Published September 02, 2012
| Sports Network
Philadelphia, PA – The "identity crisis" in the Football Championship Subdivision might be overstated.
After Week 1 of the new season, plenty of people across the nation know just who plays under the old Division I-AA umbrella, even if the FCS moniker gets renamed in the future.
Four FCS teams opening their season with an upset of FBS competition is an eye-catching total.
Maybe they can call the FCS the FC-yes.
McNeese State beat Middle Tennessee, 27-21, and Eastern Washington handled Idaho, 20-3, on Thursday night, and Youngstown State defeated Pittsburgh, 31-17, and UT Martin slipped past Memphis, 20-17, on Saturday.
None of the four teams was picked to win its conference title, but each can be a factor if it can sustain the early high level of play. That hasn't been easy, however, for many of the teams that upset FBS competition in recent seasons.
Youngstown State's win was particularly rewarding because it showed the Penguins can put the results behind the high expectations surrounding their team.
Eastern Washington, the 2010 FCS national champion, appears back on track after a disappointing, injury-plagued season a year ago, and new gunslinger Kyle Padron has his share of wide receiver talent.
McNeese State didn't get Tyrann Mathieu from LSU, but it has its own dynamic defensive back in safety Malcolm Bronson.
UT Martin's offense can be scary good at times, and with a new defensive coordinator, the Skyhawks hope to match up on that side of the ball.
All four teams went 6-5 or 5-6 last season, but returned an influential amount of starters, so better seasons clearly are in the works.
The way the four come back to action next Saturday is quite a contrast. Eastern Washington (Washington State) and UT Martin (Northern Illinois) take on more FBS competition, while McNeese State hosts a Division III school (McMurry) and Youngstown plays a non-scholarship school (Valparaiso) that has lost 33 of its last 35 games.
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
A recap of games in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 can be found at http://tinyurl.com/9cxo47y.
STOCK RISING, STOCK FALLING
Rising: First-year coach Dino Babers' passing attack at Eastern Illinois was in full flight with seven touchdown passes in a 49-28 win over rival Southern Illinois. Jimmy Garoppolo threw for 369 yards and five touchdowns with no interceptions, while Erik Lora caught two touchdowns and threw for one.
Falling: The Walter Payton Award candidacy of Elon wide receiver Aaron Mellette and Southern Utah quarterback Brad Sorensen - perhaps the FCS' top senior prospects for the 2013 NFL Draft - took a hit. Elon was embarrassed by North Carolina, 62-0, and the record-setting Mellette caught only two passes for nine yards. Sorensen was 12-of-31 for 153 yards and one interception in a 34-3 loss at Utah State.
AROUND THE NATION
Big Sky: New quarterback Trent McKinley was up to the task in his first career start, a 35-24 rally past South Dakota. McKinley completed 26-of-32 passes for 214 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. The Hawaiian also rushed for 65 yards on 13 carries.
Big South: 2012 NFL Draft choice Josh Norman returned to Coastal Carolina to watch Saturday's 29-13 Chanticleers win over North Carolina A&T. He saw senior cornerback Dontavais Johnson tie his school record of three interceptions in a game (Norman's brother Marrio also shares the CCU single-game record with three picks) ... Brian Hudson appeared to solidify the quarterback position during Liberty's 20-17 loss at Wake Forest. That's welcome news for new coach Turner Gill.
CAA Football: The near-miss of Week 1 was William & Mary's 7-6 loss at FBS Maryland. The host Terps needed a fourth-quarter touchdown to avoid the upset ... Virginia quarterback Michael Rocco didn't treat his uncle, new Richmond coach Danny Rocco, so well while throwing for 311 yards and a touchdown in the Cavaliers' 43-19 win over the Spiders, who have lost nine straight games ... Andrew Pierce became the first Delaware junior to surpass 3,000 career rushing yards. He has 3,020 after a 41-21 win over West Chester.
Ivy: Cornell's Shane Savage, Kurt Ondash and Luke Tasher ranked 1-2-3 in receiving yards per game last season, and all three return for quarterback Jeff Mathews. All Ivy teams open their campaign on Sept. 15.
