Maybe it’s just me, but this seemed like a weird weekend in the MVFC. There were 2 ½ games played this weekend, with two potentially considered “upsets” (depending on your own personal ranking system). Also, just for clarification, since only 4 of the 10 teams in the conference were in action this week, it was a much smaller pool of players to choose from for the weekly conference awards.
In case you’re just here to see what the scores were, here’s those:
#9 Illinois State – 31
Indiana State – 34
#13 Western Illinois – 28
FBS Northern Illinois – 23
Missouri State – 0
FBS Kansas State – 35
(game called at halftime due to weather)
And now for the details and insight…
First game up was Illinois State at Indiana State. In probably the closest thing to a “normal” game that happened this weekend, the Redbirds traveled 2 hours down the road to visit the Sycamores’ home field. Illinois State started backup QB Tristan Smith due to an injury to starting QB Jake Kolbe’s shoulder last weekend. After nearly 2 quarters and falling behind 17-7, the Redbirds decided that a banged-up Kolbe would still be better than a full-strength Smith. It took a while to get warmed up, and IN State would get up 24-7 early in the 3rd quarter, but IL State would battle back, coming within 3 points twice in the 4th quarter…27-24 with just under 9 minutes left in the 4th quarter, and then 31-34 with 3:07 left. The Redbird defense held the Sycamores to a 3 and out on the following possession, but then after a couple of decent passing plays, Kolbe was sacked by Indiana State LB Jonas Griffith. Kolbe fumbled the ball on the play and it was recovered by Indiana State DL Kenyota Rollins. Indiana State was then able to pick up a first down, after which they were able to take a couple of knees and run out the clock on the Redbirds, making 34-31 the final score.
Illinois State WR Anthony Warrum caught 151 yards and 2 TDs and their QB Kolbe passed for 258 yards and 3 TDs (in only slightly more than 2 quarters of work), but was sacked 3 times. The lead rusher for Illinois State was RB George Moreira with only 37 yards, but he did have 1 TD. Indiana State’s lead receiver, WR Bob Pugh, finished the game with 93 yards receiving. Pugh also picked up 92 yards on kick returns (196 all-purpose yards) which was good enough for the MVFC Newcomer of the Week award. WRs Robert Tonyan and Miles Thompson each had a receiving TD also. RB Roland Genesy had a good day running the ball, picking up 112 yards and 2 rushing TDs, and QB Isaac Harker (last week’s MVFC offensive player of the week) put up 237 yards and 2 TDs with 1 INT and was sacked 3 times. Indiana State’s kicker Jerry Nunez had a couple of key FGs, hitting a 41 yarder in the 2nd quarter, and a 27 yarder in the 4th quarter, as well as going 4 for 4 on XPs. Considering the difference in the game was only 3 points, he definitely contributed in a significant way to the Sycamore win. Nunez was awarded the MVFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance. Defensively, the Redbirds had two players with 13 total tackles, Safety Alec Kocour (who also had 1 interception), and LB Brent Spack. Indiana State DB Tsali Lough finished with 11 tackles, LB Jameer Thurman with 10 including 1.5 for loss and 1 forced fumble, and LB Jonas Griffith with 8 tackles, and 1 tackle for loss…the key sack/forced fumble that effectively ended the game.
The Redbirds fall to 2-2 (after starting the season beating Valparaiso and the Big 10’s Northwestern, then falling to both Eastern Illinois and Indiana State) and will have to head up to the Fargodome to take on the Bison of NDSU at their Homecoming game next week. Indiana State moves up to 3-1 overall (after beating Butler, losing to Big 10’s Minnesota…the MVFC’s only loss to a Big 10 team this season, then beating Southeast Missouri State and Illinois State) and will host the Missouri State Bears next weekend in their own Homecoming game.
Next up, we have a game where an occasionally successful 2-win FCS team travels a few hours northwest to take on a currently winless in-state G5 FBS opponent that they’ve actually played quite a few times throughout their history. As usual, the FBS team is favored, but the FCS team holds off a late surge to come away with a 28-23 victory and another FCS over FBS scalp for the season. The winning FCS team flies their purple flags proudly, and the losing FBS team packs up their red and black ones and their mascot goes home with his doggy tail between his legs. Of course, I’m talking about….the Central Arkansas Bears beating the Arkansas State Red Wolves….no…wait….sorry….the Western Illinois Leathernecks beating the Northern Illinois Huskies. The parallels between these two games are a bit insane…from the final score, the in-state aspect, the level of the teams, the team colors…even the distance between the two schools, the size of the FCS schools, and the size of the FBS schools all being roughly equivalent.
