FCS Playoff Roundup
Staten Island, NY – Flagstaff, AR (SportsNetwork.com) - South Dakota State junior running back Zach Zenner rushed for 249 yards and two touchdowns on 30 carries as the Jackrabbits raced away from Northern Arizona, 26-7, in the first round of the FCS playoffs Saturday night.
Zenner, second in rushing yards in the FCS during the regular season, scored on 87- and 34-yard runs, and South Dakota State (9-4) advanced to the second round next Saturday at third-seeded Eastern Washington.
Northern Arizona head coach Jerome Souers missed the game due to complications that arose from necessary back surgery. Defensive coordinator Andy Thompson was named interim coach and led the Lumberjacks from the sidelines.
As expected, it was a battle of the running backs. Northern Arizona's Zach Bauman punched home a 6-yard touchdown with just under 10 minutes to play in the second quarter, and South Dakota State's Zenner dashed 87 yards for a touchdown at the 3:14 mark.
Each tailback was over the 100-yard mark at halftime with the score knotted at 7-7. But Bauman's day went downhill from there.
The senior took a 1-yard loss in his team's own end zone for a safety in the third quarter, giving the Jackrabbits a 9-7 lead.
Bauman didn't gain any additional yards for the rest of the game. He finished the game with 101 yards on 22 carries.
Zenner's second touchdown increased South Dakota State's lead to 16-7 with 6:49 left in the third quarter.
Tennessee State (10-3) 31, Butler (9-4) 0
Indianapolis, IN - Tennessee State put an emphatic end to a 13-year drought for Ohio Valley Conference teams in the FCS playoffs, routing Butler in the first round.
Junior quarterback Michael German threw for 201 yards and two touchdowns to spark Tennessee State (10-3) into the second round at No. 2 seed Eastern Illinois next Saturday.
That game will guarantee the OVC another win. EIU (11-1), the OVC regular- season champion, won the regular-season meeting, 34-16.
OVC teams had lost 19 straight playoff games since 2000. But coach Rod Reed's Tigers dominated a Butler squad making the first playoff appearance by a Pioneer Football League team. It was the Tigers' first shutout since 2006, but the fifth time they limited an opponent to 10 or fewer points this season.
German, who completed 14-for-24 pass attempts, threw a 25-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Mitchell to give Tennessee State a 7-0 lead with 1:38 left in the first quarter. Jamin Godfrey kicked a 45-yard field goal in the second quarter before German added a 17-yard TD pass to Wesley Samuels with 41 seconds left to push the lead to 17-0 at halftime.
In the third quarter, Daniel Fitzpatrick intercepted Butler quarterback Matt Lancaster and returned the ball 26 yards for a touchdown. He added another interception to give him an FCS-high seven this season.
After the Tigers stopped a fake punt by Butler, backup quarterback Ronald Butler then threw a 21-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell for a 31-0 lead.
Lancaster was intercepted three times and finished 15-for-39 for 122 yards. He led Butler (9-4) with 74 rushing yards, while Trae Heeter added 64 on the ground.
Tennessee State, which turned the ball over three times on fumbles, had a 415-257 advantage in yards.
Furman (8-5) 30, South Carolina State (9-4) 20
Orangeburg, SC - Furman's big plays were too much for South Carolina State as the Southern Conference school advanced in the playoff first round.
Furman (8-5) will play top-seeded North Dakota State, the two-time defending national champion, in the second round next Saturday in Fargo.
The Paladins had three big-play touchdowns: Jairus Hollman's school-record 90- yard punt return in the first quarter, a Reese Hannon-to-Ryan Culbreath 50-yard connection in the second quarter and Hollman's 34-yard interception return in the third quarter.
Hannon also scored on a 1-yard run to give Furman the lead for good, 20-13 with 6:03 left in the third quarter. Ray Early had a 32-yard field goal with 8:28 to play in the fourth quarter, extending the Paladins' lead to 30-20.
Hollman, Carl Rider and Marcus McMorris each had 11 tackles, including nine solos, for Furman. The Paladins have won six of their last seven games after a 2-4 start this season.
Richard Cue and Adrian Kollock both threw touchdowns and Nick Belcher kicked a pair of field goals for South Carolina State (9-4) out of the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference.
New Hampshire (8-4) 45, Lafayette (5-7) 7
Durham, NH - New Hampshire opened its 10th straight FCS playoff appearance by pounding Lafayette in the first round.
Sean Goldrich threw for 267 yards and two touchdowns, R.J. Harris collected 173 receiving yards and a score, and UNH (8-4) had 10 sacks as it moved into the second round at fifth-seeded Maine next Saturday.
That game will be a CAA Football rematch of UNH's 24-3 home win over the Black Bears (10-2) last Saturday.
Lafayette (5-7), the Patriot League champion, was the first sub-.500 team to qualify for the playoffs, which began in 1978. The Leopards avoided a shutout by scoring on Mike Duncan's 7-yard touchdown reception from backup quarterback Blake Searfoss with 4:50 left in the fourth quarter.
UNH built a 31-0 halftime lead. Nick Cefalo scored on an 86-yard punt return in the second quarter.
The Wildcats outgained Lafayette, 551 yards to 333. Jay Colbert collected three of their 10 sacks.
Their run of playoff appearances is the longest active streak in the FCS.
