Philadelphia, PA – Some of the premier FCS programs took the first day of fall too seriously Saturday.
And now that they are reeling, they might be second-guessing their September schedule-making.
A year ago, then-reigning FCS champion Eastern Washington had a risky first month of the season, and an 0-4 start basically killed the Eagles' chances of defending their national title.
Sam Houston State went to the title game last year, and now faces an uphill climb back to the playoffs. Central Arkansas holds the head-to-head tie- breaker over the Bearkats as a result of their 24-20 Southland Conference upset.
If Sam Houston doesn't win the conference title, then coach Willie Fritz's 1-2 squad might have to win seven of its final eight games - the last one at Texas A&M - because it doesn't have a win over a Division I opponent yet. Not only did the Bearkats schedule two FBS opponents (they lost to Baylor and end the regular season at Texas A&M), but also Division II Incarnate Word (which they beat).
The NCAA playoff committee has never taken an at-large team with fewer than seven wins against D-I competition.
Oh yeah, Sam Houston went and scheduled only three games on-campus this season after going 9-0 at Bowers Stadium, including the playoffs, last year.
Missouri Valley Football Conference perennial kingpin Northern Iowa also scheduled two FBS opponents (quality losses to Wisconsin and Iowa) and a D-II school (a win over Central State).
After Saturday's loss to Youngstown State, the Panthers are 1-3, don't have a win over a D-I squad and host reigning national champion North Dakota State next weekend.
It's safe to say the Panthers have to win that game.
South Carolina State is another team facing a must-win next weekend against defending MEAC champion Norfolk State. The Bulldogs got nice pay days the last two weekends, but they also got hammered by Arizona and Texas A&M, and now they are 1-3 overall and 0-1 in the conference, having lost at home to Bethune-Cookman.
Just like last year, Stephen F. Austin (1-3) is a team without a D-I win in September, having included D-II Southwestern Oklahoma (a win) on its schedule as well as SMU (a loss) and gallant losses at Montana State and FBS newcomer Texas State. Up next: tough games against Central Arkansas and Sam Houston State.
Jacksonville State doesn't look like it's headed to the playoffs following a 1-2 start with losses to Arkansas and Ohio Valley Conference favorite Eastern Kentucky. The Gamecocks still have to play a game at Florida, so they are really going to have to get hot in conference play.
ALL HAIL HEINICKE
As Weber State's Jamie Martin was on his way to winning the Walter Payton Award in 1991, he set the FCS (then-Division I-AA) record with 623 passing yards against Idaho State.
Well, Old Dominion sophomore Taylor Heinicke flew past Martin's record on Saturday, and he might follow up with the Payton Award as well.
Heinicke threw for a Division I record 730 yards in ODU's amazing, 64-61 victory over New Hampshire. He completed 55-of-79 attempts and threw for five touchdowns.
He added 61 rushing yards for one touchdown, giving him 791 yards of total offense, also a Division I record.
"To put it in a nutshell, this kid's played 13 football games now," ODU coach Bobby Wilder said. "What he's doing is really unconscionable, I have a hard time fathoming what he does on the field on a regular basis. What impresses me the most is he was the same kid at 47-24 (when ODU trailed) as he was at 61-61 when we're driving at the end of the game. All the other kids around him see that."
In a 4-0 start, Heinicke has thrown for 1,921 yards and 19 touchdowns. He also has 2,116 yards of total offense.
YEAH, THAT'S NOT BAD, TOO
Heinicke was the one gaining national attention Saturday, but Eastern Illinois wide receiver Erik Lora wasn't too shabby, either.
He set the Ohio Valley Conference record by catching 21 passes in EIU's 50-49 overtime win over Murray State. He hauled in three touchdowns and totaled 269 receiving yards.
Lora also threw the game-winning two-point conversion to end the first overtime period.
