In the FCS Huddle: The pressure will grow for NDSU

Who knew there wasn't a speed limit in Fargo, N.D.?

Certainly not the Youngstown State Penguins. They got run over by top-ranked North Dakota State, 48-7, on Saturday in a statement game that Bison coach Craig Bohl said wasn't a statement game.

OK, you could say the defending FCS national champion let their legs do the talking.

Zach Vraa was at the far end of a 46-yard flea flicker. Marcus Williams raced (or was it blurred?) untouched for 98 yards on an interception return for a touchdown (were any Penguins on the field?). Ryan Smith weaved through the YSU punt coverage for a 76-yard touchdown.

All in a day's work, of course, for a 5-0 squad that can win with defense, methodical play and, well, quick-strike intimidation.

"We're going to try to stay guarded about our statements and stay grounded," coach Craig Bohl said. "It doesn't take long to go from the penthouse to the outhouse. We have a good football team, though. How could we be, there's a lot of football left to play. But we have a good football team."

With this season's toughest opponents seemingly behind the Bison - Colorado State, Youngstown State and Northern Iowa - it's easy to think they are well on their way to an undefeated regular season and, perhaps, back-to-back national championships. No team has won the national title with a perfect record since Marshall's 15-0 team in 1996.

Think again.

The pressure will begin to mount for the Bison, even when they go to Missouri Valley schools South Dakota and Missouri State, who are a combined 1-10.

The closer a team gets to an unbeaten record, the more the players and coaches feel its magnitude closing in. Teams start to play not to lose rather than play to win.

Granted, no team in the FCS is better than the Bison, maybe even more versatile considering the dissection of a third-ranked YSU squad. But the Bison have plenty of difficult games ahead, and nobody wants to beat an unbeaten squad like a conference opponent.


Howard fifth-year senior linebacker Keith Pough became the all-time FCS leader in tackles for loss when he had 3 1/2 in a 17-10 win over Florida A&M - giving him 66 for his career.

Pough sacked Florida A&M quarterback Damien Fleming in the third quarter to break a tie with former Western Kentucky linebacker Sherrod Coates, who had 65 tackles for loss in his career.


Every year, Montana State and quarterback DeNarius get into one of those crazy, back-and-forth, edge-of-your seat games. Saturday night, the second- ranked Bobcats survived a trip to UC Davis, 48-41, to improve to 6-0 for the first time since 1978.

UC Davis led 41-38 in the fourth quarter before MSU defensive tackle Zach Minter intercepted a screen pass near the Aggies' goal line and set up Tray Robinson's 1-yard touchdown run with 8:40 left, putting the Bobcats in front for good.

The teams flip-flopped with 24-0 quarters, with MSU on top in the second quarter and UC Davis in the third quarter.

McGhee threw for 334 yards with one touchdown and an interception.


Some top defensive performances on Saturday:

Alabama State (45-0 over Texas Southern), Southern Illinois (17-0 over No. 9 Illinois State) and Alabama A&M (35-0 over Mississippi Valley State) all pitched shutouts.

Nicholl's Jordan Piper collected 23 tackles, including 14 solos, in a 34-14 loss to Central Arkansas.

Maine's Michael Cole had five of the Black Bears' nine sacks in a 26-3 win over Delaware.

The three teams allowing the fewest yards - Alabama State, 133 versus Texas Southern; Bethune-Cookman, 163 versus North Carolina A&T; and Alabama A&M, 168 versus Mississippi Valley State - were HBCUs. Or is that more an indictment of HBCU offenses?


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


Rising: James Madison and New Hampshire gave their head coaches - Mickey Matthews and Sean McDonnell, respectively - their 100th career wins on Saturday and now each CAA Football school has an upcoming stretch that could get it playoff-eligible. JMU (4-1) hasn't allowed more than 10 points to an FCS opponent and UNH (4-2) has weathered a handful of injuries to post back- to-back impressive wins.

Falling: It's one thing for perennial MEAC power South Carolina State to lose to FBS opponents, or Bethune-Cookman, but North Carolina Central? The Bulldogs (2-4, 1-2) allowed 30 points in the second quarter of a 40-10 beating. They're basically in the spoiler's role the rest of the season.


Not all of the FCS teams have completed half of their games, but Week 6 action marked the midpoint of the regular season.

A look at how the conference title races are shaping up:

Big Sky: Preseason Montana State (6-0, 3-0) and Eastern Washington (4-1, 3-0) will square off next weekend. Cal Poly (5-0, 3-0) is right there with the two and doesn't play either one or Montana in a game that counts toward the Big Sky standings. Northern Arizona (4-1, 2-0) also is stretch-free of Montana State and EWU. Defending champion MSU is the team to beat.

Big South: The last Division I conference to kick off its league schedule has a prohibitive favorite in Stony Brook (5-1, 1-0), but the Seawolves' trip to Liberty on Nov. 10 is no easy task. Despite its 0-4 non-conference record, Liberty opened Big South play with a 42-35 win over Gardner-Webb. It's a two- horse race at best.

CAA Football: Strap on your seatbelt, this race should be excellent. Top 5 schools Old Dominion and James Madison could be on a collision course for the regular season's final Saturday, Nov. 17. ODU has Taylor Heinicke and JMU has a stout defense. New Hampshire (4-2. 2-1) and Towson (2-3, 1-1) could still factor into the race, and Richmond and Villanova, both 4-2 and 2-1, will spell trouble for someone.

