny way of playing loose as a team and expecting to
beat all challengers – even the likes of FBS opponents like Iowa State.

Long winning streaks tend to hang over teams in all sports because the teams
have so much to lose and their opponents have so much to gain. A program like
Weber State knows it can make its season, and gain the national spotlight, by
knocking off the Bison.

That day is coming for the Bison. It might be this season, it might not, but it
is coming.

November brings some distinct possibilities in the second half of NDSU’s
Missouri Valley Football Conference schedule. Three of the four
remaining opponents are nationally ranked – South Dakota State on Saturday, a
visit to Northern Iowa on Nov. 8 and a home finale with Youngstown State on
Nov. 22. There’s also a trip to unranked Missouri State on Nov. 15.

The proverbial thought about unbeaten teams heading toward the postseason is
that a loss might be the best thing to happen to them because then they can
relax and not feel as though as they have to try to protect the winning streak.

It’s really not the case with North Dakota State. The Bison play with great
composure and gain from the aura of invincibility surrounding their program.
Opponents clearly question whether they can beat the Bison, who own the second
halves of games and wear them down with their reputation as well as their
talent and execution of plays.

“I credit our seniors and our upperclassmen and our captain for not letting our
guys get caught up in the hype of a streak,” Klieman said. “We never talk about
it around here, we talk about winning the next play like a lot of coaches do
and try to go 1-0 for the week. It gets brought up more by the media than it
does anywhere around our locker room or on the practice field.”

During their three straight title seasons, NDSU hasn’t played outside the
Fargodome in the playoffs prior to the national championship game. A loss in
the next four weeks would only damage the chance of the Bison having home-field
advantage throughout the playoffs once again.

The Bison were supposed to be more vulnerable after they lost a 24-member
senior class and former coach Craig Bohl following last season. So the
returning players actually felt slighted coming into this season, especially
when the predictions of multiple losses rained in from all directions.

There’s no need for the Bison to have the pressure of the record streak taken
off them. The streak has become a part of them. They relish being the target.


The first College Football Playoff rankings were released on Tuesday as the FBS
winds its way toward a long-awaited four-team event.

If the FCS field was only four teams instead of 24, it might look like this:

No. 4 seed Coastal Carolina (8-0) versus No. 1 seed North Dakota State (8-0)
and No. 3 seed Illinois State (7-0) versus No. 2 seed Villanova (6-1).

First two teams out: New Hampshire (6-1) and Jacksonville State (6-1)

Whew! Luckily, the playoffs aren’t just four teams deep, like they were in
their inaugural season of 1978 (when Florida A&M was crowned champion) through


The Sports Network FCS Top 25 can be found at

The FCS Awards package can be found at


Last Week’s Record: 45-14 (.763)

This Season’s Record: 459-120 (.793)

X-Predicted Winner

Saturday, Nov. 1

Top 25

Last weekend changed so much within conference races and have put some ranked
teams in must-win mode because the bubble for at-large possibilities has
widened considerably and automatic bids aren’t necessarily in the offering.

Ranked teams feeling the heat in the aftermath include No. 12 Montana, No. 18
South Dakota State and No. 21 Bethune-Cookman.

X-No. 4 Villanova (7-1, 4-0 CAA) at No. 13 Richmond (6-2, 3-1), noon. The
return to form of Villanova running back Kevin Monangai after a subpar junior
campaign has raised the level of quarterback John Robertson, who has thrown for
25 touchdowns with only one interception while becoming the most efficient
passer in the FCS. Richmond not only has the type of offense to match the
Wildcats, but the veteran lineup as well.

Central Connecticut State (2-6, 0-3 Northeast) at X-No. 25 Bryant (6-1, 2-0),
noon. This is supposed to be the easiest game remaining for Bryant, but when is
that the case in the Northeast Conference? Strangely, CCSU is 2-1 against CAA
teams but 0-5 against all other opponents. The visiting Blue Devils have been
terrific at protecting quarterback Nick SanGiacomo, but the Bulldogs have some
bite with pass-rushing defensive ends Jeff Covitz and Maduka Nwanekezi.