Fordham (12-1) 37, Sacred Heart (10-3) 27
New York, NY - Fordham quarterback Michael Nebrich threw for 413 yards and had four total touchdowns in the first half before the Rams held off Sacred Heart, 37-27, in the first round.
Fordham (12-1) became the fourth 12-game winner in Patriot League history while advancing to face No. 7 seed Towson in the second round next Saturday in Maryland.
Nebrich, a junior, helped the Rams to a 31-17 halftime lead with touchdown passes to three different receivers, Tebucky Jones, Sam Ajala and Carlton Koonce. Nebrich also scored on a 1-yard run.
Sacred Heart (10-3) closed within 31-27 in the third quarter, including Keshaudas Spence's second touchdown run.
But Michael Marando kicked his second and third field goals of the game in the fourth quarter to help Fordham close out the win.
Nebrich was 32-for-51 and intercepted once. Ajala had seven receptions for 128 yards and Dan Light caught nine passes for 68 yards.
Fordham's Levon Williams had eight tackles, two fumble recoveries and one interception. The Rams forced four turnovers.
Spence finished with 194 yards on 25 carries, but lost two fumbles. Quarterback RJ Noel was just 11-of-28 for 166 yards and two interceptions.
Despite the close proximity of the schools - Sacred Heart, from the Northeast Conference, is located in Fairfield, Conn. - they were meeting for the first time.
Coastal Carolina (11-2) 48, Bethune-Cookman (10-3) 24
Conway, SC - Coastal Carolina's offense was on the field for just over 22 minutes, but it hardly mattered as the Chanticleers beat Bethune-Cookman, 48-24, for the second straight year in the first round of the playoffs.
Quarterback Alex Ross threw for four touchdowns to power Coastal Carolina (11-2), which will travel to No. 8 seed Montana for a second-round game next Saturday.
The Chanticleers eliminated Bethune-Cookman, 24-14, in last year's playoff game in Daytona Beach, Fla.
This time, Bethune-Cookman (10-3) possessed the ball for 37 minutes, 46 seconds, to Coastal Carolina's 22:14. But the Chanticleers rolled to a 41-10 lead within the first minute of the fourth quarter.
Ross completed 13-of-18 pass attempts for 256 yards for the Big South Conference co-champions. He threw two touchdowns to Matt Hazel, who had three receptions for 64 yards. Tyrell Blanks and John Israel also caught touchdowns.
Bethune quarterbacks Quentin Williams and Brodrick Waters combined for 304 passing yards, 69 rushing yards and three total touchdowns. Waters threw for one touchdown and both rushed for one each.
Bethune-Cookman was a co-champion in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Including South Carolina State's loss to Furman on Saturday, MEAC teams have lost 19 straight playoff games dating to 1999.
Sam Houston State (9-4) 51, Southern Utah (8-5) 20
Huntsville, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Sam Houston State's FCS playoff experience was on display as it eliminated Southern Utah in the first round.
The Bearkats (9-4) have reached the last two national championship games. They will visit fellow Southland Conference member Southeastern Louisiana in the second round next Saturday. SELU won the regular-season meeting, 34-21.
Southern Utah (8-5), from the Big Sky Conference, was making the first FCS playoff appearance in program history.
Veteran running back Timothy Flanders, the active career rushing leader in the FCS, powered Sam Houston State with 177 yards and two fourth-quarter touchdowns on the ground.
Quarterback Brian Bell, a four-year starter, completed 15-of-21 pass attempts for 176 yards and two touchdowns. The Bearkats overcame a 10-0 deficit in the first quarter by scoring 30 unanswered points.
Keyshawn Hall added 101 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
After Southern Utah pulled within 30-20, Flanders scored on a 2-yard run to open the fourth quarter and put the Bearkats back in complete control. They finished with 355 rushing yards and 531 total yards.
Southern Utah quarterback Aaron Cantu was 28-of-43 for 270 yards and one touchdown. The Thunderbirds rushed for only 47 yards.
Sam Houston State ended a two-game losing streak while handing the Thunderbirds a second straight loss to end their season.
Jacksonville State (10-3) 55, Samford (8-5) 14
Jacksonville, AL (SportsNetwork.com) - Jacksonville State rushed for 367 yards to dominate intrastate rival Samford, 55-14, in the first round of the FCS playoffs Saturday night.
Running back DaMarcus James led the charge with 124 yards and two rushing touchdowns on 22 carries, while quarterback Eli Jenkins both rushed and passed for 115 yards, with one touchdown both ways.
The Gamecocks (10-3) from the Ohio Valley Conference will travel to No. 6 seed McNeese State for a second-round game next Saturday.
They extended their series lead over Samford to 23-21-2 in the first matchup between the two schools since 2007.
Jacksonville State led 38-0 at halftime against the Southern Conference Bulldogs behind four rushing touchdowns and a Jenkins passing score. The Gamecocks had 361 total yards of offense at the midway point, while Samford had just 17.
Telvin Brown added a 67-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, finishing with 80 yards on three carries.
Samford quarterback Andy Summerlin, named the Southern Conference Offensive Player of the Year by the media, had a troubling game, completing just 7-of-24 on pass attempts for 81 yards and one touchdown.
Senior running back and kick returner Fabian Truss did not play in the game for the Bulldogs (8-5)