Anyway, enough about UCA and A-State, I’m here to talk about my own Leathernecks taking on the NIU Huskies, which was the game I attended this weekend. With the Huskies doing pretty badly so far this season (0-3 prior to the game), and Western doing surprisingly well (2-0 up to that point), NIU was technically favored with most rankings/oddsmakers, but only by a few points…roughly the difference of home-field advantage + or – a couple of points. The Leathernecks started off very strong in the game, going ahead 14-0 at the end of the first quarter. The Huskies started to step things up a little bit in the second quarter, putting up a TD themselves, and making it 14-7 at the half. In the 3rd quarter, Western had 2 more TDs in the first half of the quarter to bring them to 28 points, with a 28-7 lead going into the 4th.
In the 4th however, the Leathernecks “let off the gas” and went to pretty conservative playcalling, punting on 4 straight series and only picking up 2 first downs the entire time. The Huskies were able to capitalize on some big-gain plays, first picking up a touchdown on a 2-play drive (38 yard pass, then 23 yard TD run), and then another touchdown on a 6-play drive that finished with a 39 yard TD pass. NIU went for two on that last TD, but was unable to convert, making the score 28-23 at that point. NIU would get within the 20 on their next drive, but needing a TD to take the lead, went for it on 4th down and was turned away.
Three plays and 23 game seconds later, the Leathernecks would be forced to punt again, giving the Huskies another chance at it with about 2 ½ minutes left on the clock. Again the Huskies drove down the field picking up first down after first down until they reached the Western 16-yard line. They hit a 6 yard run, then a 1 yard run, making it 3rd and 3 from the 9. After an incomplete pass, it was 4th and 3, and again, needing a TD to take the lead, they went for it. With pressure coming from the left side from LB Brett Taylor, NIU’s QB Maddie went for a pass down the middle to a NIU receiver in the end zone that was knocked out of the way by LB Riggs Baxter (despite the announcers saying it was David Griffith…I went back and reviewed the replay repeatedly to double-check). One kneel-down later to run out the final 35 seconds and Western had taken down the NIU Huskies by a final score of 28-23.
Something interesting about this game, and I’m sure it happens every now and then, although it’s the first time I can remember seeing it in person, every score of the game happened in the south end zone (which just happened to be the area right in front of where I was sitting). All of Western’s scoring came in the 1st and 3rd quarters…NIU’s in the 2nd and 4th.
Western’s QB Sean McGuire finished the game with 315 yards and 1 TD passing, as well as 11 yards and 1 TD rushing, which garnered him a MVFC Offensive Player of the Week award as well as College Sports Madness FCS Offensive Player of the Week Award. The Huskies keyed into WIU RB Steve McShane pretty well, holding him to only 80 yards and 1 TD rushing (plus 43 yards receiving, so 123 all-purpose yards). Transfer RB Jamie Gilmore also picked up a TD. On the receiving end, WR Lance Lenoir was covered well, catching only 83 yards, while (usually #2) WR Joey Borsellino racked up 148 yards receiving…his 5th 100+ yard receiving game. Defensively, WIU’s Brett Taylor had 13 tackles (12 solo), and a ½ sack, earning him a MVFC Defensive Player of the Week award.
NIU had two QBs combine for 251 passing yards and 2 TDs, with 1 INT. Their top rushing performer was Jordan Huff, who racked up 130 yards and 1 TD on 9 attempts (a 14.4 yard per carry average). Receiver Kenny Golliday burned the Western DBs for 113 receiving yards and 1 TD, as well as picking up 39 yards on the ground. Their top tackler was Brandon Mayes with 12 total tackles including 1 tackle for loss.
Western stays “perfect” at 3-0 on the season (also defeating Eastern Illinois and Northern Arizona) and will head up to Brookings, SD to take on South Dakota State next weekend. Northern also stays “perfect” and 0-4 on the season (having lost to Wyoming, South Florida, and San Diego State earlier). They will head over to Indiana and attempt to salvage some semblance of even a mediocre season against Ball State.
