By Craig Haley, FCS Executive Director
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - You might think the Brown players were sleepwalking through a listless first-half performance against Princeton this past Saturday.
You wouldn't be far off.
The Princeton game often falls during the week of midterm exams at Brown, so there were nights leading up to the game when players were up late studying and operating on little sleep as a result of it.
"You saw in the first half that we were just out of whack," said Brown coach Phil Estes, whose team rallied in the second half to a victory and moved into a share of first place in the Ivy League.
From the outside, many of us might have not known about the exams. Obviously, we don't know a lot about the daily occurrences with a team.
We all love to try to break down games - both pre- and post-game - and consider factors such as injuries, offensive and defensive schemes, and strength of schedules.
But there's a factor that always gets overlooked - life.
So many factors come into play. Yes, some players pull all-nighters during the week, and that doesn't necessarily mean they are studying.
Some players may have relationship problems. Some could be homesick, others just may be flat-out sick.
Certainly an illness could run through a team, as Wofford coach Mike Ayers can attest. Last season, his team had 31 cases of the flu and several players were quarantined and sent home.
Dealing with such issues is why K.C. Keeler's wife often tells the head coach of Delaware's No. 2-ranked program that he is more a psychologist than football coach.
"Yeah, they're a lot more than just putting the X's and O's up and coaching a football team," Keeler said. "You really rely on your support systems here, you rely on your academic support people, your doctors, your trainers, your strength coaches, because they're in contact with your kids sometimes even more than you are. You all have to kind of communicate together to make sure you know what's going on in their world. It is a tremendous challenge."
Adds Montana State coach Rob Ash, "I always say that I have 104 sons and it's like raising a family. There's always at least one of them that's in trouble or has got an issue or a problem or is sick. We expect that to happen, and as coaches you just try to be vigilant about the situations that come out and try to deal with 'em. We are not surprised when the door opens up and a guy walks in with some kind of issue. And what we try to do is focus on the solution, not on the problem, and try to have good communication so that you know that they're pretty settled."
Some communication is non-verbal, and that's when a coach has to read between the lines with players. If something is wrong, a coach might spot it in a player's demeanor.
Even if an issue is talked out, sometimes a coach might serve the player more by letting him work through it, both the good and the bad.
"Our kids have a very long schedule and as coaches we have to be smart and make sure that we do a great job of feeling the pulse of the team, where they are physically and psychologically," Ayers said. "We understand that when we get to this point in the season that we've got to start cutting practice back because quite frankly the season is such a drain. We have to allow more time for them to be over in the library studying and writing the papers and getting ready for the tests."
The parents of players entrust the coaches with their sons, whom former Princeton coach Roger Hughes used to call "their most precious commodity."
So, yes, much more can affect the outcome of a game than X's and O's. Right, Dr. Keeler?
"I heard Lou Holtz say this," Keeler said, "I think one of the greatest challenges anyone can have is take a hundred 18- through 21-year-olds and 22- year-olds and kind of get them all going in the same direction at the same time. It's really difficult."
SATURDAY'S BIG GAME
No. 5 Stephen F. Austin (5-1, 2-0) vs. Sam Houston State (4-2, 2-0)
The Southland Conference co-leaders are meeting in the "Battle of the Piney Woods" on Saturday at Reliant Stadium in Houston. SFA has won five straight games and Sam Houston State has overcome an 0-2 start with four straight wins.
Sam Houston State's young team has allowed opponents to complete only 45.7 percent of their pass attempts (95-for-208), an unusually low percentage. How the Bearkats defend the pass is the subplot when they try to slow Stephen F. Austin senior record-setting quarterback Jeremy Moses, whose 27.3 completions per game rank second in the FCS and 310.8 passing yards per game rank fourth.
"A real big ball game for us," Sam Houston State coach Willie Fritz said. "We're playing the top dog in the conference. They're really playing good right now. Outstanding quarterback in Moses, (the) all-time leading passer in conference history. He's got a dynamic wide receiver in (Gralyn) Crawford."
SATURDAY'S BIGGER GAME
No. 22 Northern Arizona (4-2, 2-1 Big Sky) at No. 7 Montana (5-2, 4-1)
That the Big Sky Conference race has opened up to a fourth team is not surprising to Montana head coach Robin Pflugrad even though the final score of Northern Arizona's 34-7 rout of then-No. 9 Montana State last Saturday was hard to foresee.
Northern Arizona joins Eastern Washington, Montana and Montana State with one conference loss.
