Old Dominion sophomore Taylor Heinicke has passed for 1,921 yards and 19 touchdowns in the Monarchs' 4-0 start to the season.
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) -
Unless you live under a rock, it's almost impossible to ignore what took place last Saturday in Norfolk, Va., as Old Dominion defeated New Hampshire, 64-61.
Due to the game's high-scoring nature, its statistics and numbers were going to eye-opening, but few could have expected the type of record-setting performance by Old Dominion's young gun-slinger, Taylor Heinicke.
You can certainly look at many aspects of the game, like the new bench mark set for total offense between two teams - Old Dominion (825 yards) and New Hampshire (724) for 1,529 yards, easily beating the FCS mark of 1,423 held by Murray State (816) and Missouri State (607) in 2010. Or the 74 first downs, breaking the FCS record of 72 set in 1987 by Bethune-Cookman and Howard.
However, when the final whistle blew and ODU had somehow managed to pull away with the win, even after trailing 47-24 in the second half, it was Heinicke who stole the show.
The sophomore set a Division I record for passing yards in a game with 730, previously held by Houston's David Klingler, who threw for 716 against Arizona State in 1990. Oh, by the way, he threw for five touchdowns, completing 55-of-79 attempts with no interceptions, and he added 61 rushing yards with one score. Heinicke just missed the all-division record of 736 passing yards set by Division II Eureka College's Sam Durley earlier this season.
"I found out after everyone was celebrating after coach (Bobby Wilder) made his speech and coach (Ron) Whitcomb, the quarterback coach, came in and was so excited," Heinicke said. "I was like, 'Why are you so excited? And he held the stat sheet and said you hold the new record.'
"Now he wanted to take all the credit for it," Heinicke said as he laughed, "so we had a good time after the game."
With all the hoopla surrounding Heinicke, including multiple press requests across the national media scene, press conferences and ESPN highlights shown during last week's prime-time FBS games - and yes, he even received a notorious "helmet sticker" from the network's "College Football Final" show - it's clear the sophomore enjoyed it, but he wants to move on.
"Honestly, I don't (like the attention), not at all," Heinicke said. "I would much rather be at home right now eating some chips just watching TV, but you know, I'm right here in front of all these cameras and it's kind of nerve- wracking, but I'm enjoying it while it lasts ... It's been very hectic you know, I get back to the locker room after the game, I had about 50 text messages and a bunch of notifications on Facebook. It's just been non-stop so I've been trying to stay away from all that, trying to focus on Richmond this week."
As fate would have it, Old Dominion entered Week 5 last season with a 3-1 record and faced Massachusetts at home. The Monarchs' starting quarterback then was Thomas DeMarco - who wasn't too bad, either - but he was injured in the contest and ODU was forced to take away the redshirt of some unknown freshman, Taylor Heinicke. He completed 8-of-11 passes for 119 yards and two touchdowns, filling in nicely on way to a 48-33 victory.
When asked about just how different his situation has been almost one year later, even Heinicke can't believe the turn of events.
"It's changed a lot. Last year I came in the (fifth) game of the season against UMass and I only knew about 50 percent of offense," Heinicke said. "The coaches really dumbed it down for me to be successful. This offseason, I put an emphasis on learning the whole offense, 100 percent of playbook, so that's one thing I really worked on. Again, I was honored to be picked as a captain of the team (this year), so I also felt like I needed to step up in some kind of way. It's definitely changed from this year to last year."
The progression has been pretty remarkable when you consider during Heinicke's first full season as a starter, through four games he has thrown for 1,921 yards and 19 touchdowns with just four interceptions. Heinicke is completing 67 percent of his passes and averaging 480 yards per game.
He admitted, for the first time at ODU, it was the adversity in which the Monarchs faced last week, being down by so many points, which sparked him.
"I was not very vocal before this game, I was just more of a laid back guy, just trying to do a good job and I don't know, something got into me on the sideline," Heinicke said. "I just started getting on people's butts and, you know, saying how much I really wanted to win this game. This season is too big for us to just fall apart and I could see it in their eyes. They wanted to turn it around; in the second half everyone had a different mentality (and) it was totally different.
"I went to the defense and said just give us one stop, just one stop, we will get it down to a one-possession game and then from there it will be a totally different game," Heinicke said. " ... you could tell the whole crowd every one that left was mad and it was crazy how big a turnaround it was. You know, the defense really stepped up and I'm really proud of them."
On Saturday, Old Dominion takes its perfect record up the road to Richmond in a highly anticipated CAA Football early season matchup. The Spiders will have their hands full trying to slow down the Monarchs' high-tempo offense, but even ODU seemed to have some holes on defense last week, so the game should be close.
Even more interesting is the fact that Heinicke, a native of Atlanta, turned down Richmond during his recruiting process because it didn't offer him a ful scholarship.
"I went on a visit up to Richmond and I really liked it up there. They have a great program, great campus, but they didn't offer me," Heinicke said. "At that time, it was late in my senior season and I had no offers, so it really came into my mind that it would mean a lot to me for someone to offer me despite my size. The first one (school) to offer me was really going to mean a lot. For ODU to offer me without even seeing me play in person, it meant a lot."
When you put the historical win in perspective, it was huge not only because ODU remained undefeated, but because the program is ineligible for the CAA title, due to its transitioning process to the FBS level. The only hope the Monarchs have for postseason play is earning one of 10 at-large playoff spots.
