In the FCS Huddle: Southland getting the calls right

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) – Surely you would want a game extended by
two minutes if it meant getting a pivotal play called correctly by the game
officials.

The Southland Conference appears to be getting it done correctly this season in
becoming the first FCS conference to implement full instant replay through all
of its home football games, conference or non-conference, televised or non-
televised.

The results have been crisp and clean, and well-received whether on-the-field
decisions are upheld or reversed.

“I think it’s great that we have it,” said Ron Roberts, coach of defending
Southland champion Southeastern Louisiana. “It obviously puts us up there as
one of the leaders of FCS football by having it as a conference. I appreciate
it because I think what everybody wants to do is get it right. I know the
officials want to get it right and sometimes with a naked eye you can’t see
things, so I think it gives ’em an opportunity to go back and review it and
look at it and make sure we got it right.”

FBS conferences moved to instant replay in 2006, and the NCAA now uses it for
FCS playoff games. FCS conferences such as the Colonial Athletic Association,
Big South, Mid-Eastern Athletic, Missouri Valley and Southwestern Athletic have
implemented versions of instant replay, while others review first-half
targeting penalties at halftime.

The Southland’s instant replay system has been strong because the conference
has integrated the replay system of both the Big 12 and Mountain West
conferences, with whom it has a longstanding officiating consortium, and draws
upon experienced officiating crews and replay officials.

Each Southland home game (which would include neutral-site games hosted by one
of the conference’s teams) has a minimum of four camera feeds, and the
Southland’s television network can provide additional feeds.

All plays are reviewed by the game’s replay official, who when he deems it
necessary to stop play will press a button that activates pagers worn by game
officials on the field. A head coach can challenge a play as long as his team
has a timeout remaining and he takes one before the next snap or kick. If he
wins the challenge, then he is afforded a second challenge, but he can’t go
beyond two total challenges.

Under Southland policy, a game should only be stopped if the play is reviewable
under NCAA replay rules, the play has a discernable competitive effect on the
game or the call cannot be confirmed with indisputable video evidence before
the next snap or kick.

The replay official watches a game from a replay booth, which is staffed with
two other people – a technician who operates the equipment and a communicator
who assists the replay official in watching the field and calling up all
replays on the monitors to provide the replay official with the best camera
angle to make the appropriate decision.

A sideline replay assistant is in direct contact with the replay official in
the booth. During a stoppage, the game’s referee will go to the sideline replay
assistant to be given a headset so he will be in direct contact with the replay
official.

But, points out Byron Boston, coordinator of Southland officials, “The replay
official has total authority on determining the status of that replay.”

In 35 Southland home games this season, there have been 46 plays reviewed with
replay booth stoppage:

– Nine of the plays have been “confirmed as called,” in which there was
absolute certainty from video that the play was called correctly.

– Twenty plays were determined to “stand as called,” with no video evidence to
overturn the on-field ruling.

– Fifteen plays have been “reversed” because of video evidence that overturned
the on-field ruling.

– There have been only two coaches challenges. Both have been “confirmed as
called.”

The average total time needed per stoppage is 1 minute, 50 seconds. Southland
game lengths have averaged 3 hours, 5 minutes.

“We had a call last week that I thought was very close,” McNeese State coach
Matt Viator said. “It went to instant replay and it’s not like everybody sat
there and waited a long time. The officials got on it. So far, I have nothing
but praise for it. I think especially the fact we’re doing it across the board.
At every stadium, we all have the same thing. The competitive balance is
equal.”

During the season, a Southland replay supervisor reviews the work and decisions
of the replay officials. Boston said the system can be refined or improved upon
after this season, but people in the conference have been pleased with the
results of this first season.

Instant replay is expected to grow across the FCS in coming seasons.

SCENE OF THE CRIME

It’s been just over two years since top-ranked North Dakota State last suffered
a defeat – 17-14 to Indiana State on Oct. 13, 2012. The Sycamores return to the
Fargodome on Saturday, hoping to stop the Bison’s FCS-record 30-game winning
streak and Missouri Valley Conference-record 15-game winning streak.

“I think the way that you win is kind of like our formula,”Indiana State
second-year coach Mike Sanford said. “You’ve got to win the turnover battle.
You can’t turn the ball over up there, and you’ve got to get turnovers.

“And then I think we’ve got to stop the run and we’ve got to run the football.
And then it comes down to explosion plays. We’ve got to make some explosion
plays in the run and pass game, and keep them from having explosion plays – I
think that’s critical. The final piece is special teams – we’ve got to win the
special teams battle.”