"I talked to Jerome (Souers, Northern Arizona's head coach) about (his team) in December," Pflugrad said. "I thought he had an outstanding quarterback (Michael Herrick) and all those players back on defense that are seniors. Sprinkle in one or two juniors. I mean, those guys have played a lot of football together.
"Northern Arizona reminds me of the Montana Grizzlies last year when we had that senior class of great leaders. It looks like they're having a lot of fun. And I just think that Jerome did a great job with that game plan last week against Montana State. It's hard to score when you don't have the football and they were able to keep it away from the Bobcats."
NAU hasn't defeated Montana since 1997 and hasn't won in Missoula since 1986, but last year's game in Flagstaff was a 41-34 overtime thriller. The Grizzlies' 21-game home winning streak is the longest in the FCS.
SATURDAY'S BIGGEST GAME
No. 2 Delaware (7-0, 4-0 CAA) at No. 4 William & Mary (5-1, 3-1)
The bye week often can't come fast enough for teams that have been through the grueling preseason and then the first half of their season. However, William & Mary coach Jimmye Laycock is worried about a potential loss of momentum.
His team has won five straight games, including one over then-No. 1 Villanova, but then had a bye last Saturday.
"You kind of throw it out there and hope you can pick up where you left off," he said. "Like I said earlier, sometimes the open date doesn't really help you as far as maintaining momentum."
Saturday's CAA Football showdown might be won in the trenches. Each team has a superb running back - freshman Andrew Pierce of Delaware and junior Jonathan Grimes of William & Mary.
Delaware has been particularly good at getting a lead and controlling a game. The Blue Hens have trailed only against James Madison.
FCS PLAYOFF PROJECTION ...
In the FCS Huddle has been projecting the potential FCS playoff field since the preseason. The projections are a long-range look at the season - not based off current records or rankings - and can be found here.
THIS, THAT AND THE OTHER
No. 14 Bethune-Cookman, which might win the MEAC this season, will represent its conference in the 2011 MEAC-SWAC Challenge, to be played Labor Day Weekend at the Florida Citrus Bowl in Orlando. The SWAC, which trails 4-2 in the series, has yet to announce its representative ... No. 13 Southeast Missouri State has built a 6-1 record with only two home games. The Redhawks, led by senior Henry Harris, who leads the FCS in all-purpose yardage, play their next three games at home - including against Eastern Kentucky on Saturday - before going to No. 3 Jacksonville State for a potential Ohio Valley Conference title game on Nov. 13 ... Jackson State's Southwestern Athletic Conference schedule is kind of the reverse of SE Missouri State's in the OVC. The Tigers (5-1, 3-1) lead the SWAC East Division, but four of their final five games are on the road, and they are against five teams with at least a .500 record in conference play. Their only home game is against defending SWAC champion Prairie View A&M ... It was always hard to catch Brian Westbrook, let alone pass him. Richmond return man Justin Rogers needs 64 kickoff return yards to pass the former Villanova great's 2,433 yards from 1997-2001. The No. 16 Spiders host Towson in CAA Football action on Saturday ... With 94 career touchdown passes, Weber State quarterback Cameron Higgins needs two more to tie 1995 Walter Payton Award winner Dave Dickenson of Montana and former Eastern Washington great Matt Nichols for the Big Sky Conference record. Weber State hosts Portland State on Saturday ... Speaking of the Big Sky, Idaho State junior linebacker A.J. Storms has two 20-tackle games and leads the FCS with an average of 12.86 tackles per game ... Stony Brook has done well to replace Edwin Gowins, the Big South's active leading career rusher who played twice this season but has a groin/stomach injury that should sideline him for the remainder of the season. Hofstra transfers Brock Jackolski and Miguel Maysonet have come aboard to rank first and second, respectively, among the conference's rushing leaders ... To put Old Dominion punter Jonathan Plisco's FCS-leading 46.9-yard average into more perspective, it's higher than all