"Every game is the biggest game of the season," the sophomore said. "You know, if we lose a game, it just puts a burden on us that we have to win the next game. We go into every game feeling like we have to win it, so at the end of the season, there's no excuses on why we can't go to the playoffs."
The following is a game-by-game breakdown for The Sports Network FCS Top 25 and other select games (all times ET):
Thursday, Sept. 27
No. 9 Sam Houston State Bearkats (1-2) at Texas Southern Tigers (1-3), 8 p.m.
Series Record: Sam Houston State leads, 8-5
Last Meeting: Sam Houston State 40, Texas Southern 7 (1997)
What To Know: Sam Houston State has only seven games remaining versus FCS opponents. The Bearkats lost in difficult fashion to Southland Conference rival Central Arkansas, 24-20, last Saturday, meaning their only victory has come over Division II Incarnate Word, with a loss versus Baylor in between.
Thursday's game is not a must-win situation for SHSU, but it's pretty darn close. If the Bearkats don't win seven of their last eight games, their only hope at making the postseason would be to somehow win the Southland. Most likely, a team without victories over seven Division I opponents won't make the FCS playoffs.
Needless to say, the Bearkats need to get back their swagger with the type of playmakers they have, including Timothy Flanders and Richard Sincere, who has been surprisingly quiet, Brian Bell and many others. Coach Willie Fritz has to have concern over the 1-2 start, but his defense hasn't played too bad.
Texas Southern has dropped three straight games and is giving up 40 points and 501 yards of offense per game. This game is considered "away" for Sam Houston, although it's at BBVA Compass Stadium in downtown Houston, so the crowd shouldn't effect the Bearkats.
This is a key statement game for Sam Houston State moving forward. Although it's early in the season, games like this can help turn things around. Flanders is 82 yards away from becoming the 10th Southland running back to gain more than 3,000 career yards, he should accomplish that feat if SHSU shows up and is ready to go.
Prediction:: Sam Houston State 40, Texas Southern 21
Saturday, Sept. 28
No. 19 Eastern Kentucky Colonels (3-1, 1-0 OVC) at UT Martin Skyhawks (3-1, 1-0), noon (Fox College Sports)
Series Record: Eastern Kentucky leads, 21-1
Last Meeting: Eastern Kentucky 23, UT Martin 16 (Nov. 19, 2011)
What To Know: Each of the last five times these teams have met in the series, the game has been decided by seven points or less. Both teams have not lost versus FCS competition, as Eastern Kentucky fell at Purdue and UT Martin lost at Northern Illinois.
Both schools have high expectations and, at the same time, the Ohio Valley Conference is looking much improved this season, which has made for better competition.
EKU picked up a big win last week versus then-No. 23 Jacksonville State, racking up 558 yards of offense, the most by a Colonels team since 2003.
UT Martin's first priority will be trying to stop running back Matt Denham, who has rushed for 100 yards in 11 of his last 12 games dating back to last season. Denham ranks first in the OVC and eighth in the FCS in rushing with 138 yards per game.
Second, the Skyhawks must force EKU senior signal-caller T.J. Pryor out of the pocket. He is No. 1 in the FCS in passing efficiency with a 180 rating and needs just 119 yards to become the program's new passing leader.
UTM finds itself 3-1 for only the third time since joining the OVC in 1992. The defense has allowed only six points in back-to-back contests and allows 15 points per game, a mark good for 15th in the FCS. Junior linebacker Ben Johnson has had three straight games with double-digit tackles, so his matchup with Denham could be something special.
Like many conference games this early in the season, the implications could mean a lot more later down the road.
Prediction:: Eastern Kentucky 34, UT Martin 27
No. 8 Delaware Blue Hens (4-0, 1-0 CAA) at No. 20 New Hampshire Wildcats (2-2, 0-1), noon
Series Record: Delaware leads, 20-10
Last Meeting: Delaware 16, New Hampshire 3 (Dec. 10, 2010)
What To Know: For the second straight week - and the second time is three seasons - New Hampshire must battle back-to-back FCS Top 10 teams. It's another tall task for coach Sean McDonnell and crew, facing a Delaware squad which improved to 4-0 overall with a convincing 51-21 victory at William & Mary last week.
UD running back Andrew Pierce has started every game he has played at Delaware since he arrived as a walk-on in 2010. He is just 66 yards away from becoming only the fourth player in UD history to reach 3,000 yards rushing and the junior has carried the ball 87 times for 394 yards and two touchdowns through four games this year.
Delaware's pass and run offense ranks No. 7 in the CAA at 190 yards per game through the air and 172 on the ground. If coach K.C. Keeler knows anything entering this game, it's that UNH's secondary was sliced and chopped up last week in its 64-61 loss at Old Dominion. Expect the Blue Hens to attack the line of scrimmage early with Pierce, but also utilize sophomore quarterback Trent Hurley with play-action passes and deep shots down the field.
Senior linebacker Paul Worrilow is the anchor of Delaware's defense and he could have a big day trying to stop a surprisingly better Wildcats' rush attack.
New Hampshire's offense has always been strong, but this season its run attack seems to be vastly improved. The Wildcats are leading the CAA in rushing (266 yards per game) - yes, that's right, rushing, not passing - and eclipsed the 300-yard rushing mark and the 300-yard passing mark in the same game for the first time in school history last week at ODU.
These teams haven't met very many times in the last couple of years, but in two of the Wildcats' last three wins in the series, a backup quarterback has had to step in and lead them to victory. It happened in 2004 with Ricky Santos and in 2007 with R.J. Toman.
No matter how effective UD's run game can be, expect Hurley and the Blue Hens offense to have very little trouble exploiting New Hampshire's secondary.