Missouri State (4-4, 1-3 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 19 Indiana State (5-3, 2-2),
1 p.m. ISU quarterback Mike Perish, a three-time MVFC offensive player of the
week this season, is two touchdown passes shy of Jeff Miller’s career school-
record 40 from 1982-85. Can you smell overtime? Three of the last six meetings
between these two teams in Terre Haute have gone to the extra session.

Colgate (4-4, 2-2 Patriot) at X-No. 10 Fordham (7-1, 3-0), 1 p.m. Escape from
New York? Colgate has won its last five visits to Fordham. The Rams have been
passing their way to big leads, but their all-senior secondary of cornerbacks
Ian Williams and Jordan Chapman and safeties Levon Williams and Jake Dixon has
stood tall while opponents have been forced to the air against them.

Sacramento State (4-4, 1-3 Big Sky) at X-No. 12 Montana (5-3, 3-1), 2 p.m. The
host Grizzlies own a 17-1 series lead and have never lost to the Hornets in
nine meetings at Washington-Grizzly Stadium. They are going from a run-heavy
opponent (Cal Poly) to a pass-happy opponent (Sacramento State), but are
better-suited for it with pass rusher Zack Wagenmann. Sacramento State wideout
DeAndre Carter has 25 touchdown receptions since the start of the 2013 season.

FCS Game of the Week: X-No. 14 Chattanooga (5-3, 4-0 Southern) at Western
Carolina (6-2, 4-0), 2 p.m. Chattanooga was expected to play in the SoCon
matchup of the year. Western Carolina, not so much. The QBs – Chattanooga’s
Jacob Huesman and WCU’s Troy Mitchell – are coming off elite performances. The
top six touchdown producers in the conference are either freshmen and
sophomores, and two play for the Catamounts, frosh running back/kickoff
returner Detrez Newsome (10 TDs) and sophomore wideout Spearman Robinson
(eight). But Mocs sophomore Henrique Ribeiro is tops among kickers with 58

South Dakota (2-6, 0-4 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 11 Youngstown State (6-2,
3-1), 2 p.m. The first two series meetings in 2012 and last season have been
decided by seven combined points. USD and Youngstown are going in opposite
directions, however, as they trudge through the brutality of the Missouri
Valley schedule. Freshman Hunter Wells, just added to the Jerry Rice Award
Watch List, is 3-0 as the Penguins’ starting quarterback.

No. 16 Eastern Kentucky (7-1, 4-1 OVC) at X-Tennessee State (4-5, 1-4), 3 p.m.
The Colonels have scored at least 30 points in six straight games, which will
make the trip to Tennessee State quite interesting. Last year, the Tigers held
the Colonels to 172 yards in a 44-0 shutout. Which TSU squad (which has faced
injuries) shows up is always the question.

X-No. 3 Coastal Carolina (8-0, 2-0 Big South) at Gardner-Webb (4-4, 0-1), 3:30
p.m. Coastal QB Alex Ross made his first career start at Gardner-Webb two years
ago and has thrown for at least one touchdown in 22 of 23 career starts. He has
benefited from the development of wide receivers Bruce Mapp and John Israel
following Matt Hazel’s graduation. Gardner-Webb’s once-stacked defense, hurt by
too many player losses, has given up an average of 34.4 points in a five-game
stretch. That won’t get it done against the Chanticleers.

No. 17 William & Mary (5-3, 2-2 CAA) at X-James Madison (5-3, 2-2), 3:30 p.m.
Running back Mikal Abdul-Saboor has to be tired after going for 37 carries
against Delaware, but the Tribe would be advised to go right after a JMU
rushing defense that has allowed 209 yards per game. Where the Dukes have an
advantage is the consistency of quarterback Vad Lee, who would be the front-
runner for All-CAA first-team honors if not for Villanova’s John Robertson.

X-No. 20 Harvard (6-0, 3-0 Ivy) at Dartmouth (5-1, 3-0), 3:30 p.m. These New
England rivals haven’t faced each other with unbeaten league records since
1997. Crimson quarterback Conner Hempel reasserted himself as the starter a
week ago while Dartmouth’s Dalyn Williams – likely the All-Ivy League
quarterback to date – sat out for precautionary reasons. Expect both to be in
high gear on Saturday.

