Published May 02, 2016
Frisco, TX (SportsNetwork.com) - Just down the road from the FCS championship game, there's a certain playoff about to wrap up Monday night that surely has some catching up to do to what's been going on in the other half of Division I college football.
Even Jerry Jones, whose Cowboys Stadium in Arlington will be hosting Ohio State and Oregon for the FBS championship game, might have to agree the 24-team playoffs on the FCS level have a little something on the four-team College Football Playoff.
Even if North Dakota State keeps winning the FCS title, as it did Saturday with a 29-27 victory over Illinois State. The thrilling matchup of Missouri Valley Conference teams was an excellent advertisement for the playoff system. In the FCS, it dates to 1978.
"Well, yeah, I think a playoff could work, and we like what we have in FCS," NDSU coach Chris Klieman said. "We have 24 teams and you get a true champion because you've got to win a number of games in consecutive weeks.
"But I don't know if they'll ever do that at that level of having how many teams, is it four, is it eight, so on. But no, it's fun to have a true champion, and we crowned two champions today. We crowned a true Missouri Valley champion today and a national champion today."
"I think that with the playoff system," added Bison running back John Crockett, "I think that's something that they really should look deeply into because at the end of the day when you go to school, you don't want to be just another player. You don't want to be just another school. I feel like at the end of a football season, it's either you're the best or you're just amongst the rest.
"I feel like at the end of the day, if you want to hold your finger up and say, we're the best team in the nation, hands down, playoffs, it's perfect, because a bowl game can't -- like TCU, they played great, and other teams didn't play so well. I think that they really need to think about that because look at this, this is amazing, great atmosphere, and you know at the end of the day who's No. 1."
Interestingly, Illinois State coach Brock Spack feels differently from his championship game brethren. He doesn't see a need for the FBS playoff to expand beyond four teams.
Spack coached on the higher level of Division I for two decades and values the bowl games as well as the playoffs.
"The bowl scenario I think works for them," he said. "I think the plus-one or whatever you're calling this is interesting. I think it seems like it's a very good equation because I don't think they would have picked the two teams that they're going to play Monday night. I really like the playoff scenario. It's unique to our level football. I've really enjoyed it.
"I don't think for - this is just my opinion, that they should get away from the bowl scenario. I think that's unique to that level, and maybe four teams is the magic number. I'm not in that position to make that decision or really have an opinion. It seems to be working out very well. Will they go to six or eight or whatever? I think you've got to be careful with that, particularly with these unprofessional players. You're talking about academics, and we're trying to reduce the risk of injury, and obviously the more games you play, the more you expose these guys to injury."
FCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME STORY
North Dakota State (15-1) 29, Illinois State (13-2) 27
Offense - NDSU quarterback Carson Wentz might stand 6-foot-6, but he has both mobility and the ability to improvise under pressure. The championship game's most outstanding player completed 15-of-22 pass attempts for 237 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 87 yards on 16 carries, including the game-winning touchdown as well as a fumble at the end of a 23-yard run in the first quarter.
Defense - NDSU's starting trio of linebackers led their team in tackles as Carlton Littlejohn had eight solo tackles, Esley Thornton had six stops as well as a late-game interception to seal the win, and Nick DeLuca had six more tackles. For Illinois State, defensive tackle Brandon Prate had eight solo tackles, including a sack and two tackles for loss.
Special Teams - So senior Adam Keller finally didn't convert a PAT after NDSU took the late 29-27 lead. He deserved a little slack despite the blocked kick as he had made 117 PATs in a row. He kicked two 41-yard field goals and a 24- yarder to reach an FCS single-season record 29 field goals, and he added two PATs in an 11-point game.
Illinois State players wore a red-and-white commemorative decal with the number 65 on their helmet to honor John Rodgers, the father of Eastern Washington senior All-America offensive tackle Jake Rodgers.
John Rodgers suffered a heart attack in the stands during the FCS quarterfinal game between Illinois State and EWU on Dec. 13 and passed away two weeks later. Members of the Redbirds team found it difficult to celebrate after the win considering what happened during the game and wanted to express their support of both the Rodgers and EWU families.
In another sign of sportsmanship, the NDSU and Illinois State players not involved in the pregame coin toss walked out on the field to shake hands with each other. It was a sign of mutual respect between two teams from the same conference.
The Missouri Valley set an FCS single-season record with its 10 playoff wins, two more than the previous high.
The combined records of the 11 FCS conferences that participate in the playoffs:
Missouri Valley (five qualifiers) - 10-4 (.714)
CAA Football (four) - 4-4 (.500)
Southland (three) - 3-3 (.500)
Big South (two) - 2-2 (.500)
Big Sky (three) - 2-3 (.400)
Patriot (one) - 1-1 (.500)
Southern (one) - 1-1 (.500)
MEAC (one) - 0-1 (.000)
Northeast (one) - 0-1 (.000)
Pioneer (one) - 0-1 (.000)
Ohio Valley (two) - 0-2 (.000)
IN THE HUDDLE SCOREBOARD
Championship Game Record: 1-0 (1.000)
Season Record: 645-193 (.770)