Prediction:: Delaware 33, New Hampshire 30
No. 18 Stony Brook Seawolves (3-1) at Army Black Knights (0-3), noon (CBS Sports Network)
Series Record: First meeting
Last Meeting: None
What To Know: Stony Brook heads to West Point to face its second FBS contest of the season. Two weeks ago, Stony Brook held a three-point lead over Syracuse at halftime, but managed just three first downs in the second half and fell, 28-17. It faces a completely different, and unique opponent, which runs the triple option. Despite having an 0-3 record, Army is the FBS' No. 1-ranked rushing offense.
While that might be a cause for concern, the Seawolves also have a pretty good offense which is ranked fourth in the FCS in rushing with 327 yards per game compared to the Black Knights' 399. Army also has given up at least 40 points in its first three games.
SBU's defense is allowing 130 yards rushing per game - which most likely will greatly change - and opponents are gaining three yards per carry. Preparing for Army will more difficult than facing them, especially when you consider its offense has had at least two runners gain more than 100 yards for the third straight game to start the season. That's the first time it's accomplished that feat in three consecutive games since 1948, which is pretty remarkable.
Stony Brook has a legitimate chance in this game if its ground game can get going and remain consistent, but if the Seawolves don't play sound, team defense, Army could run over Stony Brook's dream of earning its first-ever win over an FBS school.
Last Meeting: Lehigh 34, Fordham 12 (Oct. 14, 2011)
What To Know: Lehigh and Fordham meet in an important matchup between one team which has met expectations (Lehigh) and another which has exceeded them (Fordham). Very few thought the Mountain Hawks would be facing a three-win team come Week 5 of the 2012 season. Coach Joe Moorhead has done more then expected in his first year in the Bronx, leading the Rams to their first 3-1 start since 2004.
Senior Carlton Koonce has turned into a premier back, having already rushed for 608 yards and three touchdowns, while his 152 rushing yards per game ranks No. 5 in the FCS. Last week, he rushed for a career-high 250 yards - the second straight week he set a career high in rushing - to lead the Rams to a 20-13 victory over Columbia.
Fordham also has the edge in this game on special teams, with one of the FCS' best place-kickers/punters in senior Patrick Murray.
Before all the credit is given to Fordham, it's hard to overlook Lehigh, which took down Liberty on the road in a hard-fought win last week. The Mountain Hawks are 4-0 for the first time since 2001, which is strange when you consider how successful the program has been the last two seasons. It may sound like a broken record each week, but no matter how clean or boring the contests are, Lehigh keeps finding way to win. It has the FCS' longest active regular-season win streak at 13 games, dating back to last season.
Usually, home teams have a slight advantage, but in this case, Lehigh is 12-0 all-time at home versus Fordham and the Mountain Hawks have outscored opponents, 42-0, in the first quarter through four games this season.
The foundation is strengthening for Fordham, but it isn't quite ready to take down a nationally ranked foe on the road.
Prediction:: Lehigh 30, Fordham 24
Monmouth Hawks (3-1, 1-0 NEC) at Albany Great Danes (3-1, 1-0), 1 p.m.
Series Record: Albany leads, 10-4
Last Meeting: Albany 41, Monmouth 24 (Nov. 12, 2011)
What To Know: Albany has to be happy with a record of 1-1 after a tough two- game road stretch, let alone an overall record of 3-1, with a win over nationally ranked Maine last week. The Great Danes' only loss came at Youngstown State in Week 3 by a touchdown, and YSU seems to be one of the top teams in the FCS right now.
Similarly, Monmouth comes into this game with the same record and its only loss has been against nationally ranked Lehigh in Week 1. The Northeast Conference isn't looking exceptionally deep right now, so the implications surrounding this game could impact many teams.
Albany comes in averaging 212 yards per game on the ground while the Hawks' defense is giving up just 72 rush yards per game, including 48 yards over the last three wins. In fact Monmouth's defense is ranked first in the FCS in third down percentage, with opponents converting just 13 percent of the time. Amazingly, opponents have converted a mere 6-of-46 third down attempts.
If the Hawks want to continue to give teams trouble on third down, they must slow down running back Drew Smith (64 carries, 392 yards, five touchdowns) and wide receiver Cole King (16 receptions, 283 yards, four touchdowns).
Albany won't get too flashy on defense, but it has a knack of finding the ball and getting turnovers in key spots of the game.
Monmouth has been one of the biggest surprises in the NEC and wants to prove it is for real against a Great Danes program which has a lot more to lose here.
What To Know: Wofford hasn't exactly played the toughest competition through three games. However, a bye week last week helped the Terriers remain almost behind the scenes of all the other drama in the Southern Conference. The Terriers find themselves at 3-0 and really haven't been tested on either side of the ball.
Brian Kass has performed well in his first season as the leader under center and he has been helped by the fact that Wofford has talented ball carriers and leaders in Eric Breitenstein and Donovan Johnson. Michael Weimer has added another dimension to the offense, as he can play both quarterback and slotback.
The biggest question for Wofford moving forward will be can its offense keep up its pace of averaging well over 400 yards per game on the ground, and can its defense keep opposing teams off the field for long amounts of time.
Elon came up just short last week against then-No. 10 Georgia Southern, falling, 26-23. Quarterback Thomas Wilson had a big game, throwing for 300 yards, and he seems to be involving his stud receiver Aaron Mellete, who was quiet early in the season, a little bit more each week. This is clearly another huge opportunity for Elon, but it has to help that it faced GSU's triple option offense last week.
