Five takeaways from FCS Week 4
By CRAIG HALEY
(Stats Perform) - FCS college football fans are getting their money's worth during the spring season.
Just one weekend after 11 Top 25 teams suffered losses, more than half of the games - 18 of 31 - were decided by one possession (eight or fewer points), including three that went to overtime.
Here are five takeaways from Week 4 action this weekend:
- Chattanooga went for the win to end overtime at The Citadel and got it 25-24 on Drayton Arnold's shovel pass to tight end Jay Gibson for two points, meaning the No. 18 Mocs have beaten the Bulldogs by one point in each of their last three meetings. Of course, close games in the Southern Conference are common, and another league member, Wofford, is the active FCS leader in consecutive wins in games decided by one point - 11 straight since a 7-6 triumph at South Carolina State on Sept. 14, 2002 and most recently 35-34 over Chattanooga in overtime on Oct. 26, 2019. The last time Wofford lost a game decided by one point was 21-20 to Appalachian State on Oct. 23, 1999. The next-closest FCS team is Northeast Conference member Central Connecticut State, which is working on eight straight wins in games decided by one point.
- The first weekend of CAA Football conference games left everybody shrugging, "Who knows?" Four of the five games were decided by seven or fewer points, including No. 1-ranked James Madison needing to overcome an 11-point, fourth-quarter deficit to escape Elon 20-17. The only game that wasn't close was No. 25 Delaware beating Maine 37-0, and it turned out Dejoun Lee's 87-yard touchdown return on the game's opening kickoff produced enough points for the win. With five ranked teams and uneven North (seven) and South (four) divisional alignments, there will be a lot of twists and turns ahead.
- There's usually volatility in the second half of the Top 25, where, say, teams ranked 15 through 25 and beyond tend to look alike. The majority of FCS teams are playing conference-only schedules in the spring regular season, so familiarity between opponents is making the Top 10 more uncertain, ripe for upsets or close calls. It also should be noted that seven of the Top 10 teams have new starters in football's most important position, quarterback - all but Northern Iowa, Villanova and Kennesaw State - and not all have had a smooth transition.
- No team has been more of a pleasant surprise than North Dakota, which has gone from being unranked in the preseason to No. 4 and a double-digit winner over three straight ranked opponents (Southern Illinois, South Dakota State and South Dakota) in their first Missouri Valley Football Conference season. Coach Bubba Schweigert's team has dominated game clock and is plus-six in turnovers. With nine straight wins at the Alerus Center, but losses in seven of their last eight road games, the Fighting Hawks are about to answer a big question. Four of their final games are on the road, beginning next Saturday at Western Illinois and including three-time defending FCS champion North Dakota State on March 20.
- It's probably not surprising offensive and special teams production are down in a spring season that is still two weeks away from departing winter. In the last full FCS season in 2019, teams averaged 379 offensive yards (219 passing on 30.6 attempts and 160 rushing on 38 carries per game) and 27 points. Since the spring season began on Feb. 13, teams have averaged 358 offensive yards (203.5 passing on 30 attempts and 154.7 rushing on 38 carries per game) and 25.4 points. Teams averaged 60 kickoff return yards and 12.3 punt return yards per game in 2019, but it's only 52 and 10, respectively, in the spring season.
Updated March 7, 2021