In the FCS Huddle: Missouri Valley must be rewarded

Philadelphia, PA ( – A year ago, only two Missouri Valley
Football Conference teams qualified for the FCS playoffs.

This season, you have to ask which two won’t be in the postseason.

That’s overstating the case, of course – the 10-team Missouri Valley won’t
comprise a third of the 24-team field when the playoffs open Thanksgiving

But the top conference in the FCS this season deserves to have the most teams
in the field, even after the dust settles from conference play.

And, oh, is there going to be a lot thrown in the air.

The battle royal that is the Missouri Valley schedule got moving in full force
on Saturday with five conference games. This after Valley teams went an
unbelievable 23-1 in non-conference FCS games, including 5-1 against ranked FCS
teams. A Valley record seven teams were ranked in The Sports Network FCS Top 25
last week, and an eighth team, Missouri State, was the first team sitting
outside the rankings.

Times are good. At least they should be.

But there’s feeling of caution amid the confidence across the conference. A
year ago, cannibalism took over and too many of the teams knocked each other
off in a parity-filled bunch behind North Dakota State and South Dakota
State, the only two schools to qualify for the playoffs. NDSU went on to
capture its third straight FCS national title, but it seemed odd that the
great conference had only one other team in the field.

Saturday, two of its three Top 10 teams – South Dakota State and Northern Iowa
– lost on the road and top-ranked North Dakota State trailed in the fourth
quarter of its game.

Five of its teams have at least a 4-1 record, with Indiana State (4-1) the
biggest surprise, including the win over Northern Iowa.

So while the teams knock each other off, as they did this weekend, the FCS
playoff selection committee should realize a 7-5 or 8-4 record from a Valley
team at the end of the regular season should still be held in high regard when
the at-large bids are determined.

In 2003, the Missouri Valley became the first FCS conference to have four
playoff teams in a season, and that was when the playoff field was only 16
teams deep. The Valley also has sent three qualifiers in 2006, 2010 and 2012,
and its 33-20 record in the playoffs over the past 10 seasons is better than
any other conference.

So two Missouri Valley playoff teams won’t be enough. Neither will three. It’s
a conference that deserves four or five this year.


While the depth of the Missouri Valley stood out Saturday, there were many
other observations from Week 6. Here are 10 more:

– The quarterback battles within two Big Sky games were incredible. In No. 2
Eastern Washington’s 56-53 escape against road doormat Idaho State, the host
Eagles’ Vernon Adams Jr. accounted for 433 total yards and six total touchdowns
and became the conference’s all-time leader in career touchdown passes (99),
while Idaho State’s Justin Arias passed for 421 yards and six touchdowns. Not
to be outdone in No. 13 Montana State’ 59-56 triumph at Sacramento State (49
fourth-quarter points), the Bobcats’ Dakota Prukop accounted for 488 total
yards and eight total touchdowns, while Sac State’s Garrett Safron had 609
total yards and threw for five touchdowns. And to think some of these QBs won’t
even be named Big Sky offensive player of the week.

– As Fordham (5-1) dispatched of the only team to beat it in the regular season
last year, Rams true freshman Chase Edmonds enjoyed another showcase for his
Jerry Rice Award candidacy. He gained 187 yards and two touchdowns on the
ground to go with 50 yards on three kickoff returns. Plus, he threw for a two-
point conversion. Through six games, he is averaging 151.7 rushing yards and
212.7 all-purpose yards per game with 11 touchdowns.

– Say it ain’t so, Al Bagnoli. Penn next plays Fordham, having lost seven
straight games dating to last October. The Quakers are 0-3 this season after a
31-13 loss to Dartmouth in their Ivy League opener. Relief is in sight on Oct.
18 – a home game against winless Columbia. This is Bagnoli’s 23rd and final
season leading the Quakers.

– The list of unbeaten teams have dwindled to seven, and three conferences have
a pair each. The Missouri Valley boasts North Dakota State (5-0) and Illinois
State (4-0), the Big South has Coastal Carolina (6-0) and Charleston Southern
(5-0), and the Ivy League has Harvard (3-0) and Yale (3-0). Eastern Kentucky
(5-0) from the Ohio Valley Conference is the other unbeaten team.

– Whew! North Dakota State survived Western Illinois’ best shot in a 17-10
rally which was the Bison’s FCS-record 29th straight win. That’s three games
this season in which the offense wasn’t exceptional – 24-7 over Weber State,
22-10 over Montana and the WIU escape. This should be a concern with so many
tough Missouri Valley games ahead.

– The Pioneer Football League title and playoff bid is Jacksonville’s to lose
after another big win over an expected contender, 29-14 against Drake. Ulysses
Bryant rushed for 140 yards and two touchdowns to lift the Dolphins (4-1) to
3-0 in league play. None of the remaining teams on their schedule were picked
higher than sixth in the PFL preseason poll.