Wofford still has a lot of critics due to the light schedule, but coach Mike Ayers could care less. The Terriers can make a statement this game on the road, especially on defense.
Prediction:: Wofford 42, Elon 34
Norfolk State Spartans (2-2, 0-1 MEAC) at South Carolina State Bulldogs (1-3, 0-1), 2 p.m.
Series Record: South Carolina State leads, 14-3
Last Meeting: Norfolk State 17, South Carolina State 14 (Oct. 1, 2011)
What To Know: After opening the season with a win at Georgia State, South Carolina State lost at home to Bethune-Cookman and on the road versus Arizona and Texas A&M. As if the schedule wasn't hard enough, the Bulldogs basically face a do-or die-situation this week versus Norfolk State.
They still have plenty of talent, although it has been hard to be productive versus such stout competition the last two games. That being said, quarterback Richard Cue must get better, fast, and the run game which SCSU has been so accustomed to has been nearly non-existent.
Many thought the loss of key players on the defensive side of the ball would impact Norfolk State, but the Spartans have kept their stingy defense active, ranking No. 2 in the MEAC in total defense, giving up 283 yards per game. On offense, NSU has utilized freshman running back Brendon Riddick, while signal- caller, Nico Flores, is making strides.
Norfolk State and South Carolina State have a lot to gain and a lot to lose in this important MEAC matchup. The Spartans secondary got back defensive backs Dionte Sullivan and Natturner Harris last week, as they returned from injury and eligibility issues, so that should help them even more.
Norfolk's bye is the final week of the regular season, meaning it must play 11 straight weeks. Eventually that will take its toll, and NSU has never won in seven trips to Orangeburg.
Prediction:: South Carolina State 20, Norfolk State 17
No. 13 Illinois State Redbirds (4-0, 1-0 MVC) at South Dakota Coyotes (1-2, 0-0), 3 p.m.
Series Record: Illinois State leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: Illinois State 28, South Dakota 3
What To Know: For the first time since 1967, Illinois State has a record of 4-0. The Redbirds have stayed perfect under the radar and feature an equally dangerous run and pass attack. Running back Darrelynn Dunn has been solid, scoring seven touchdowns and rushing for 422 yards. Three times this year, Dunn has gained over 100 yards and scored two or more touchdowns. Under center, Mike Brown has already thrown for 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns, and is completing 67 percent of his passes.
South Dakota has only played three games, but it has faced respectable opponents. Its only win came at home versus Colgate, while it has traveled to Montana and Northwestern. The Coyotes are gaining just 270 yards of offense per game - only 115 rushing - so expect them to try to improve the ground game.
For Illinois State, it is not an easy task to play in the Dakota Dome. USD has won seven consecutive home games and is 41-5 dating back to the 2003 season. If the host Coyotes can limit their turnovers, they have a shot for an upset.
You can be sure Illinois State coach Brock Spack will game plan to attack a rush defense which allows 276 yards per game.
Prediction:: Illinois State 35, South Dakota 21
No. 2 Montana State Bobcats (4-0, 1-0 Big Sky) at Southern Utah Thunderbirds (2-2, 1-0), 3:30 p.m. (ROOT NW)
Series Record: Montana State leads, 2-0
Last Meeting: Montana State 7, Southern Utah 3 (Oct. 6, 1997)
What To Know: Southern Utah picked up a much-needed win last week at Portland State in the program's first-ever Big Sky Conference game. The Thunderbirds stood up the Vikings on a goal-line stand in the final 18 seconds to seal the 49-42 victory.
This week, the task becomes even more difficult when SUU welcomes the highest- ranked team to ever play in Ceder City, Utah, in its Homecoming game.
Montana State starts a two-game stretch versus opponents which the Bobcats have never visited. The program's 4-0 start is its best since 1978, in which it won the first eight games of the season.
MSU probably played its best full game of the season last week in a win versus Northern Colorado. The Bobcats have no problem scoring with so many weapons, which defenses must account for while its only weakness, the secondary, has gotten better.
Southern Utah will have its hands full trying to run the ball, but the Thunderbirds have quarterback Brad Sorensen, who will look to exploit Montana State's second-level defenders. Still, SUU is giving up 505 yards per game, which ranks No. 113 in the FCS and opponents are scoring 37 points per contest.
Sorensen and Co. could have success early, but MSU's offense is too physical.
Prediction:: Montana State 42, Southern Utah 24
Villanova Wildcats (3-1, 1-0 CAA) at Maine Black Bears (1-2, 0-0), 3:30 p.m.
Series Record: Maine leads, 8-6
Last Meeting: Maine 41, Villanova 25 (Oct. 29, 2011)
What To Know: Entering the season, Villanova was going to start its rebuilding process with quarterback Chris Polony. However, after back-up John Robertson played well in the opener versus Temple, coach Andy Talley has stuck with his redshirt freshman.
Robertson has won three games as a starter, while the Wildcats' identity has been built through their run game. VU averages 242 yards per game on the ground, fitting to Robertson's skills as he has rushed for 242 yards and four touchdowns. He won't beat teams with his arm - especially when you consider as a team Villanova has passed for only two touchdowns on 88 attempts - but if he can become more efficient with a target like Norman White, the Wildcats can keep building.
On the other hand, Maine dropped its final non-conference contest against Albany last week, and gave up a lot of big run plays. Its defense hasn't really been the issue, allowing just 316 yards per game. Instead, the offense has been inconsistent between passing and running the ball. Signal- caller Marcus Wasilewski has been the only player who has attempted passes on the year and he has been just OK, throwing three touchdowns and three interceptions.
