FCS First-Round Playoff Roundup

Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - Missouri Valley Football Conference members entered the season clamoring how they deserved more teams in the FCS playoffs and, now that the postseason has arrived, they're determined to prove it.

The Valley tied the FCS record with five playoffs qualifiers - half the conference, in fact - after a dominating regular season as the nation's top circuit.

A year ago, the Valley had only two playoffs qualifiers, although North Dakota State went on to win its third straight FCS national title.

When the 24-team playoffs began Saturday, the MVFC went 3-for-3 as Indiana State and South Dakota State pulled out road wins and Northern Iowa posted a rout at home in the final game of the day.

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South Dakota State 47, Montana State 40

Bozeman, MT - Senior running back Zach Zenner is always talking about the team effort of South Dakota State football.

Many times, Zenner's exploits stand alone.

Zenner totaled 324 yards from scrimmage and scored five touchdowns - four from at least 45 yards - to power South Dakota State past Montana State, 47-40, in a snow-filled first-round game of the FCS playoffs Saturday.

South Dakota State (9-4), which has won four straight games, will visit second- seeded North Dakota State (11-1), the three-time defending FCS champion, in an all-Missouri Valley Conference second-round matchup next Saturday. NDSU beat South Dakota State, 37-17, on Nov. 1 and has won the last six meetings.

Despite the field conditions, South Dakota State and Montana State (8-5) combined for 988 yards. Zenner rushed for 252 yards on 23 carries across the slippery turf, scoring on runs of 45, 7, 60, and 69 yards. He also scored on a 69-yard reception.

Behind Zenner, South Dakota State trailed for only 38 seconds in the high- scoring game. Montana State sophomore Chad Newell, who rushed for 101 yards and five touchdowns, scored on a 12-yard run to give the Bobcats a 26-24 lead with 10:47 left in the second quarter. But Zenner answered with his 60-yard scoring run at the 10:09 mark, giving the Jackrabbits a 31-26 lead which they extended to 40-26.

Newell's final TD pulled Big Sky member Montana State within 47-40 with 1:10 left to play. The Jackrabbits misplayed the ensuing onside kick but recovered the ball and ran out the clock.

South Dakota State quarterback Austin Sumner also threw a 10-yard touchdown to Connor Landberg. He finished 19-for-28 for 249 yards.

Montana State signal caller Dakota Prukop returned from an MCL sprain after missing two games and was 19-for-36 for 280 yards, including a 1-yard touchdown to Mitchell Herbert.

Zenner increased his career totals to 6,415 rushing yards, 8,075 all-purpose yards, 59 rushing touchdowns and 67 total touchdowns - all Missouri Valley records.

He needs 114 rushing yards to become the first FCS running back to reach 2,000 yards in three separate seasons.

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Sam Houston State 21, Southeastern Louisiana 17

Huntsville, TX - They didn't meet in the regular season, so Sam Houston State might be saying it won the de facto title game between the two Southland Conference co-champions.

Oh yes, the Bearkats are even happier to be advancing in the FCS playoffs after they defeated Southeastern Louisiana, 21-17, in the first round.

Sam Houston (9-4) will travel to third-seeded Jacksonville State (10-1), the Ohio Valley Conference champion, for a second-round showdown next Saturday.

Sam Houston and Southeastern (9-4) tied for the Southland title with 7-1 records, but they didn't face each other in the unbalanced 11-team conference schedule.

The Bearkats, under first-year coach K.C. Keeler, overcame four turnovers, playing well defensively in the second half and getting an important block of a Southeastern field goal attempt during the fourth quarter.

The Lions were trying to extend a 17-14 lead, but defensive end P.J. Hall (four tackles for loss, one sack) blocked Ryan Adams' 46-yard attempt with 8:37 left. The Bearkats then drove 59 yards in seven plays, going ahead 21-17 on Donovan Williams' 5-yard run.

Southeastern had three final drives, but one started at their 6-yard line and their final one from their 1.

A muffed punt set up Williams for a 1-yard touchdown run and Jalen Overstreet scored from 3 yards out for Sam Houston, which trailed 10-0 at halftime.

Southeastern quarterback Bryan Bennett, who played on an injured foot, ran for the Lions' two touchdowns, but struggled to gain 181 yards on 17-for-48 passing, and was limited to 14 yards on 16 carries.

Sam Houston lost to Southeastern, 30-29, in last year's playoff second round.

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Fordham 44, Sacred Heart 22

New York, NY - Jack Coffey Field has been good to Fordham in recent years, but the Road to Frisco passes through top-seeded New Hampshire, and the Rams feel up to the task after an impressive start to the FCS playoffs.