No. 18 South Dakota State (5-3, 2-2 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 1 North Dakota
State (8-0, 4-0), 3:30 p.m. SDSU’s Missouri Valley all-time rushing leader Zach
Zenner has been shut down by NDSU during its three-year FCS title reign. Unless
he breaks out Saturday, the Bison will keep the mental edge in the Dakota
Marker Game.

X-North Carolina Central (4-4, 3-1 MEAC) at No. 21 Bethune-Cookman (6-2, 3-1),
4 p.m. Quarterback Malcolm Bell leads NCCU’s No. 1-ranked offense in the MEAC
(394.8 ypg) against Bethune’s top-ranked defense (249.1 ypg). Bethune QB
Quentin Williams must rebound from a rare subpar game because the Wildcats have
given up control of the conference race.

Austin Peay (1-7, 1-3 OVC) at X-No. 5 Jacksonville State (6-1, 4-0), 4 p.m.
Running back DaMarcus James scored five touchdowns in JSU’s 42-10 win a year
ago. The surging Gamecocks need to hold strong with games against Eastern
Kentucky and two-time defending champion Eastern Illinois over the next two

Sam Houston State (4-4, 3-1 Southland) vs. X-No. 24 Stephen F. Austin (6-2,
3-1) in Houston, 4 p.m. NRG Stadium (formerly Reliant Stadium) in Houston will
be rocking with the Battle of the Piney Woods rivals alive in the Southland
title race, but only the winner basically stays there. SFA features running
back Gus Johnson (18 touchdowns) and a pass rush that will get after Sam
Houston QB Jared Johnson. But the speed of the Bearkats offense will show just
how much the Lumberjacks defense has improved this season. Sam Houston holds a
50-36-2 series edge.

No. 7 Illinois State (7-0, 4-0 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 22 Northern Iowa (4-4,
2-2), 5 p.m. The cardiac Redbirds keep winning, but they have been playing with
fire while overcoming fourth-quarter deficits the last three games. ISU’s
Marshaun Coprich (992 yards) and UNI’s David Johnson (788) are two of the seven
running backs on pace for 1,000-yard seasons.

North Dakota (3-5, 1-3 Big Sky) at X-No. 6 Eastern Washington (7-2, 4-1), 5:05
p.m. Quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. is inching back toward game action and
there’s more of a need after the Eagles lost at Northern Arizona last Saturday.
But UND starting quarterback Joe Mollberg has been lost to an Achilles injury,
and the nickname-less team is averaging only 14.1 points per outing.

No. 23 Albany (6-2, 2-2 CAA) at X-No. 2 New Hampshire (6-1, 4-0), 6 p.m. The
most-improved team in the FCS is 3-0 in road games, but Albany faces its
toughest test to date. Although UNH quarterback Sean Goldrich is suiting up
again, he will only be eased back into action from a knee injury, and fifth-
year senior Andy Vailas is 4-0 as the starter anyway.

X-No. 9 McNeese State (5-2, 3-1 Southland) at Northwestern State (4-4, 2-2), 7
p.m. After picking off three passes last Saturday, McNeese State safety Brent
Spikes is going to want more against Northwestern State QB Zach Adkins. With
the Southland so wide open, it’s a dangerous road game for the Cowboys, whose
schedule hasn’t matched their national ranking. Still, the Demons, who own a
home win over Sam Houston State this season, have never beaten McNeese ninth-
year coach Matt Viator.

X-No. 8 Montana State (6-2, 4-0 Big Sky) at Cal Poly (5-3, 4-1), 9:05 p.m.
After whipping Montana, Cal Poly is going for a rare sweep of the Treasure
State teams. The visiting Bobcats had an extra week to prepare for a Cal Poly
triple option that is leading the FCS in rushing yards per game (347.6). How
many teams beside the Mustangs can say they have beaten Montana State in seven
straight meetings? Uh … um …

Non-Ranked Conference

Northern Arizona (5-3, 3-1 Big Sky) doesn’t want to get ahead of itself, but a
second straight playoff bid is within sight. The Lumberjacks already have wins
over Cal Poly and Eastern Washington, and their remaining four opponents are a
combined 6-26.