It's a long trip for Villanova up to Oreno, Maine, but expect the Wildcats to keep improving on offense.
Prediction:: Villanova 24, Maine 17
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers (2-2) at No. 17 Appalachian State Mountaineers (2-2), 3:30 p.m.
Series Record: 2-0, Appalachian State
Last Meeting: Appalachian State 45, Coastal Carolina 28 (Nov. 25, 2006)
What To Know: Facing a tie game in the fourth quarter of last week's game at Chattanooga, Appalachian State scored 24 points to pull away to a 34-17 win. Appalachian avoided losing back-to-back games for only the second time since 2003 and its first 0-2 start in conference play since 1972.
Coastal Carolina has now dropped consecutive games at Eastern Kentucky and Toledo, but the Chanticleers played well in their lone FBS contest, losing, 38-28. Quarterback Aramis Hillary completed 30-of-47 passes for 356 yards - all career highs - while tying a career high with three touchdown passes.
Hillary is the brother of former Appalachian wide receiver and return specialist CoCo Hillary.
Appalachian is putting up 413 yards per game compared to CCU's 403, but the key of the game will be how Coastal handles getting past the talented linebacker crops of Jeremy Kimbrough and Brandon Grier, both of whom are tackling machines. Running back Steven Miller and freshman Sean Price have stepped in to provide a much-needed spark on offense for ASU.
The Chanticleers will try to start fast, having scored touchdowns on three of its first four opening drives this year and on three of its first four drives to start the second half.
This is the last non-conference contest for Appalachian and it will certainly need to earn a win. The good news for coach Jerry Moore is that his team has not lost versus members of the Big South Conference since 1997 and have won 15 straight versus the league.
Prediction:: Appalachian State 30, Coastal Carolina 21
No. 4 Old Dominion Monarchs (4-0, 1-0 CAA) at Richmond Spiders (3-1, 1-0), 3:30 p.m.
Series Record: Old Dominion leads, 1-0
Last Meeting: Old Dominion 42, Richmond 28 (Nov. 5, 2011)
What To Know: If there is one question every fan across the FCS wants to know, it's how will Old Dominion quarterback Taylor Heinicke exceed his performance last week versus New Hampshire.
Heinicke garnered national attention for his monumental day, passing for 730 yards to set the new Division I record. Houston's David Klingler, who threw for 716 against Arizona State in 1990, previously held the record, but the all- division record of 736, was set by Division II Eureka College's Sam Durley versus Knox College earlier this season. Any time a player from the FCS receives a coveted helmet sticker from ESPN's "College Football Final," you know his performance was legitimate.
Perhaps even more impressive then the sophomore's statistics through four games (1,921 yards passing, 19 touchdowns, 67 percent completion) are his receiving corps. The team's top seven pass catchers have all hauled in touchdowns and amassed at least over 100 yards. Nick Mayers, Blair Roberts and Antonio Vaughan could easily be any FCS team's No. 1 receiver.
It's not a far road trip for ODU, traveling to Richmond, but the Spiders seem to be back on track after a down season last year. First-year head coach Danny Rocco has his defense playing well, allowing 344 total yards per game, 215 through the air. Obviously, the biggest concern for Richmond will be either stopping the FCS' No. 1-ranked offense, or being able to keep up with it.
The Spiders are 40-4 since 2005 when scoring 30-plus points and 51-5 since the start of 2004 when leading at the half.
With all the attention Old Dominion has received, let's not forget its defense gave up 61 points last week, and the run game struggled. Wildier and crew might just throw the ball every down, but eventually that could cost them.
If Richmond cannot pressure Heinicke early and often, expect the sophomore gun-slinger to have another big day.
Prediction:: Old Dominion 48, Richmond 35
Portland State Vikings (1-3, 0-1 Big Sky) at No. 22 Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (3-1, 1-0), 5 p.m. (FSN-AZ, NAU-TV)
Series Record: Northern Arizona leads, 14-5
Last Meeting: Portland State 31, Northern Arizona 29 (Sept. 17, 2011)
What To Know: Through the first four games of the season, what's better? Beating an FBS foe or taking down Montana in Missoula for the first time since 1986 and snapping a 14-game losing streak versus the Griz, not to mention in front of 25,254 Grizzly faithful? If you're Northern Arizona, it has to be the second choice.
NAU has won three straight games since opening with a loss to Arizona State, while running back Zach Bauman, who rushed for a career-high 253 yards along with three touchdowns last week, has rushed for at least 100 yards in each of those wins. The Lumberjacks are seeking their first four-game win streak since 2009 and have outscored opponents 40-7 in the third quarter.
Portland State is a team that has hit a rough patch after opening up with a win to start the season. The Vikings notched 587 yards of offense versus Southern Utah last week, but turned the ball over four times and were stopped on the 1-yard line to end the game to lose its Big Sky opener, 49-42. Opponents are averaging 41 points per game and 260 yards per game through the air.
Portland State is still developing, while NAU has a lot of confidence and shouldn't have a letdown after such a big win.
Prediction:: Northern Arizona 34, Portland State 24
Last Meeting: Georgia Southern 31, Samford 17 (Sept. 3, 2011)
What To Know: There's no doubt Georgia Southern has the playmakers and explosive offense, but the only thing that has held it back this season has been turnovers. The Eagles won last week in a hard-fought gritty game against Elon.
