Best of the FCS in September
By CRAIG HALEY
(STATS) - A September to remember? Indeed, FCS.
With nine FCS teams beating FBS opponents and conference races kicking off with plenty of surprises, the first month of the season (adding in the late August games) whet the appetite for a season that figures to keep getting better.
Here's quick look back:
5 Best FCS Wins: North Dakota State 40, Eastern Washington 13; South Dakota 45, North Dakota 7; Holy Cross 51, New Hampshire 26; Elon 36, Richmond 33; Samford 35, The Citadel 14.
Best FBS Win: Howard 43, UNLV 40. In coach Mike London's first game with Howard, the MEAC program posts the largest point-spread upset (45.5 points) in college football history.
Best Game: North Carolina Central 33, South Carolina State 28. O'Kelly-Riddick Stadium rocked for an intense game between defending MEAC champ North Carolina Central and longtime conference power South Carolina State. The Eagles scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns to rally for their 16th straight conference win. Freshman quarterback Chauncey Caldwell came off the bench to fuel the win, throwing a game-winning 38-yard touchdown pass to Josh McCoy with 5:34 left.
Most Surprising Teams: OK, a tie. Elon (4-1), under first-year coach Curt Cignetti, has doubled last year's win total by earning a good road win at Furman and beating three straight Top 25 teams (Charleston Southern and fellow CAA Football members Richmond and Albany). And then there's Austin Peay (3-2), which has followed a 29-game losing streak with three straight wins.
Most Disappointing Teams: Let's go with another tie. Lehigh (0-5), the defending Patriot League champ, hung with Villanova in the opener, but has since gone on to lose to Monmouth, Yale, Penn and Wagner - giving up an average 48.4 points per game this season. It's also hard to argue against North Dakota (1-4), the Big Sky preseason favorite which is 0-2 in conference play already.
Best Conference: Missouri Valley Football Conference. Six of the Valley teams were in the top 13 of the STATS FCS Top 25 heading into this past weekend, and a seventh team, Northern Iowa, was previously ranked. South Dakota and Western Illinois posted wins over FBS programs and the Valley went 18-3 out of conference against FCS teams.
Best Player: Chris Streveler, South Dakota. An improved passer, last year's Missouri Valley newcomer of the year has been a true dual-threat quarterback. He's led the Coyotes to a 4-0 start, including wins over Bowling Green and Top 25 teams North Dakota and Western Illinois, with 17 total touchdowns (10 passing, seven rushing).
Best Play: Alize Ward, Stephen F. Austin. Ward scored on a game-ending, 70-yard interception to lift the Lumberjacks to a 37-31 Southland Conference win over Incarnate Word. Following a timeout and on a 3rd-and-6 with 16 seconds remaining, UIW quarterback Sean Brophy threw a desperation pass off a flea-flicker that Ward picked off his team's 30. Ward broke across the field and ran down the right sideline, leaping over an UIW player at the Cardinals' 5 and diving into their end zone for the winning score.
Best Individual Performance: Caylin Newton, Howard. Others had better statistics in games, but as a true freshman starting his first career game, Cam Newton's younger brother led the struggling MEAC program (one winning season in the last 15 years) to the stunning 43-40 win at UNLV. He accounted for 330 total yards (190 rushing) and three total touchdowns.
Updated October 1, 2017