Finally, we have our ½ game…and I do mean “finally” because the game between Missouri State and Kansas State was initially delayed quite a bit due to a significant amount of lightning in the air. The ½ part comes in due to the fact that the game was called at halftime for the same reason, and since it looked like it wasn’t going to let up for most of the evening. The game itself was essentially a “shortened blowout” of what was expected, with the Bears falling 35-0 through two quarters of play. MSU started the game already handicapped somewhat due to the suspension of their starting QB, Breck Reddick, who was suspended Friday night for “conduct detrimental to the team” tied to allegations of animal abuse against him. The university’s Office of Student Conduct is handling the investigation and Reddick will not return to team activities until the situation is resolved.
So, starting their #2 QB Brodie Lambert, as well as giving a shot to backup QB Michael Briggs, the Bears didn’t have much success. To get an idea of how the game played out, all you have to do is look at the end result of each of the drives for each team. For MSU, it went: punt, fumble, punt, punt, punt, punt, interception. On the KSU side of things: TD, TD, punt, TD, TD, TD, punt, missed FG (I assume due to the storm/wind situation). To MSU’s credit, the two drives where Kansas State had to punt, the Bears defense held pretty well, defending passes mostly, and holding them to 3-and-outs for each of those two possessions.
Offensively, MSU didn’t have much going on. The QBs combined for 24 total passing yards and 1 interception and their top rusher was WR Malik Earl with 11 yards on 1 attempt. Receiving-wise, TB Phoenix Johnson led the way with 1 catch for 9 yards. In total, the Bears had 54 yards of offense. On the defensive side of things, LB Eric Greely had 5 total tackles with 1 for loss, S. Cameron Price and LB Dylan Cole each had 3 tackles.
For KSU, it was pretty much the opposite story. QB Jesse Ertz passed for 94 yards and 2 TDs and rushed for 85 yards. FB Winston Dimel only rushed for 19 yards but accounted for 2 TDs on the ground. RB Charles Jones picked up the other rushing TD. On the receiving end there wasn’t a ton of yards through the air…again, half a game, in wind and rain, but it looks like they spread the ball around quite a bit, with 8 players getting at least 1 catch. WR Byron Pringle had 30 yards and 1 TD and WR Dominique Heath had the other receiving TD.
Overall, I think this was pretty much a game that Missouri State would like to just forget and move on from, for a multitude of reasons. Despite the loss, the Bears are still 2-1 after previously beating Southwestern College (NAIA) and Murray State and will head over to play Indiana State next weekend.
K-State is also 2-1 now, after previously losing to Stanford and beating Florida Atlantic. They head over and play at West Virginia to open up Big 12 play for the season.
So, a couple of close exciting games, one an FCS over FBS upset, and one particularly ugly game. Last week in my Week 4 preview article, I made predictions for the games. Here’s what I predicted and how I did:
Illinois State by 7 – missed on this one, Indiana State won by 3
Western Illinois by 4 – nailed this one, almost on the button, Western won by 5
Kansas State by 51 – I’m going to go ahead and count this as a win, if you don’t mind. K-State was up by 35 at halftime and it’s entirely likely that if the game hadn’t been shortened by weather, they would have continued to pile on points for a bit more, probably getting up in the range of a margin of 40-50 or so before letting off the gas and getting some of the younger players some time on the field. It’s possible that MSU might have picked up a FG or even a TD, but nothing that I saw or read tells me that it wouldn’t have likely ended up roughly in the vicinity of a 50 point win.
So, for my first week of predictions in the MVFC, I’d say I’m 2-1.
Next week begins the “meat grinder” that is the Missouri Valley Football Conference season. It’s that time of year where all the MVFC teams just beat the heck out of each other until a few teams emerge, bloody, beaten, but in the majority of their games, victorious, and proceed to drag themselves off to the playoffs where they quite frequently dismantle some of the FCS’s better teams before often running into another MVFC team. It’s also the time of year that gave North Dakota State 4 of their 5 losses over the previous 5 years. If any team isn’t intimidated by the Fargodome crowd, it’s a MVFC team. This is part of the reason why only MVFC teams have beaten the Bison at home, despite having many very good teams show up to play there throughout 5 years of playoffs and into this year with Charleston Southern and Eastern Washington both failing to defeat the Bison at their dome/barn/shed/not a stadium.
Stay tuned for my Week 5 preview article later this week, where we’ve got Illinois State at North Dakota State, Missouri State at Indiana State, South Dakota at Youngstown State, Southern Illinois at Northern Iowa, and Western Illinois at South Dakota State.