MEAC: Few endings were more exciting than Morgan State outlasting Sacred Heart, 30-27, in four overtimes. Ervin Gonzalez's 20-yard field goal was the difference ... In Norfolk State's first shutout since 2001 - 24-0 over Virginia State - the Spartans defense registered 17 tackles for loss, seven sacks and four takeaways. Senior linebacker Jamal Giddens collected seven tackles, 4.5 for loss, two sacks and two forced fumbles despite missing much of the second half due to cramps ... It can't get any worse for Savannah State, can it? After falling to Oklahoma State, 84-0, the Tigers travel to Florida State next Saturday.
Missouri Valley: Going back to last year's FCS playoffs, defending national champion North Dakota State has allowed one touchdown in its last four games ... South Dakota State's Zach Zenner had a 99-yard touchdown run against Kansas.
Northeast: Wagner shut out Florida Atlantic for three quarters before falling 7-3 in its first-ever game against an FBS school. Dominique Williams rushed for 117 yards on 24 carries and safety Pat O'Connor had 10 tackles and a fumble recovery in the loss.
Ohio Valley: Florida A&M's Darien Fleming was stopped twice on quarterback sneaks from the Tennessee State 1-yard line, preserving the Tigers' 17-14 win in the final minute of the John A. Merritt Classic ... Eastern Kentucky fourth-year starting quarterback T.J. Pryor missed the opener against Purdue because of a hamstring injury.
Patriot: With a 55-0 shutout of Lock Haven, Fordham became the 15th Division I school to reach 750 wins and the fifth FCS team to do so ... Don't overlook Georgetown senior linebacker Robert McCabe, who was tremendous last season and collected 17 tackles, including three for a loss, in the Hoyas' 35-14 win at Davidson.
Pioneer: Not to be lost in Marist's 4-7 record last season is the Red Foxes led the 10-team league in total defense and ranked third in scoring defense. Coach Jim Parady apparently has another stout unit as it routed Bryant, 35-10, on the road while limiting Bulldogs running back Jordan Brown (1,815 yards last season) to 43 yards on 22 carries.
Southern: Samford got a jump-start on the conference race with a 24-21 victory over Furman. Cameron Yaw kicked a game-winning 27-yard field goal with 37 seconds left - the 53rd of his career. Head coach Pat Sullivan, who has been dealing with a bout of pneumonia, returned to the team, but did not do his coaching from the sideline ... The FCS' top-three rushing teams of a year ago came out in force on Saturday. Wofford rushed for 402 yards, Georgia Southern went for 557 and The Citadel had 479.
Southland: Nicholls' postponed game at Oregon State (travel after Hurricane Isaac) will be played Dec. 1 depending on the postseason schedule of both teams.
SWAC: The West Division race has taken on an interesting feel with defending conference champion Grambling State and Prairie View A&M both suffering SWAC losses to open their campaign ... Arkansas-Pine Bluff beat Langston, 17-14, on Tyler Strickland's 27-yard field goal with one second remaining.
Extra point: New FCS head coaches combined on a 7-6 record in Week 1. Columbia's Pete Mangurian and Yale's Tony Reno will make their debuts on Sept. 15.
A LOOK AHEAD
An exciting Week 1 gets an encore next Saturday with many more non-conference matchups and FCS opportunities against FBS competition.
No game stands out more on than Montana's visit to Appalachian State, which has the feel of Armageddon considering their program histories and large fan bases. The two national powers have never met in the regular season, but twice previously in the FCS playoffs, with Montana winning both times at home (2000 and 2009).
"It's almost like a playoff game, only it's happening the second week of the season," Montana coach Mick Delaney said.
The FCS-vs.-FBS menu features defending national champion North Dakota State at Colorado State and New Hampshire at Minnesota. Illinois State has a shot at Eastern Michigan, while UC Davis returns to San Jose State, where the Aggies won two years ago.
Other big non-conference games include Central Arkansas at Murray State, Old Dominion at Hampton, Chattanooga at Jacksonville State, Norfolk State at Liberty, Montana State at Drake in Bobcats coach Rob Ash's return to the school where he is the all-time wins leader, and Jackson State vs. Tennessee State in the Southern Heritage Classic at Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium in Memphis, Tenn.
The inside track to the MEAC title could be gained in the Bethune-Cookman at South Carolina State matchup. In the Southern Conference, Georgia Southern visits The Citadel in a rematch of last year's 14-12 GSU win.
Oh, yes, No. 1 Sam Houston State also kicks off its season against Incarnate Word, a future rival in the Southland Conference.