FCS TOP 25 AND AWARDS

The Sports Network FCS Top 25 can be found at http://tinyurl.com/88q2k7t.

The FCS Awards package can be found at http://tinyurl.com/n5ysh8x.

WEEK 8 PREDICTIONS

Last Week’s Record: 43-16 (.728)

This Season’s Record: 376-91 (.805)

X-Predicted Winner

Saturday, Oct. 18

Top 25

The schedule doesn’t become any easier for No. 15 William Mary after getting
blasted at New Hampshire last Saturday. The Tribe are back home to try to slow
No. 5 Villanova, which has led three opponents at halftime by at least 30
points and beaten its FCS competition by an average of 24 points.

Four ranked teams – No. 3 New Hampshire (5-1), No. 4 Coastal Carolina (7-0),
No. 6 Jacksonville State (5-1) and No. 12 Fordham (6-1) – are idle this week.

X-No. 17 Chattanooga (3-3, 2-0 Southern) at The Citadel (2-4, 0-1), noon. This
is a difficult assignment for the Mocs considering The Citadel will roll out
the triple option behind surging quarterback Aaron Miller (the SoCon’s No. 2
rusher). But Chattanooga coach Russ Huesman is 4-1 against The Citadel, and
despite having played two FBS opponents this season, the Mocs top the
conference in rushing defense (131.7 ypg).

Lafayette (3-3) at X-No. 25 Harvard (4-0), 1 p.m. After moving into the Top 25
for the first time since 2012, Harvard will step out of the Ivy League for
the final time. Short-yardage specialists are supposed to be bruising
fullbacks, but Crimson junior wide receiver Andrew Fischer is basically one
with 26 receptions but only 202 receiving yards. The Leopards will send all-
purpose threat Ross Schuerman (2,934 career rushing yards) at a Crimson defense
surrendering only 2.4 yards per carry.

UC Davis (1-5, 0-3 Big Sky) at X-No. 7 Montana (4-2, 2-0), 2 p.m. With
quarterback Jordan Johnson hobbled by an ankle injury, the Grizzlies will look
to put the ball in the hands of running backs Jordan Canada and Travon Van. But
anything may work because UC Davis just surrendered 77 points and 737 yards to
Montana State. After this one, the Griz face a difficult five-game stretch to
end the regular season.

Presbyterian (3-3, 0-1 Big South) at X-No. 23 Charleston Southern (5-1, 0-0), 3
p.m. CSU’s most impressive result might be its one loss as the Buccaneers fell
21-20 at Vanderbilt last Saturday. The defense limited the Commodores to 295
yards and 11 first downs. Presbyterian has been much improved this season,
including wins over Southern Conference members Furman and Western Carolina.

X-No. 5 Villanova (5-1, 3-0 CAA) at No. 15 William & Mary (4-2, 1-1), 3:30 p.m.
Who’s your Poppy? ‘Nova senior Poppy Livers is a big part of quarterback John
Robertson’s tremendous season, ranking second in the CAA in receiving yards
(485) and touchdown receptions (six). The Tribe must quickly wash away last
Saturday’s 32-3 dud at New Hampshire because this is a must-win for their title
hopes.

No. 22 Indiana State (4-2, 1-1 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 1 North Dakota State
(6-0, 2-0), 3:30 p.m. It would help the visiting Sycamores to have quarterback
Mike Perish back from a concussion, but the top-ranked Bison are allowing only
8.5 points per game, tops in the FCS after they led in scoring defense in each
of their three straight FCS championship seasons. ISU surely doesn’t have
enough rushing defense to stop John Crockett, Chase Morlock and Co., who are
motivated by the fact their last loss occurred against the Sycamores in 2012.

Rhode Island (0-6, 0-2 CAA) at X-No. 19 Richmond (4-2, 1-1), 3:30 p.m. The
Spiders will turn to quarterback Michael Rocco after starter Michael Strauss
suffered a fractured left ankle at Albany last Saturday. With the talk always
on the quarterbacks in Richmond, running back Seth Fisher has snuck up to lead
the CAA in scoring (nine touchdowns).