Reigning FCS champion North Dakota State cruised past Prairie View A&M, 66-7, but both sides joined in with pinpoint passing. Three quarterbacks were a combined 37-of-41 for 407 yards and five touchdowns.
Prairie View's Jerry Lovelocke completed 16-of-18 attempts, while NDSU starter Brock Jensen was 13-for-15 and backup Carson Wentz was 8-for-8.
BACK IN THE WIN COLUMN
It took sub-Division I opponents, but the FCS' two longest active losing streaks ended Saturday.
Charleston Southern stopped its streak at 15 by winning at Division II Shorter, 23-20. The Buccaneers forced three turnovers.
Nicholls throttled NAIA Evangel, 73-14, to stop a 12-game losing streak. Landry Klahn threw for three touchdowns and Tuskani Figaro rushed for a trio of TDs as the Colonels totaled 751 yards offensively.
Savannah State now has the FCS' longest current losing streak at 10 games.
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
A recap of games in The Sports Network FCS Top 25 can be found at http://tinyurl.com/8b6cw4s.
STOCK RISING, STOCK FALLING
Rising: What a job Youngstown State has done in improving to 4-0, including Saturday's 42-35 win over Northern Iowa. The Penguins, behind quarterback Kurt Hess, are off to their best start since opening 6-0 in 2000.
Falling: After Sam Houston State advanced to the FCS championship game last season, and Central Arkansas won a road playoff game, the Southland Conference was on a high. Now it risks settling for only one playoff team this season. Sam Houston State (1-2) and Stephen F. Austin (1-3) need to get hot quickly and McNeese State (3-1) suffered a potentially devastating loss to Southeastern Louisiana on Saturday.
AROUND THE NATION
Big Sky: With its 14-game losing streak against Montana over, Northern Arizona (3-1, 1-0) just might make a run at the Big Sky title. "This (Montana) is a stepping-stone for us that has been in our way for many years," said coach Jerome Souers, whose team doesn't play No. 2 Montana State or No. 9 Eastern Washington in the conference's unbalanced scheduling ... Idaho State wide receiver Rodrick Rumble had six receptions for 39 yards in his season debut - the Bengals' 73-7 loss at Nebraska. The Bengals have dropped 34 straight road games ... Sacramento State held North Dakota all-purpose threat Greg Hardin in check, but not running back Mitch Sutton, who gained 162 yards and three touchdowns on the ground in a 35-13 UND win ... Southern Utah stopped three final plays from its 1-yard line to hold off Portland State, 49-42.
Big South: Thrilling game at No. 20 Stony Brook, which rallied past a game Colgate squad, 32-31. Miguel Maysonet (198 rushing yards) scored on a 1-yard run with 3:31 left to erase the Seahawks' 31-26 deficit ... Coastal Carolina quarterback Aramis Hillary set career highs in completions (30), attempts (47) and yards (356) in a 38-28 loss to Toledo. His three touchdown passes also tied a career high ... The out-of-conference games have been rough on the Big South the last two weeks as its teams are 2-12.
CAA Football: Villanova (3-1) surpassed last year's win total by defeating Penn, 24-8. Quarterback John Robertson continued to settle in with a touchdown pass and rush as well as 268 yards of total offense ... Richmond also moved to 3-1 under first-year coach Danny Rocco, beating Georgia State, 35-14, on quarterback John Laub's 296 total yards and four total touchdowns (three rushing, one passing) ... Total domination: In Delaware's 51-21 win at William & Mary, the Blue Hens' Zack Kerr scored on a 47-yard interception return, Travis Hawkins scored on a 90-yard return of a blocked field goal and Vince Hollerman returned a fumble 45 yards for another score. "We had a little softer schedule than (William & Mary) did coming in," Blue Hens coach K.C. Keeler said, "so it wasn't a good indication of where we were. But our effort was great tonight."