Freshman place-kicker Alex Hanks kicked a 32-yard field goal which proved to be the difference. However, GSU fumbled four times, losing three of them. Even with the miscues, the Eagles still rushed for 342 yards. Eventually, when they clean up the mistakes, the offense can be even better.
Samford comes into Statesboro looking to make its own statement. The Bulldogs are 4-0 for the first time since 1995 and sit atop the SoCon standings with The Citadel at two wins apiece. They had to score 15 fourth-quarter points to overcome an 11-point deficit on its way to a 25-21 win at Western Carolina last week.
Part of the Bulldogs' success can be attributed to quarterback Andy Summerlin, receiver Kelsey Pope and running back Fabian Truss, all of whom have been important leaders for coach Pat Sullivan. On the other side of the ball, defensive back Jaquiski Tartt has stepped up his game, while overall the unit is buying into the program's mentality, and it's worked well.
The key to the game will be Samford's reliance on Truss - who is equally as dangerous a running back as kick returner - and whether or not the defense can play detailed and assigned football. If GSU has another case of the fumbles, its defense (which ranks seventh in the FCS with 263 yards per game) has the ability to win games for them. The Eagles have won 12 straight at home.
Prediction:: Georgia Southern 44, Samford 35
Arkansas-Pine Bluff Golden Lions (3-1) at Tennessee State Tigers (4-0), 6 p.m.
Series Record: First meeting
Last Meeting: None
What To Know: Tennessee State is one of three teams outside the Top 25 which are 4-0. Not a lot of people seem to know about the Tigers from the Ohio Valley Conference, but last week they picked up their most impressive win versus Bethune-Cookman on the road. TSU scored 21 points in the first half and led by seven at halftime, but neither team did much after that and the Tigers held on for a 21-14 win.
On offense, Tennessee State is led by Trabis Ward, who has scored seven touchdowns and rushed for 441 yards, while Florida transfer A.C. Leonard has been very productive from the tight end position. The Tigers currently rank tops in the OVC in total defense (326 yards per game) and scoring defense (13 points per game - good for fifth in the FCS).
Arkansas-Pine Bluff defeated Alabama State, 24-21, last Thursday. The Golden Lions accumulated 466 yards of total offense, including 246 yards on the ground, while junior Justin Billings had 127 rushing yards and two touchdowns. It was a huge road win for a team which certainly has a chance to take home the West Division title in the SWAC. Defensive lineman Brandon Thurmond leads the FCS in sacks with 6 1/2.
It's an interesting non-conference game because each school has already set itself up nicely in conference play.
Prediction:: Tennessee State 28, Arkansas-Pine Bluff 21
Chattanooga Mocs (1-3, 0-1 SoCon) at No. 11 The Citadel Bulldogs (3-1, 2-0), 6 p.m.
Series Record: Chattanooga leads, 26-17-2
Last Meeting: The Citadel 28, Chattanooga 27 (Oct. 1, 2011)
What To Know: Not many people could have predicted that by Week 5 this matchup could possibly give The Citadel its third SoCon win and Chattanooga would be looking for its first conference win. That's just the type of season each team has been playing.
Even after suffering its first loss of the season versus a quality opponent in North Carolina State, The Citadel has to be happy that it already has three wins overall, let alone a perfect SoCon record. The Bulldogs were simply overmatched by the Wolfpack on the road last week, only gaining 199 rushing yards after averaging 370 during their three-game winning streak.
The most important factor for coach Kevin Higgins' squad will be to remain focused on the task at hand and take a week-by-week approach. Make no mistake, UTC may only have one win against Glenville State, but the Mocs' defense is no slouch.
Chattanooga hasn't played a complete game on both sides of the ball and, as a result, it has dug a hole which is getting deeper. The Mocs played great against Appalachian State last week - at least for three quarters - but fell apart in the final quarter, giving up 24 points and turning the ball over three times to lose, 34-17. Quarterback Jacob Huesman has played decent, but if UTC continues to struggle, expect Terrell Robinson to get a shot under center.
The Citadel will look to get back on track fast to regain all the momentum it had just one week ago. However, UTC's defense is has been stout against the run, allowing just 112 yards per game. This game could come down to special teams play.
Prediction:: The Citadel 26, Chattanooga 20
No. 23 Cal Poly Mustangs (3-0, 1-0 Big Sky) at North Dakota (3-1, 1-0), 7 p.m.
Series Record: Tied, 2-2
Last Meeting: Cal Poly 23, North Dakota 19
What To Know: Cal Poly and North Dakota have started strong in their first season as members of the Big Sky Conference. Similarly, both picked up their first-ever Big Sky wins last week, as the Mustangs defeated rival UC Davis for the first time in four years and UND won on the road at Sacramento State.
Cal Poly is 3-0 for the first time in six years and is ranked in the Top 25 for the first time since 2010. Senior slotback Deonte Williams has his third consecutive 100-yard game last week, accumulating 188 yards on just 20 carries and scoring three touchdowns. He leads the conference in rushing and is third in the FCS, averaging 161 yards per game. The Mustangs' triple option attack is a little different compared to traditional styles, mainly because they can utilize it out of a shot-gun formation. The offense can pass if need-be and quarterback Andre Broadous likes to spread defenses out, rather than have them crowd the line of scrimmage.
Surprisingly, North Dakota won last week because of its running game, not its high-powered passing attack. Senior running back Mitch Sutton carried the ball 23 times for 163 yards and scored two touchdowns. Under center, Marcus Hendrickson was held in check - after throwing a combined 10 touchdowns in his first two starts - passing for 147 yards and two scores, both to redshirt freshman receiver Jameer Jackson.