– The difference between the Southern Conference’s two triple option teams was
a mere inches. Wofford linebacker Kevin Thomas stopped The Citadel quarterback
Aaron Miller up the middle just outside the Wofford goal line on the game’s
final play, allowing the host Terriers to hold on for a 17-13 victory, which
was their 16th straight in the series. The play ended a 16-play drive in which
Miller ran or passed on all but the first play.

– South Carolina State packed its defense in traveling to the Atlanta Classic
in the Georgia Dome, where they silenced North Carolina A&T, 13-0. The Bulldogs
(4-2, 2-0) limited A&T to 43 rushing yards and took advantage of the Aggies
starting a freshman quarterback, Hasaan Klugh, in place of an injured Kwashaun
Quick. The Dawgs share first place in the MEAC with Norfolk State and head home
for a three-game homestand, the biggest game being Bethune-Cookman’s visit on
Oct. 25.

– Central Arkansas posted an especially satisfying road win by defeating
Stephen F. Austin, 49-39. Fourteen-year coach Clint Conque left the Bears after
last season to move across the Southland Conference to SFA. Quarterback Taylor
Reed threw for four touchdowns and rushed for another two for the Bears (3-3,
2-0), who overcame a 31-21 third-quarter deficit.

– The Northeast Conference has only had an automatic playoff bid for four
years, but apparently it wants to send an at-large team this season. It was
another eye-catching Saturday with a win over a previously unbeaten team
(Bryant over Bucknell) and the conference’s fourth win over a CAA Football
squad this season (Sacred Heart over Delaware).


A roundup of games in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 can be found at

The full FCS scoreboard can be found at


Stock Rising – Southeast Missouri State (4-2) appears deserving of a jump into
the Top 25 after beating No. 21 Tennessee State, 28-21, for its second
consecutive Ohio Valley Conference win and third straight overall win. Earlier
this season, the Redhawks beat then-No. 3 Southeastern Louisiana and hung tough
with FBS Kansas, falling by six points. Their success was hard to anticipate
after the Redhawks won only three games in each of the past three seasons and
hired a new coach, Tom Matukewicz, affectionately known as “Coach Tuke.”

Stock Falling – Winless Florida A&M’s “Set the Record Straight” mantra isn’t
holding up. The Rattlers haven’t recovered since losing their season opener to
Jackson State on a game-ending Hail Mary pass. They have scored only one
offensive touchdown in their last four games, which includes a 24-9 defeat to
Morgan State in the MEAC on Saturday.


Dayton senior Connor Kacsor carried the ball 47 times to finish with 213 yards,
and his fourth touchdown on a 6-yard run in the fifth OT provided the Flyers
with a 54-48 win at Davidson in the Pioneer Football League. The game was among
the most pulsating of the FCS season. The visiting Flyers went ahead on a last-
minute touchdown only to be forced to overtime on a Davidson field goal to end
the fourth quarter. Behind Kacsor, Dayton scored as many points (27) in OT as
it did in four quarters.


Looking at where teams may stand in a projected playoff bracket on Nov. 23, and
not based on current records or conference standings:

South Dakota State/Montana State winner at No. 1 seed North Dakota State

Bethune-Cookman/Richmond winner at No. 8 seed McNeese State

Tennessee State-Chattanooga winner at No. 5 seed Jacksonville State

Fordham/South Carolina State winner at No. 4 seed New Hampshire

Eastern Kentucky/Northern Iowa winner at No. 3 seed Villanova

Jacksonville/William & Mary winner at No. 6 seed Coastal Carolina

Southern Illinois/Montana winner at No. 7 seed Southeastern Louisiana

Sacred Heart/Illinois State winner at No. 2 seed Eastern Washington

On the at-large bubble: Central Arkansas, Indiana State and Southeast Missouri


Considering the early start to the season with Eastern Washington hosting Sam
Houston State on Aug. 23, the second half of the regular season begins with
Week 7.

Saturday’s national schedule is strong, including Southern Illinois at top-
ranked North Dakota State in the Missouri Valley, Jacksonville State at
Tennessee State and Eastern Illinois at Eastern Kentucky in the OVC, William &
Mary at New Hampshire in the CAA, and McNeese State at Sam Houston State in the

Other notable conference matchups are: Big Sky, Eastern Washington at Southern
Utah and Montana State at UC Davis; Big South, Coastal Carolina at
Presbyterian; CAA, Towson at James Madison and Richmond at Albany; Ivy,
Dartmouth at Yale; MEAC, Delaware State at Norfolk State and Howard at Bethune-
Cookman; Missouri Valley, Illinois State at Indiana State and Missouri State at
South Dakota State; OVC, Southeast Missouri State at Murray State; Patriot,
Bucknell at Lehigh; Pioneer, Jacksonville at Morehead State; Southern, Wofford
at Western Carolina; and SWAC, Southern at Alabama A&M and Alcorn State at
Grambling State.

Fordham hosts Penn in non-conference action. Also, there are four FCS-FBS
matchups: Chattanooga at Tennessee; Charleston Southern at Vanderbilt; Liberty
at Appalachian State; and VMI at Navy.