Mike Nebrich threw for 421 yards and four touchdowns as Patriot League champion Fordham passed by Sacred Heart in the first round for the second straight year, this time by a 44-22 score.

Fordham (11-2) will head to Durham next Saturday to face New Hampshire (10-1), the nation's No. 1-ranked team, in the second round. It won't be the same as playing at home, where the Rams have won 10 straight games and 17 of their last 18.

But the Rams appear ready for the challenge. Nebrich, who completed 29-of-50 pass attempts with two interceptions, threw two touchdowns each to Brian Wetzel (eight receptions, 166 yards) and Tebucky Jones Jr. (eight receptions, 139 yards).

Fordham took command of the game by scoring on its final play of the second quarter - Wetzel's 14-yard reception with nine seconds left to make it 24-16 - and its first play of the third quarter - Jones' 97-yard reception at the 11:45 mark to make it 31-16.

The Rams outgained Sacred Heart 511 yards to 314. Chase Edmonds rushed for 91 yards, including a 26-yard touchdown.

RJ Noel threw two touchdown passes to Tyle Dube for Sacred Heart (9-3), a co- champion out of the Northeast Conference, but was intercepted twice by All- Patriot League cornerback Ian Williams. Sean Bell rushed for 112 yards on 15 carries and Keshaudas Spence scored on a 22-yard run in the loss.

Fordham won last year's first-round matchup, 37-27.

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Richmond 46, Morgan State 24

Richmond, VA - Richmond had won a "playoff" game already, so there was no stopping the Spiders and quarterback Michael Strauss when the actual FCS postseason began Saturday.

Strauss threw four touchdowns to power Richmond to a 46-24 win over Morgan State in the first round.

The Spiders (9-4) will travel to seventh-seeded Coastal Carolina (11-1) next Saturday for a second-round game.

Coach Danny Rocco's team basically won a playoff game last weekend at William & Mary. The winner of that game was going to be the fourth and final playoff team out of CAA Football, and the Spiders won going away, 34-20.

They rolled the momentum right into their game against Morgan State (7-6), jumping to a 22-0 lead after the first quarter. Strauss capped the game's first drive with a 16-yard touchdown pass to Reggie Diggs and Seth Fisher scored on two runs.

Diggs (eight receptions, 132 yards) ended the first-half scoring with another touchdown reception - an 11-yarder with 20 seconds left in the second quarter - giving Richmond a 29-10 halftime lead.

Strauss completed 22-of-32 pass attempts for 272 yards and one interception. He also threw touchdowns to Rashad Ponder and Fisher.

Richmond has struggled with turnovers in its losses, but gained a 4-2 advantage in turnover margin, intercepting Morgan State quarterback Moses Skillon three times and forcing him into a fumble.

Skillon rushed for a touchdown and threw for 285 yards and two touchdowns. Herb Walker Jr. carried the ball 21 times for 120 yards for the Bears, who made their first-ever playoff appearance. They earned the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference's automatic bid off a tiebreaker between five first-place teams.

MEAC teams have lost in the playoffs every year since 1999.

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Indiana State 36, Eastern Kentucky 16

Richmond, KY - Indiana State played in its first FCS playoff game since 1984 on Saturday. Maybe the Sycamores just needed some extra time to warm up.

After surrendering the first 16 points to Eastern Kentucky, Indiana State scored the final 36 points for a 36-16 first-round victory over the Colonels.

The Sycamores (8-5), one of a record-tying five playoffs teams from the Missouri Valley Football Conference, will visit eighth-seeded Chattanooga (9-3), the Southern Conference champion, for a second-round game next Saturday.

Senior quarterback Mike Perish led Indiana State's comeback win, completing a school-record 41 passes in 57 attempts for 407 yards and three touchdowns with two interceptions. He now has 6,545 passing yards for his career, also a school record, and his 20 touchdown passes this season tied Ronnie Fouch's school record set in 2010.

Indiana State was nearly shut out in the first half, but Perish connected with Robert Tonyan for a 4-yard touchdown pass with two seconds left, pulling the Sycamores within 16-7 at halftime.

They then ran off 24 points in the third quarter. Eric Heidorn kicked a 47-yard field goal, Perish fired touchdown passes to Kyani Harris (57 yards) and Gary Owens (38), and safety Mark Sewall returned an interception of EKU's Bennie Conney for a 48-yard touchdown.

Dy'Shawn Mobley scored on an 18-yard run and finished with 96 yards on 22 carries, and Andrew Lloyd kicked three field goals as the Colonels (9-4) from the Ohio Valley Conference built their 16-0 lead in the first half.