but the averages of two NFL punters. Plisco, a redshirt sophomore, was the first- team selection on The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Preseason All-America Team ... Monmouth expects to see a lot of Saint Francis (Pa.) senior linebackers Scott Lewis and Matt Parker on Saturday. Against Wagner a week ago, Lewis had 19 tackles while becoming the Northeast Conference's all-time leader with 463 tackles, while Parker had an amazing 24 tackles in the game. The pair even left 10 tackles for fellow linebacker Ryan Revtai ... Princeton quarterback Tommy Wornham is out indefinitely after injuring his non-throwing shoulder against Brown last Saturday. The junior has made 15 consecutive starts and will be replaced by senior Andrew Dixon for Saturday's home game against Harvard ... Nicholls State first-year head coach Charlie Stubbs hopes to build on his first Southland Conference victory - a 47-45, four-overtime thriller over Texas State - against Central Arkansas on Saturday. Only two seniors started in the game, so the Colonels have building blocks in place. They include sophomores starting at quarterback (LaQuintin Caston) and running back (Jesse Turner) ... North Carolina Central interim head football coach Darryl Bullock, who replaced Mose Rison on Monday, has made some changes with the Eagles' coaching staff: linebackers coach Gilbert Wiggins has added the role of defensive coordinator to his responsibilities; wide receivers coach Kwame Dixon has added coaching duties with the quarterbacks; and Jake Cabell, who lost the defensive coordinator's role, will continue to handle the defensive backs. Bullock will continue to coach the offensive line while also taking on the offensive play-calling duties ... Fordham's games are not counting in the Patriot League standings, but the Rams are part of the league statistics. Quarterback Blake Wayne leads the league with 223.1 passing yards per game and wide receiver Jason Caldwell is dominating the pass receiving with 50 catches for 633 yards ... With two more yards, Marist wide receiver James LaMacchia (2,018 yards) will become the Pioneer Football League school's career receiving yards leader ... Chattanooga broke into The Sports Network/Fathead.com FCS Top 25 this week at No. 24. The Mocs (4-2) have lost only by one point to No. 1 Appalachian State and four points to No. 3 Jacksonville State. Coach Russ Huesman's squad has a particularly tough ending to their schedule: Saturday at No. 25 Wofford; versus Elon; at Auburn; vs. Samford; and at Wofford .. Southern Utah has been awful against South Dakota's rushing game the last two seasons, but if the Thunderbirds (3-4, 2-0) can contain running back Chris Ganious and dual-threat quarterback Dante Warren and get the victory, they will have a third Great West win for the first time since joining the conference in 2004.
JUST THE PICKS
Last Week's Record: 40-16 (.714)
Season Record: 352-110 (.762)
Thursday, Oct. 21
Lambuth (2-4) at X-UT Martin (3-4), 7 p.m.
Arkansas-Pine Bluff (3-3, 2-2 SWAC) at X-Alcorn State (3-3, 2-2), 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 22
X-Central Connecticut State (4-2, 3-0 NEC) at Albany (3-3, 1-2), 7 p.m.
Saturday, Oct. 23
VMI (2-4, 1-2 Big South) at X-Charleston Southern (2-4, 0-2), 11:30 a.m.
Marist (2-4, 1-3 PFL) at X-Jacksonville (6-1, 4-0), noon
X-Delaware (7-0, 4-0 CAA) at William & Mary (5-1, 3-1), noon
X-Penn (4-1, 2-0) at Yale (4-1, 2-0), noon
Cornell (1-4, 0-2 Ivy) at X-Brown (3-2, 2-0), 12:30 p.m.
Maine (2-5, 1-3 CAA) at X-Rhode Island (2-4, 1-2), 12:30 p.m.
Bucknell (1-5, 1-0 Patriot) at X-Lehigh (4-2, 0-0), 12:37 p.m.
X-Georgetown (3-4) at Sacred Heart (1-6), 1 p.m.
St. Francis, Pa. (1-5, 1-3 NEC) at X-Monmouth (2-4, 2-1), 1 p.m.
Morehead State (2-4, 1-2 PFL) at X-Butler (3-4, 1-3), 1 p.m.
Duquesne (4-3, 2-2 NEC) at X-Wagner (4-2, 2-1), 1 p.m.
X-Harvard (3-2, 1-1 Ivy) at Princeton (1-4, 0-2), 1 p.m.
X-Georgia Southern (3-3, 1-2 Southern) at The Citadel (2-5, 0-4), 1 p.m.
Holy Cross (3-4, 0-1 Patriot) at X-Colgate (4-2, 1-0), 1 p.m.
X-Delaware State (1-5, 1-3 MEAC) at Morgan State (2-3, 1-1), 1 p.m.
Campbell (2-4, 1-2 PFL) at X-Dayton (6-1, 4-0), 1 p.m.
X-Lafayette (1-5) at Fordham (2-5), 1 p.m.
Jackson State (5-1, 3-1 SWAC) at X-Texas Southern (3-3, 3-1), 1 p.m.