This game should be an offensive battle between a pass-first UND versus the run-oriented Cal Poly. Both defenses look to be greatly improved and this game will tell which one can make the next step.
Prediction:: Cal Poly 33, North Dakota 28
No. 12 Towson Tigers (2-1) at Lousiana State Tigers (4-0), 7 p.m. (ESPNU)
Series Record: First meeting
Last Meeting: None
What To Know: Towson faces its second FBS foe of the season when it travels to Death Valley to face the nation's No. 3-ranked Louisiana State Tigers.
LSU is coming off a closer-than-expected win over Auburn, moving to 4-0 overall for the sixth straight year. Besides the atmosphere in Baton Rouge, La., and the athleticism, talent and defense in general, it will be almost impossible to pull away with a victory. LSU has won 40 straight non-conference regular-season games, 20 consecutive games in Tiger Stadium and 17 straight regular-season games.
Towson should close out the month of September with a record of 2-2, which is very respectful when you consider the opponents they have faced. Terrance West seems to have found his groove, rushing for 251 yards and five touchdowns, but even more impressive is the Tigers' pass defense which has allowed just two passing touchdowns and gives up 107 yards per game.
Coach Rob Ambrose knows the tall task his team will face and can only hope they escape with scrapes and bruises, not season-ending injuries. LSU's defense is ranked in the top 10 nationally in five categories, so Towson can only hope to somehow catch them off guard early on.
Prediction:: Louisiana State 45, Towson 10
Missouri State Bears (0-4, 0-1 MVC) at No. 25 South Dakota State Jackrabbits (3-1, 1-0), 7 p.m.
Series Record: South Dakota State leads, 4-0
Last Meeting: South Dakota State 43, Missouri State 36 (Oct. 29, 2011)
What To Know: Since losing in Week 1 at Kansas, 31-17, South Dakota State has won three straight games, including six consecutive games against FCS opponents dating back to last season.
If it weren't for Old Dominion's Taylor Heinicke putting up ridiculous statistics this early in the year, many would recognize the hidden gem SDSU has produced. Running back Zach Zenner has somewhat quietly amassed 895 rushing yards and five touchdowns through the Jackrabbits' first four games. The sophomore is leading the FCS in rushing and averaging 8.4 yards per carry and 223 yards per game. No team has had an answer for his production.
Before you give all the credit to SDSU's young back, don't overlook its defense, which is allowing just 272 yards per game - 82 rushing and 190 passing - and opponents are scoring only 15 points per contest. Linebackers Ross Shafrath and T.J. Lally have played like they are possessed.
On the other hand, Missouri State has yet to record a victory, but it played two nationally ranked FBS teams in Kansas State and Louisville. The series has been in favor of the Jackrabbits, but the Bears have lost two of the last three meetings by just seven points.
Last week, in a dull 14-6 loss versus Southern Illinois, MSU gave up just 198 yards, the fewest amount since Nov. 20, 2010. Freshman running back Ryan Heaston notched his first career 100-yard effort against SIU, but the Bears struggled to get anything going on offense. Quarterback Ashton Glaser has been inconsistent throwing two touchdowns, versus six interceptions.
Every previous opponent SDSU has faced has had one soul objective: stop Zenner. Missouri State should be the next victim to fail.
Prediction:: South Dakota State 33, Missouri State 17
Grambling State Tigers (0-3, 0-2 SWAC) at Alabama A&M Bulldogs (4-0, 3-0), 7 p.m.
Series Record: Grambling State leads, 14-4
Last Meeting: Grambling State 16, Alabama A&M 15 (Dec. 10, 2011)
What To Know: In an ironic Week 5 matchup, Alabama A&M finds itself once again in great position in the SWAC, while Grambling has yet to find the win column. Last year, in the conference's title game, A&M led Grambling 15-0 at halftime and gave up 16 straight points to lose the championship.
The Bulldogs have started the season 4-0, but have lost to Grambling in 10 of the last 13 meetings. The offense has been outstanding, with quarterback Deaunte Mason accounting for 11 touchdowns over the last two weeks, six rushing and five passing. Kaderius Lacey is the go-to-guy in the backfield. He is second in the SWAC with 285 rushing yards and two touchdowns, and his numbers should keep improving.
Grambling State has struggled, averaging just 13 points and 267 yards per contest. Everyone in the conference knows Grambling isn't out of the picture just yet, last season the Tigers started out 1-4 and won seven consecutive games to win the title.
No team has really had an answer for Mason yet. Plus, Alabama A&M will have plenty of motivation in this game after last season's disappointing end versus Grambling.
Prediction:: Alabama A&M 28, Grambling 20
No. 16 Central Arkansas Bears (3-1, 1-0 Southland) at Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks (1-3, 0-0), 7 p.m.
Series Record: Central Arkansas leads, 4-2
Last Meeting: Central Arkansas 38, Stephen F. Austin 28 (Oct. 1, 2011)
What To Know: Central Arkansas seems to have all the momentum heading into this weekend, while Stephen F. Austin has suddenly dropped three straight games.
The Bears scored twice in the final 3:18 minutes to take down the then-No. 3 Sam Houston State. It was a vital win for UCA, avenging last season's lone Southland Conference loss versus SHSU.
Junior quarterback Wynrick Smothers is the real deal. He completed his biggest pass of the game with 57 seconds left - to senior Dominique Croom for a 26- yard touchdown - to cap the 10-point come-from-behind victory.