The playoff win was Indiana State's second in three seasons of playoff appearances. EKU fell to 16-19 all-time in 21 playoff appearances.

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Montana 52, San Diego 14

Missoula, MT - Having the most FCS playoff appearances in history against an opponent making its first one wasn't the only advantage Montana had against San Diego.

The Grizzlies took advantage of playing at home with snow falling against a USD squad that probably was looking to get back home - where it wasn't 20 degrees outside - winning, 52-14, in the first round.

Montana (9-4) will continue its record 23rd appearance in the FCS playoffs next Saturday at Big Sky Conference rival Eastern Washington (10-2), the No. 4 seed. The Grizzlies fell in Cheney, 36-26, on Nov. 8.

San Diego (9-3), the champion of the non-scholarship Pioneer Football League, fell behind 38-0 by halftime. Overall the Toreros were held to eight first downs and 158 yards, and went a combined 2-for-15 on third-and fourth-down conversion attempts.

Montana starting quarterback Jordan Johnson was 13-for-20 for 153 yards and three first-half touchdowns, and backup signal caller Shay Smithwick-Hann was 3-for-4 for 39 yards and two touchdowns.

Running back Jordan Canada rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown and added a TD reception, while wide receiver Jamal Jones caught two touchdowns.

San Diego avoided the shutout on Justin Priest's two touchdown receptions in the final 6:05.

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Liberty 26, James Madison 21

Harrisonburg, VA - Liberty aspires to move up to the FBS level, but the Flames have taken a quick liking to the FCS playoffs.

In the first postseason game in program history, the Flames went across state to stun James Madison, 26-21, in the first round.

Big South co-champion Liberty (9-4) will visit another CAA Football team, sixth-seeded Villanova (10-2), in the second round next Saturday.

Coach Turner Gill's program, which has sought a move to the FBS, won a strange playoff debut by jumping to a 10-0 lead in the second quarter, falling behind 21-10 by halftime and then scoring 16 unanswered points in the second half.

The winning points capped a 17-play, 85-yard, 11-minute drive in the fourth quarter. Fullback Nicky Fualaau scored on a 1-yard run to lift Liberty from a 21-20 deficit with 2:53 remaining.

James Madison (9-4) drove the ball to the Liberty 27, but on a fourth-down play, quarterback Vad Lee's intended pass to Daniel Brown was broken up by Flames cornerback Kenny Scott.

Liberty committed four turnovers to JMU's one, but held the ball for 39 minutes, 1 second. D.J. Abnar rushed for 69 yards and two touchdowns, and place-kicker John Lunsford had a 56-yarder among his two field goals. He has the three longest field goals in the FCS this season (60, 57 and 56).

Lee threw for 139 yards and one touchdown with an interception, adding 57 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Jauan Latney finished with 119 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries.

Safety Dean Marlowe added two interceptions for James Madison, which entered the matchup on a seven-game winning streak.

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Northern Iowa 44, Stephen F. Austin 10

Cedar Falls, IA - Northern Iowa running back David Johnson has made a career of playing his best games in the biggest games.

The All-American senior saved one of his better performances for the first round of the FCS playoffs Saturday night - totaling four touchdowns and 236 yards from scrimmage - in leading the Panthers to a 44-10 rout of Stephen F. Austin at the UNI-Dome.

UNI (9-4) advanced to a second-round matchup at fifth-seeded Illinois State (10-1) next Saturday in an all-Missouri Valley Football Conference rematch. The Panthers were the only team to beat ISU in the regular season, 42-28 on Nov. 1 in Cedar Falls.

Johnson, an NFL prospect, finished with 152 yards on 23 carries. He wasted no time in taking over the playoff game, breaking free for a 73-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage.

He also scored on a 1-yard run in the final minute of the quarter, then caught a 70-yard touchdown pass from Brion Carnes in the second quarter as UNI built a 30-7 halftime lead.

Johnson capped the Panthers' opening drive of the second half with a 6-yard scoring run.

A pair of SFA turnovers helped UNI to three Michael Schmadeke field goals in a six-minute span of the first quarter. The third field goal gave the junior 27 this season, an FCS single-season record that surpassed the 26 made by Nevada's Tony Zendejas in 1982 and UNI's Brian Mitchell in 1990.

Carnes only completed five passes, but four of them went for more than 30 yards in a 205-yard effort. He also rushed for 46 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

The Johnson versus Johnson showdown of running backs didn't materialize as Stephen F. Austin senior Gus Johnson, who entered the game with 1,601 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns, finished with 82 yards on 20 carries. He scored the only touchdown for his Southland Conference squad.