Presbyterian (0-6, 0-2 Big South) at X-Gardner-Webb (3-3, 1-0), 1:30 p.m.
Dartmouth (3-2, 0-2 Ivy) at X-Columbia (3-2, 1-1), 1:30 p.m.
X-Wofford (5-1, 3-0 SoCon) at Elon (2-4, 1-2), 1:30 p.m.
Howard (1-4, 0-2 MEAC) at X-North Carolina A&T (0-7, 0-4), 1:30 p.m.
Hampton (5-1, 4-0 MEAC) at X-South Carolina State (4-2, 2-1), 1:30 p.m.
Savannah State (0-7) at X-Alabama State (2-5), 2 p.m.
X-Florida A&M (3-3, 2-1 MEAC) at Norfolk State (2-4, 1-3), 2 p.m.
Davidson (2-4, 2-2 PFL) at X-Drake (4-3, 3-1), 2 p.m.
X-Bethune-Cookman (6-0) at North Carolina Central (2-4), 2 p.m.
Eastern Kentucky (2-4, 1-1 OVC) at X-Southeast Missouri State (6-1, 5-0), 2 p.m.
X-Western Illinois (5-2, 3-1 MVFC) at Missouri State (2-4, 1-2), 2 p.m.
X-Chattanooga (4-2, 3-1 SoCon) at Furman (4-2, 2-1), 2 p.m.
Murray State (2-4, 1-2 OVC) at X-Eastern Illinois (0-7, 0-5), 2:30 p.m.
Youngstown State (3-4, 1-3) at X-South Dakota State (2-4, 2-2), 3 p.m.
South Dakota (3-4, 1-1 Great West) at X-Southern Utah (3-4, 2-0), 3 p.m.
X-Grambling State (5-1, 5-0 SWAC) at Mississippi Valley State (0-6, 0-5), 3 p.m.
Northern Arizona (4-2, 2-1 Big Sky) at X-Montana (5-2, 4-1), 3 p.m.
Sam Houston State (4-2, 2-0 Southland) vs. X-Stephen F. Austin (5-1, 2-0) at Houston, 3 p.m.
X-Appalachian State (6-0, 4-0 SoCon) at Western Carolina (2-5, 1-3), 3 p.m.
Northern Colorado (2-5, 1-4 Big Sky) at X-Montana State (5-2, 3-1), 3:05 p.m.
Towson (1-5, 0-3 CAA) at X-Richmond (3-3, 1-2), 3:30 p.m.
Massachusetts (4-2, 2-1 CAA) at X-New Hampshire (4-3, 2-2), 3:30 p.m.
James Madison (4-2, 1-2 CAA) at X-Villanova (4-2, 2-1), 3:30 p.m.
Georgia State (5-2) at X-Old Dominion (3-3), 3:30 p.m.
Northwestern State (2-4, 1-1 Southland) at X-Texas State (3-3, 0-2), 4 p.m.
Austin Peay (2-4, 1-2 OVC) at X-Jacksonville State (7-0, 4-0), 4 p.m.
Indiana State (4-2, 2-1 MVFC) at X-North Dakota State (4-3, 1-3), 4 p.m.
Sacramento State (3-3, 2-2 Big Sky) at X-Eastern Washington (5-2, 4-1), 4:05 p.m.
Valparaiso (0-7, 0-4 PFL) at X-San Diego (2-5, 2-2), 5 p.m.
South Alabama (6-0) at X-UC Davis (3-3), 5 p.m.
X-Central Arkansas (3-3, 0-2 Southland) at Nicholls State (2-4, 1-1), 5 p.m.
Southern (2-4, 1-3 SWAC) at X-Prairie View A&M (4-3, 3-2), 5 p.m.
X-Portland State (2-4, 1-2 Big Sky) at Weber State (3-3, 2-2), 5 p.m.
Illinois State (4-3, 3-2 MVFC) at X-Northern Iowa (3-3, 2-1), 5:05 p.m.
X-McNeese State (2-4, 1-1 Southland) at Southeastern Louisiana (2-4, 1-1), 7 p.m.
Tennessee Tech (3-4, 2-2 OVC) at X-Tennessee State (3-4, 0-3), 7 p.m.
Stony Brook (2-4, 1-0 Big South) at X-Coastal Carolina (2-4, 1-0), 7:30 p.m.
North Dakota (2-4, 0-2 Great West) at X-Cal Poly (4-3, 0-1), 9:05 p.m.