Smothers is completing 72 percent of his passes and has tossed 12 touchdowns, versus only four interceptions. UCA's defense might not be tops in the conference, but it has played well recently when it has counted, allowing 23 points per contest.
The Lumberjacks are one of the more dangerous 1-3 teams in the FCS, averaging 30 points and 485 yards per game. Receiver Cordell Roberson and signal-caller Brady Attaway have a unique connection and always seem to capitalize on big plays.
Last week, at Texas State, SFA rallied from a 24-point deficit and scored the final 20 points of the game, but came up just short in a 41-37 loss. Roberson became the Southland's all-time leader in touchdown receptions, hauling in two touchdowns, which totaled 33 in his career.
Central Arkansas is now 7-0 all-time playing on "The Stripes" - its purple and gray turf - but there is no team in the Southland which could use a win more than Stephen F. Austin. The Lumberjacks' key to the game will be forcing Smothers to beat them with his feet, not his arm.
Prediction:: Central Arkansas 45, Stephen F. Austin 42 (OT)
No. 1 North Dakota State Bison (3-0, 0-0 MVC) at No. 14 Northern Iowa Panthers (1-3, 0-1), 7 p.m.
Series Record: Northern Iowa leads, 25-19
Last Meeting: North Dakota State 27, Northern Iowa 19 (Oct. 29, 2011)
What To Know: Everyone in the Missouri Valley Conference knew the type of depth and talent which North Dakota State was bringing back, but few predicted its defense would look better than last year's squad.
The Bison have played three games, while opponents have scored just 14 total points and are averaging a mere 174 yards per game. NDSU might be a little banged up, but younger players have stepped in nicely. They haven't played the toughest of opening games, even with a win over Colorado State, so this game in the UNI Dome should provide a good gauge for coach Craig Bohl.
Northern Iowa, a team desperately searching for its first FCS win, will be well aware of its opportunity this week at home. UNI came up short by a few yards last week on the road against Youngstown State and while this almost is a must-win game, even the Panthers realized how tough their schedule would be.
David Johnson is a threat out of the backfield and spread out at receiver and Sawyer Kollmorgen does not look like a quarterback who's only started four games in his career.
UNI is 2-4 all-time vs. No. 1-ranked FCS opponents; the last win came against New Hampshire in the 2005 FCS playoffs. However, the Bison are too big up front and should control the line of scrimmage.
Prediction:: North Dakota State 35, Northern Iowa 21
No. 21 Montana Grizzlies (2-2, 0-1 Big Sky) at No. 7 Eastern Washington Eagles (2-1, 1-0), 7:05 p.m.
Series Record: Montana leads, 26-11-1
Last Meeting: Montana 17, Eastern Washington 14 (Sept. 17, 2011)
What To Know: In terms of each team's games last week, it was truly a tale of two completely different halves. Montana started out great, but ended poorly and lost, while Eastern Washington lead 20-3 at halftime and hung on for a close win.
The Grizzlies jumped out to a an early 24-14 lead versus Northern Arizona, only to see the visitors bounce back in the second half on the shoulders of running back Zach Bauman. The Lumberjacks spoiled a 19-game Homecoming game win streak and snapped its own 14-game losing streak versus UM.
EWU's quarterback competition proved to be what coach Beau Baldwin called "more of a battle than people think." Redshirt freshman quarterback Vernon Adams made his first start of the year and played decently, but dealt with cramps, so the Eagles went with the expected starter, Kyle Padron, in the second half.
Eastern needed a sack and forced fumble by Jerry Ceja and s fumble recovery by Will Katoa at the 50-yard line with 34 seconds remaining to clinch the 32-26 win over Weber State.
This is the 11th time in the last 17 years in which both teams are ranked in the Top 25 and it marks the latest home opener for the Eagles since 1981.
It's a prime-time pivotal Big Sky Conference matchup between two of the FCS' best running and passing teams. Both schools could use a complete game on both sides of the ball, so this one could come down to turnovers.
Prediction:: Montana 24, Eastern Washington 21
Northwestern State Demons (2-2, 0-0 Southland) at No. 24 McNeese State Cowboys (3-1, 0-1), 8 p.m.
Series Record: McNeese State leads, 40-20-1
Last Meeting: McNeese State 20, Northwestern State 18 (Oct. 1, 2011)
What To Know: McNeese State was stunned on the road last week at Southeastern Louisiana, losing by one point, 25-24. On the clinching drive, the Lions used a brilliant fake punt in which the long-snapper caught a pass from the punter and scrambled for a key first down.
Besides suffering its first loss of the season, McNeese ran for a season-low 147 yards on 31 carries. The Cowboys had 240 yards of offense at halftime, but managed just 79 yards in the second half. McNeese enters this week's contest still averaging 257 yards per game on the ground, good for No. 8 in the FCS.
Northwestern State finds itself with a 2-2 overall record, having defeated Mississippi Valley State last week, 45-14. The Demons' offense has been much improved, not to mention their only two losses have come on the road versus FBS foes Texas Tech and Nevada.
They can definitely put up points, but the advantage has to go to McNeese because Northwestern State's run game has struggled. Quarterback Brad Henderson is the team's leading rusher with 139 yards, although he has thrown for 667 yards and five touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception.
The Demons will be trying to snap a seven-game skid against the Cowboys dating back to 2004, and must improve defensively if they want any shot, giving up 31.8 points and 418 yards per game. McNeese State can't afford to drop another conference game this early in the year.
Prediction:: McNeese State 35, Northwestern State 24