Ivy: No. 25 Harvard (4-0, 2-0) is starting to look like one of the nation's more underrated teams as it keeps throttling opponents. If the Crimson can't be slowed, they could roll into rival Penn with an unbeaten record on Nov. 10. Brown (3-1, 0-1) is having a terrific season, but it dropped its league opener to Harvard. Penn is the opposite, losing three non-league games but winning its league opener.

MEAC: Bison? Yeah, you may not think Howard first when you talk about a team with the Bison nickname, but these surprising Bison are in first place, sharing the top spot with Bethune-Cookman at 3-0. Unfortunately, those two teams don't play each other in the conference's unbalanced schedule. Morgan State (3-2, 2-0) and North Carolina State (3-2, 2-0) may not have staying power in the race; Bethune-Cookman is the team to beat.

Missouri Valley: North Dakota State (5-0, 2-0) is pointing toward another conference title. The other unbeaten team in conference play, South Dakota State (4-1, 2-0), was idle this weekend. Illinois State (5-1, 2-1) wishes it had been idle. Its first loss to Southern Illinois (3-3, 2-1) was devastating. Youngstown State (4-1, 1-1), its flaws exposed by NDSU, still has tough road games.

Northeast: While celebrating his new place as Albany's all-time receptions leader, senior wide receiver Ryan Kirchner might have said it best: "I'm proud of it, but we still have some business to take care of. We've got to get another ring here," he said after a 31-14 win at Bryant. Last year's first- ever NEC playoff representative, the Great Danes (5-1, 3-0) have played better than last year's other league co-champ, Duquesne (4-1, 2-0). But Albany has to go to Duquesne on Nov. 10. Wagner (3-3, 3-1) and Monmouth (3-2, 2-1) will struggle to match Albany's pace.

Ohio Valley: Coach Rod Reed has done a masterful job in leading Tennessee State to a 6-0 start, including 2-0 in the OVC. Still, the finish line is far away as the Tigers play four of their final five games on the road. Maybe its Nov. 17 game at UT Martin (4-2, 2-1) could be for the automatic bid to the FCS playoffs. Don't discount Eastern Kentucky (4-2, 2-1), but it will need help after Saturday's loss to Tennessee State.

Patriot: It's odd that Lehigh (6-0) already has played five non-conference games and its win over Fordham doesn't count toward the Patriot standings. A road schedule of Georgetown, Holy Cross and Lafayette isn't a gimmee for the Mountain Hawks, even while quarterback Mike Colvin keeps improving. Holy Cross and Lafayette each has a leg up in the race, but their wins are over struggling Bucknell.

Pioneer: Drake (4-2, 3-0) solidified itself as the team to beat by whipping San Diego, 38-10, in a matchup of last year's co-champs Saturday. Quarterback Mike Piatkowski, who totaled four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing), could be headed to a second straight league offensive player of the year award. There are two other 3-0 teams - Butler and Jacksonville - and Drake plays both of them in its final two games.

SoCon: There's lots of company right behind Wofford (5-0, 3-0), which continues to run wild behind senior fullback Eric Breitenstein. The Terriers head to Georgia Southern (4-1, 3-1) and Appalachian State (4-2, 2-1) the next two weekends, and that will shape the season. Surprising Samford (5-1, 3-1) needs to beat App State next Saturday to remain a big factor in the race.

Southland: Sam Houston State (3-2, 1-1) should be strong enough to pull away in a race led by Southeastern Louisiana (2-0, 2-4). After a bye, Stephen F. Austin's schedule eases up a bit, but the Lumberjacks (2-4, 1-1) need to play more defense the rest of the way. Central Arkansas (4-2, 2-1) and McNeese State (4-1, 1-1) add to a potentially deep rest, but it's really Sam Houston State's to lose.

SWAC: Alabama A&M (6-0, 5-0) and Alabama State (4-2, 4-1) are the best teams in the SWAC and will meet on Oct. 27 in Birmingham. The winner will likely return to Legion Field to represent the East Division in the conference championship game.

Extra Point: Although Southeastern Louisiana fell in its trip to UAB, the 10 FCS wins over FBS teams this season are the most since there were 10 in 2003. The last time the number was higher was 11 in 2001.


The second half of the regular season begins with two games matching Top 10 teams. Eastern Washington heads to Montana State in Big Sky action, while Wofford visits Georgia Southern in the Southern Conference.

Other important conference games include: Big Sky, Southern Utah at Montana and Northern Arizona at North Dakota; Big South, Stony Brook at Coastal Carolina; CAA, Richmond at New Hampshire; Missouri Valley, Youngstown State at Illinois State and Indiana State at North Dakota State; OVC, Jacksonville State at Eastern Illinois, Tennessee State at Southeast Missouri State and UT Martin at Murray State; Patriot, Lehigh at Georgetown; SoCon: Chattanooga at Furman and Appalachian State at Samford; and Southland, Central Arkansas at McNeese State.

In non-conference action, Monmouth heads to Cornell while Fordham visits Cincinnati in two first-ever meetings.