X-No. 10 Illinois State (5-0, 2-0 Missouri Valley) at Western Illinois (3-4,
1-2), 4 p.m. WIU brings a 50-42-3 series lead into the 96th meeting of
intrastate rivals, and the Leathernecks are coming off impressive outings
against North Dakota State (17-10 loss) and Youngstown State (30-24 win). No
opponent has stopped ISU junior running back Marshaun Coprich, who is second in
the Missouri Valley in rushing yards per game (146) and second in the FCS in
points per game (13.2)

No. 24 Sam Houston State (3-3, 2-0 Southland) at X-Northwestern State (3-3,
1-1), 4 p.m. After scorching McNeese State last week, Sam Houston swept the
Southland Conference weekly player awards with QB Jared Johnson (offensive), DE
P.J. Hall (defensive) and PK Luc Swimberghe (special teams). The Demons live up
to their nickname. They’ve forced 19 turnovers – the second-highest total in
the FCS.

X-No. 14 Southern Illinois (5-2, 21 Missouri Valley) at No. 21 Youngstown
State (4-2, 1-1), 4 p.m. No player may be better at his position in the FCS
than SIU tight end MyCole Pruitt, who has career highs already with 49
receptions and 604 receiving yards – top totals for a tight end on all four
levels of NCAA football. Youngstown hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2006. To
get there, the Penguins need to win here in the worst way because they will be
underdogs in their final three road games (South Dakota State, Illinois State
and North Dakota State).

Northern Colorado (2-4, 1-2 Big Sky) at X-No. 2 Eastern Washington (6-1, 3-0),
4:05 p.m. Behind an opportunistic secondary, Northern Colorado is plus-12 in
turnover margin. But EWU sophomore Jordan West figures to continue building
offensive rhythm in his second start. With running back Quincy Forte sidelined
by a shoulder injury over the last three games, Mario Brown has rushed for 338
yards.

No. 18 South Dakota State (4-2, 1-1 Missouri Valley) at X-No. 20 Northern Iowa
(3-3, 1-1), 5 p.m. After another loss, UNI would probably have no more margin
for error playoff-wise, so this is mostly a must-win against Zach Zenner and
the Jackrabbits. The Panthers’ four sacks per game lead the nation, so they
will get after SDSU sophomore QB Zach Lujan. With 18 field goals, UNI kicker
Michael Schmadeke has six more than any other FCS kicker, and his only miss was
from 53 yards out.

Weber State (0-6, 0-2 Big Sky) at X-No. 9 Montana State (5-2, 3-0), 5:35 p.m.
Bobcats quarterback Dakota Prukop has taken to offensive coordinator Tim
Cramsey’s attack. Prukop has 997 total yards and 14 total touchdowns in the
last two games. Weber is one of 10 winless teams in the FCS.

X-No. 16 Bethune-Cookman (5-1, 2-0 MEAC) at Savannah State (0-6, 0-3), 6 p.m.
With a visit to South Carolina State approaching on Oct. 25, the Wildcats want
to put this game away early and rest some starters, including QB Quentin
Williams. As usual, they commit way too many penalties, ranking last in the FCS
by a big margin with 118.7 yards per game. Savannah State has lost 26 straight
conference games.

Abilene Christian (4-3, 2-1 Southland) at X-No. 11 McNeese State (3-2, 1-1), 7
p.m. The rushing game didn’t desert McNeese in its loss to Sam Houston State,
but the Cowboys need to stand tall in the saddle with a better passing game (89
yards on 31 attempts). The only other series meeting between these two teams
was a 22-0 McNeese shutout in 1972.

X-No. 13 Eastern Kentucky (6-0, 3-0 Ohio Valley) at Tennessee Tech (2-4, 1-2),
8 p.m. The Colonels have never been 4-0 in the OVC under seventh-year coach
Dean Hood, but they have won four times on the road already, and they’ve owned
the series against Tech, leading 52-18, which ties for the most against any
opponent in school annuals. After Colonels sophomore Devin Borders led the FCS
with five blocked kicks last season, he has four midway through this season
(three field goals and one punt).

FCS Game of the Week: Central Arkansas (4-3, 3-0 Southland) at X-No. 8
Southeastern Louisiana (5-2, 3-0), 8 p.m. Defending champion Southeastern has
won 12 straight Southland games, but the attempt for No. 13 might turn unlucky.
UCA defensive end Jonathan Woodard leads an active front that will get after
Lions quarterback Bryan Bennett. There’s a great matchup between UCA receivers,
led by speed Dezmin Lewis, against the always-formidable Southeastern
secondary.

Non-Ranked Conference

The matchup of the season in the Northeast Conference pits last year’s co-
champions against each other. Sacred Heart earned the conference’s automatic
FCS playoff bid last year because of a 10-0 win in the head-to-head meeting.
But the Dukes are just where they want to be – playing at home with a chance to
take the driver’s seat in the title race.