Ivy: Dartmouth stunned Holy Cross, 13-10, to push its winning streak to five dating to last season. Vernon Harris recovered a fumble at the Holy Cross 31. After one pass, Riley Lyons kicked a game-winning 31-yard field goal with one second remaining ... Defending champ Harvard beat Brown, 45-31, in a terrific game. The difference was Treavor Scales rushing for 136 yards and four touchdowns. The Crimson's 11-game winning streak is the longest current run in the FCS ... Cornell junior quarterback Jeff Mathews has completed 142- of-186 passes for 1,898 yards, 16 touchdowns and one interception over his last four games dating back to last season.
MEAC: Quarterback Damien Fleming fueled Florida A&M's 24-22 win at Delaware State by completing 30-of-37 passes for 399 yards and three touchdowns. The Rattlers are 2-0 in conference play ... North Carolina Central beat Savannah State, 45-33, to even its record at 2-2. Jordan Reid threw for three touchdowns and Andre Clarke rushed for a pair.
Missouri Valley: The upcoming schedule gives South Dakota State an excellent chance to get into the conference title race. Of course, FCS rushing leader Zach Zenner gives the Jackrabbits an even better chance. He rushed for 237 yards and a touchdown in a 24-10 win at No. 22 Indiana State Saturday, and all four of his outputs this season are among the top 16 in the FCS ... You might think quarterback Matt Brown first with Illinois State, but Darrelynn Dunn has carried the load, too, including 123 yards and two touchdowns in a 23-3 win over Western Illinois. The Redbirds are 4-0 for the first time since 1967.
Northeast: Albany will gain some Top 25 votes after winning at No. 23 Maine, 30-20, to improve to 7-5 all-time against CAA teams. The Great Danes (3-1) have only lost by a touchdown to No. 4 Youngstown State ... Eric Spillane tied the Monmouth career record for field goals, kicking two in a 27-14 win over Sacred Heart. He is tied with Fred Weingart with 31 field goals ... There were highlights for Bryant as it fell to 0-4 for the first time with a 35-21 loss to Duquesne. Senior Jordan Brown became the Bulldogs' all-time rushing leader with 3,523 yards and junior Jordan Harris became their career receiving yardage leader with 1,663 yards ... Wagner won a matchup of 0-3 teams, stopping Central Connecticut State, 31-13, as Dominique Williams rushed for 121 yards and two second-half touchdowns.
Ohio Valley: Forget Eastern Kentucky's sluggish start to the season. The Colonels (3-1), who own a dominant offensive line, are rolling, having smashed Jacksonville State, 51-21, for their third straight win. Matt Denham (218 yards and two touchdowns on the ground) can hardly be stopped ... Of course, the UT Martin defense keeps impressing, and the Skyhawks (3-1) host Eastern Kentucky next weekend ... What a season for Tennessee State to celebrate the university's 100-year history. The Tigers improved to 4-0 for the first time since 2008 with a 21-14 win at Bethune-Cookman. Trabis Ward rushed for 154 yards and two touchdowns ... Tennessee Tech, which earned last year's OVC automatic bid, faces an uphill climb after falling to Southeast Missouri, 41-38, in overtime. Transfer Wide receiver Ja'Rick Rodgers did his part in the loss, catching 18 passes for 303 yards - both career highs - and two touchdowns.
Patriot: Lafayette was a combined 6-16 over the last two seasons, but coach Frank Tavani has the Leopards off to a 3-0 start, including a 20-14 win in its league opener against Bucknell ... Fordham is the other resurgent team after going 1-10 last season. The Rams are 3-1 under first-year coach Joe Moorhead after they dropped Columbia, 20-13, for the Liberty Cup. Carlton Koonce rushed for 250 yards on 35 carries and scored two touchdowns ... Lehigh got the big win it needed on the road by defeating Liberty. The Flames pulled within 28-26 on a touchdown with 59 seconds left, but Lehigh denied a potential game-tying two-point conversion. The winning points came on Billy Boyko's 39-yard interception return with 6:06 left. As good as the Mountain Hawks have been since 2010, this is the first time they are 4-0 since 2001.
