In Case You Missed It – Week 3
Don’t you just love when a game lives up to its hype?
The hype, in this case, was concentrated on Eastern Washington and Montana State – the two Big Sky Conference teams that were interchangeable atop the league’s preseason polls prior to the start of the season – and the potential fireworks their Week 3 matchup in Cheney would provide.
Eastern Washington raced out to a 21-7 lead at the end of the first quarter, then took a 34-17 advantage as the teams headed for the locker rooms at the end of the first half. But the Eagles, who were 0-2 entering the weekend, took their foot off the gas pedal in the latter portion of the contest, allowing the visitors to creep back into contention with minutes to play.
The end result: a 55-50 victory for Eastern Washington at The Inferno, highlighted by tremendous offensive efforts.
The game plan, it seemed, went a little something like this:
Defense? Why play defense? Just score a boatload of points and make sure it’s more than the other team.
Three Montana State fourth-quarter touchdowns helped pull the Bobcats back into striking distance, the last of which came with 4:13 to play – plenty of time for a defensive stop and another possession. But the scoring had come to an end, and the visitors suffered their first loss of the season.
There’s plenty from this game on which to remark. In case you missed the action this weekend, here are some highlights from this contest and many more across the FCS from Week 3:
Let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way – your Cooper Kupp update. The EWU receiver is REALLY stating his case early for the STATS FCS’ Offensive Player of the Year award, and he’s pulling away from the competition. The junior pass catcher hauled in 12 receptions in his team’s win for 201 yards and three touchdowns, including a 34-yard score in the fourth quarter that proved to be the difference maker for the Eagles.
This season, Kupp has brought down eight touchdown grabs to lead the nation (three more than the next-closest receiver) and has racked up 626 receiving yards (the next closest has 393). Kupp is averaging a whopping 208.7 receiving yards per outing through three games.
But he couldn’t have done it Saturday without the help of his quarterback. Jordan West (who now has likely earned himself a nickname as catchy as “Big Play VA”) threw for 410 yards – the fourth-highest single-game total for a passer this season – and added six touchdowns.
West’s counterpart, Dakota Prukop, accounted for 549 yards in the contest, which is the highest single-game total for an offensive player so far this year in the FCS. Prukop threw for 353 yards and rushed for 196, and added five touchdowns to his resume.
The two teams combined for a staggering 1,385 yards of offense and 58 first downs. Here’s the kicker: Montana State was responsible for 40 of the 58 first downs in the game, yet still lost.
OK, we got that out of the way. Let’s head elsewhere.
Ivy League action kicked off this weekend, with defending champion Harvard cruising to a 41-10 victory over Rhode Island. The Crimson have won 15 consecutive contests dating back to 2013, which included a perfect 10-0 campaign in 2014 as the only unbeaten FCS program.
Conversely, Columbia was dropped by cross-town rival Fordham, 44-24. The Lions continue to bring up the rear in the Ivy League, having now lost 22 consecutive games. Florida transfer quarterback Syler Mornhinweg did show glimpses of promise for Columbia, however, completing 21 of 25 pass attempts (with an interception) and rushing for two touchdowns.
It took three weeks, but Dayton running back Connor Kacsor finally broke loose. The senior back galloped for a 2015 FCS single-game high 244 yards on 40 (yes, 40) carries, adding three touchdowns. He also caught one pass for 28 yards in his Flyers’ 24-13 win over Duquesne.
Kacsor’s 41 touches accounted for nearly half of his team’s 84 total offensive plays.
James Madison’s wildly successful offense was at it again under the direction of quarterback Vad lee. The Dukes took down Albany, 42-28, thanks to 40 first downs and 625 yards of offense. But the Great Danes were able to stay relatively involved because Lee threw five interceptions. The Dukes turned the ball over six times and still managed to pull out a two-score victory.
The long-awaited intrastate rivalry contest between North Dakota and North Dakota State wasn’t as close as many fans had hoped (a 34-9 win for the Bison). In the first meeting between the programs in 12 years, North Dakota State held UND without a first down for more than 40 minutes into the game. North Dakota finished the contest with three total first downs and a mere 61 offensive yards, while Carson Wentz unleashed four scoring passes for the Bison. It was the first meeting between the sides since both programs were part of Division II in 2003.
Props to the Furman Paladins, who upset FBS opponent Central Florida on Saturday thanks to a monster 55-yard field goal boot by sophomore kicker John Croft Hollingsworth. The kicker split the uprights with 12:10 to play in the game, ending the scoring in the 16-15 win for Furman. It was the fifth time this season an FCS team has beaten an FBS opponent.
Finally, some of the top rushing performances of the young season occurred over the weekend. We already know about Kacsor’s breakout performance, but note Lamar running back Kade Harrington’s 230-yard, two-touchdown performance that helped his Cardinals stun Sam Houston State, 49-46. Also, Towson running back Darius Victor was let loose for 202 yards and three scores on 22 carries in his Tigers’ 29-26 win over Holy Cross. Those are the top three rushing performances in terms of single-game yardage so far this year in the FCS.