Rhode Island (0-8, 0-4 CAA) at X-Delaware (4-4, 2-2), noon

X-Lehigh (1-6, 0-2 Patriot) at Georgetown (2-6, 0-3), noon

X-Sacred Heart (6-2, 2-1 Northeast) at Wagner (4-3, 2-0), noon

X-Yale (5-1, 2-1 Ivy) at Columbia (0-6, 0-3), 12:30 p.m.

X-Princeton (3-3, 2-1 Ivy) at Cornell (0-6, 0-3), 12:30 p.m.

Valparaiso (2-6, 0-4 Pioneer) at X-Dayton (5-2, 3-1), 1 p.m.

Stetson (3-5, 1-3 Pioneer) at X-Campbell (4-4, 4-1), 1 p.m.

X-Duquesne (5-3, 1-1 Northeast) at Saint Francis (3-5, 1-2), 1 p.m.

Charleston Southern (5-3, 0-2 Big South) at X-Monmouth (5-2, 0-1), 1 p.m.

Marist (2-6, 2-3 Pioneer) at X-Jacksonville (7-1, 5-0), 1 p.m.

Brown (3-3, 1-2 Ivy) at X-Penn (1-5, 1-2), 1 p.m.

Lafayette (3-5, 1-2 Patriot) at X-Bucknell (6-1, 2-0), 1 p.m.

Delaware State (2-7, 2-3 MEAC) at X-Howard (1-7, 0-5), 1 p.m.

Morehead State (3-5, 2-3 Pioneer) at X-Butler (3-5, 1-4), 1 p.m.

Savannah State (0-8, 0-5 MEAC) at X-South Carolina State (5-3, 3-1), 1:30 p.m.

X-Furman (2-6, 1-2 Southern) at VMI (1-8, 0-4), 1:30 p.m.

San Diego (6-1, 4-1 Pioneer) at X-Drake (5-3, 4-1), 2 p.m.

X-UT Martin (4-5, 3-3 OVC) at Murray State (3-5, 1-3), 2 p.m.

X-Liberty (5-3, 1-0 Big South) at Presbyterian (5-3, 2-1), 2 p.m.

X-Morgan State (4-4, 3-1 MEAC) at Hampton (2-6, 1-3), 2 p.m.

X-Eastern Illinois (3-5, 3-1 OVC) at Tennessee Tech (3-5, 2-3), 2:30 p.m.

Northern Arizona (5-3, 3-1 Big Sky) at X-Weber State (0-8, 0-4), 3 p.m.

X-Norfolk State (3-5, 3-1 MEAC) at Florida A&M (2-6, 2-2), 3 p.m.

X-Grambling State (5-3, 5-0 SWAC) at Texas Southern (5-3, 3-3), 3 p.m.

X-Central Arkansas (5-4, 4-1 Southland) at Abilene Christian (4-5, 2-3), 3 p.m.

Mississippi Valley State (2-6, 1-5 SWAC) at X-Arkansas-Pine Bluff (2-5, 1-4), 3

The Citadel (2-6, 0-3 Southern) at X-Mercer (5-4, 1-4), 4 p.m.

Elon (1-7, 0-4 CAA) at X-Towson (3-5, 1-3), 4 p.m.

Incarnate Word (1-7, 1-4 Southland) at X-Nicholls (0-9, 0-5), 7 p.m.

Houston Baptist (2-6, 1-4 Southland) at X-Lamar (5-3, 2-2), 7 p.m.

Northern Colorado (2-6, 1-4 Big Sky) at X-UC Davis (1-6, 0-4), 7 p.m.

Alabama State (4-4, 3-3 SWAC) at X-Southern (5-3, 4-1), 7 p.m.

X-Alabama A&M (3-5, 2-3 SWAC) at Jackson State (3-5, 1-4), 7 p.m.

Idaho State (5-3, 3-1 Big Sky) at X-Portland State (3-5, 2-2), 7:05 p.m.

Non-Ranked Non-Conference

Is there more of a buzzkill than a conference (in this case, the Southern)
having an even number of teams yet forcing one of its programs to step out of
conference and play a sub-Division I opponent in November?

Concordia (Ala.) (1-7) at X-Samford (4-3), 3 p.m.