Pioneer: Fifth-year senior quarterback Mike Piatkowski set the Drake career record for passing yards (8,106) as the Bulldogs rallied past Morehead State, 28-25. The 2011 PFL offensive player of the year threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns. Zach Lewis' 56th career touchdown pass set the Morehead State record ... Marist's single-game receiving yardage record fell to fifth-year senior Michael Rios with 244 receiving yards, and he had a program-record- tying three touchdown catches in a 34-21 win over Davidson. Quarterback Chuckie Looney threw for 403 yards on only 17 completions. And speaking of records, Davidson linebacker Patrick Moynahan totaled a school-record 22 tackles ... Jacksonville's Colby Walden had the right answer after Dayton took a lead with 1:39 remaining in their game. He returned a squib kick 85 yards for the game-winning touchdown in a 21-17 Dolphins' triumph ... Trae Heeter's 204 rushing yards and two touchdowns powered Butler past Campbell, 35-14.
SoCon: Samford, 4-0 for the first time since 1995, held on to the conference lead by overcoming an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit in a 25-21 win at Western Carolina. Fabian Truss continued his huge season with 280 all-purpose yards and two touchdown runs. "We had enough heart to come back and win the football game, and that is what's special about this team," Samford coach Pat Sullivan said. "Our guys have taken pride in how hard they've worked and they believe the fourth quarter is their's." ... By defeating Chattanooga, 34-17, Appalachian State improved to 23-1 in its last 24 games that immediately followed a same-season loss. The Mountaineers still probably think last Saturday's 52-28 loss to The Citadel was a hallucination.
Southland: Southeastern Louisiana did exactly what a struggling program should do in going for a two-point conversion late in the game and beating No. 19 McNeese State, 25-24. Michael Chaney ran in the winning points with 2:39 left ... Stephen F. Austin lost another tough road game, 41-37 at Texas State, but Cordell Roberson set the Southland career mark with his 33rd TD reception.
SWAC: It's been a wild season for a conference that has a lot of unpredictability. Only one of the 10 teams does not have a conference loss, Alabama A&M (4-0, 3-0) ... Perhaps no player in the SWAC is as hot as Alabama A&M quarterback Deaunte Mason. A week after accounting for six touchdowns against Prairie View, he totaled five more (three rushing, two passing) in a 42-13 rout of Texas Southern ... Southern earned a rousing win for interim coach Dawson Odums in his first game. The Tigers grabbed a 28-0 lead after three quarters at Jackson State - behind Dray Joseph's three touchdown passes - and held on for a 28-21 triumph.
Extra Point: Three FCS players are among the 22 on the 2012 Allstate American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team for involvement in the community off the field. They are offensive linemen Zach Bosch of Drake and Steve Ciocci of Wagner and Florida A&M linebacker Brandon Hepburn.
A LOOK AHEAD
Most teams will be into conference play by next weekend, and the heavyweight action involves defending FCS champion North Dakota State at Northern Iowa in the Missouri Valley and Montana at 2010 FCS champion Eastern Washington in the Big Sky. UNI and Montana really need wins here.
There are plenty of other key conferences, including: Big Sky, Montana State at Southern Utah and Portland State at Northern Arizona; CAA, Delaware at New Hampshire, Old Dominion at Richmond and Villanova at Maine; MEAC, Norfolk State at South Carolina State; Northeast, Monmouth at Albany; Ohio Valley, Eastern Kentucky at UT Martin; Southern, Samford at Georgia Southern, Wofford at Elon and Chattanooga at The Citadel; and Southland, Central Arkansas at Stephen F. Austin.
Tennessee State will play its fourth and final fellow HBCU school by hosting Arkansas-Pine Bluff.
The FCS-versus-FBS games are Stony Brook at Army, Rhode Island at Bowling Green and Towson at LSU.