X-Sacred Heart (5-1, 1-0 Northeast) at Duquesne (4-2, 1-0), noon

X-Bryant (4-1, 0-0 Northeast) at Saint Francis (2-4, 0-1), noon

X-Central Connecticut State (2-4, 0-1 Northeast) at Robert Morris (0-6, 0-1),
noon

X-San Diego (4-1, 2-1 Pioneer) at Butler (3-3, 1-2), noon

Albany (4-2, 1-2 CAA) at X-Maine (2-4, 1-2), 12:30 p.m.

Towson (2-5, 0-3 CAA) at X-Delaware (4-2, 2-0), 12:30 p.m.

Florida A&M (1-5, 1-1 MEAC) at X-Howard (1-6, 0-4), 1 p.m.

X-North Carolina Central (3-3, 2-0 MEAC) at Morgan State (3-3, 2-1), 1 p.m.

Columbia (0-4, 0-1 Ivy) at X-Penn (0-4, 0-1 Ivy), 1 p.m.

Norfolk State (2-5, 2-1 MEAC) at X-Hampton (1-5, 0-2), 1 p.m.

Morehead State (2-4, 1-2 Pioneer) at X-Dayton (4-1, 2-0), 1 p.m.

X-Stony Brook (3-4, 2-1 CAA) at Elon (1-5, 0-2), 1:30 p.m.

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

Eastern Illinois (1-5, 1-1 Ohio Valley) at X-Southeast Missouri State (4-3,
2-1), 2 p.m.

X-North Carolina A&T (5-2, 2-1 MEAC) at Delaware State (2-5, 2-1), 2 p.m.

South Dakota (2-4, 0-2 Missouri Valley) at X-Missouri State (3-3, 0-2), 3 p.m.

Wofford (3-3, 1-1 Southern) at X-Samford (3-2, 2-1), 3 p.m.

Texas Southern (5-1, 3-1 SWAC) at X-Alcorn State (5-2, 3-1), 3 p.m.

UT Martin (2-5, 1-3 Ohio Valley) at X-Tennessee State (4-3, 1-2), 3 p.m.

Arkansas-Pine Bluff (1-4, 0-3 SWAC) at X-Grambling State (4-3, 4-0), 3 p.m.

X-Prairie View A&M (2-4, 2-3 SWAC) at Mississippi Valley State (2-5, 1-4), 3
p.m.

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

Davidson (1-6, 0-3 Pioneer) at X-Campbell (3-3, 3-0), 4 p.m.

X-Western Carolina (4-2, 2-0 Southern) at Mercer (5-2, 1-2), 4 p.m.

X-Lamar (4-3, 1-2 Southland) at Nicholls (0-7, 0-3), 4 p.m.

Southern Utah (1-6, 1-2 Big Sky) at X-Idaho State (3-3, 1-1), 4:35 p.m.

X-Jacksonville (5-1, 4-0 Pioneer) at Stetson (2-4, 0-2), 6 p.m.

X-Murray State (2-4, 1-2 Ohio Valley) at Austin Peay (0-6, 0-2), 7 p.m.

X-Northern Arizona (3-3, 1-1 Big Sky) at Portland State (2-4, 1-1), 7:05 p.m.

X-Stephen F. Austin (4-2, 1-1 Southland) at Houston Baptist (1-5, 0-3), 8 p.m.

Cal Poly (3-3, 2-1 Big Sky) at X-Sacramento State (4-3, 1-2), 9 p.m.

Non-Ranked Non-Conference

An 0-2 start took any attention off Colgate, but the Raiders have come back to
capture four straight wins, highlighted by a 31-30 win over Princeton last
Saturday. Now first-year coach Dan Hunt’s squad takes dead aim on another Ivy
League member, Yale, which is leading the FCS in total offense (593.3 ypg).

Colgate (4-2) at X-Yale (3-1), 1 p.m.

Holy Cross (2-5) at X-Dartmouth (3-1), 1:30 p.m.

X-Gardner-Webb (3-3) at VMI (1-6), 1:30 p.m.

X-Lehigh (0-5) at Cornell (0-4), 3 p.m.

FCS-FBS

Furman was 2-4 last year when it started to mount a big season-ending flourish
by defeating Appalachian State. Game 7 won’t be lucky this time around.

Furman (2-4) at X-South Carolina (3-3), noon