Normally, this would be a triumph that would grab the headlines and not to take anything away from the Aggies’ win, but these victories are not so rare as they used to be.
Ny Kent Schmidt, CSN West Columnist
This is especially true for the lower FBS conference teams such as San Jose State, who have no reason to play at the FBS level, as its lone victory came against another FCS team. That victory came against Southern Utah by a slim 16-11 score that had SJSU scoring a late touchdown to take the lead.
The UC Davis win was the seventh such triumph for the FCS over FBS teams this year. But it is not just the fact that the lower scholarship Division I schools have these victories, several others have been close contests that could have become upsets. Three of the seven triumphs have been by “West” teams this year with North Dakota State defeating Kansas, and fellow Great West member South Dakota defeating Minnesota as the other two.
In reality, FCS teams no longer are losing by large margins; they are keeping most of the games close. This should be further evidence, that most of us that follow the FCS ranks already know, to all of Division I football that we have parity in all of Division I.
First, how did UC Davis pull off its second win over an FBS team?
The Aggies fell behind 13-0 in the first half and had a chance just before halftime to cut into the lead. On fourth-and-goal from the 1 and the Aggies using a wildcat formation, SJSU stopped Aggie runningback Nick Aprile's burst up the middle sending the teams into halftime with the Spartans holding a 13-0 edge.
UC Davis mounted its comeback on the strength of its defense. The second of two Aggie sacks on the Spartans' initial second-half possession resulted in a San Jose State fumble. Three plays later, Aprile this time bulled his way into the end zone to cut the lead to six, 13-7.
After forcing the Spartans to punt after just three plays, UC Davis marched 78 yards on eight plays. Aggie quarterback Randy Wright found wide receiver Tom Hemmingsen from four yards out and kicker Sean Kelley's PAT gave the Aggies their 14-13 lead with 1:26 remaining in the quarter.
“This team, we needed a win, we really did,” Aggie coach Bob Biggs said. “We played well in spurts and the thing is they continue to play hard and they just believe in each other. Even at halftime, this team has already had three losses, and we couldn’t punch that ball in. Most teams would’ve really folded at that point but we didn’t. We came out and played very, very hard in the second half.”
UC Davis’ defense allowed just one scoring threat in the second half. San Jose State had the best scoring chance in the fourth quarter but its 52-yard field-goal attempt was wide left and the victory was preserved.
The Spartans outgained the Aggies, 339 to 260 yards, but SJSU gave the ball away twice and UC Davis forced 11 Spartan penalties. The Aggies did not commit a turnover.
“Yeah that’s two games in a row we haven’t turned the ball over, and we didn’t have very many penalties either and you know we’re a good football, we’re not a great football team, but if we do things right and don’t turn the ball over and limit our penalties we’re going to win a lot of football games,” Biggs said.
This victory was the second FBS victory for the Aggies since moving up to the FCS ranks with their other such victory coming against Stanford in 2005.
This victory was just the Aggies’ second in five games with their losses coming to the Big Sky’s Weber State and Portland State along with a loss to FBS California.
How will this win help the Aggies the rest of the season?
It should be a lift as UC Davis still has its four Great West games left, along with home games against Division I football newcomer South Alabama and its Causeway Classic rival Sacramento State. Of their conference games, the Aggies host South Dakota and Southern Utah and travel to North Dakota and their Golden Horseshoe trophy opponent Cal Poly.
With three losses already, the Aggies will most likely need to run the table to have a shot at the playoffs. But given their increased play and spark this game could provide, it’s not inconceivable. They might have an outside chance with a 7-4 record given the increase to the 20-team playoff format with 10 spots going to at-large teams.
The Great West with just five schools does not have an automatic bid to the postseason.
Where does this leave Division I for the future?
In my opinion, I think there will be a shakeup in Division I football. I don’t believe the BCS schools will want to continue to give up their bowls to their FBS brethren.
I could see Division I football potentially going to three sub-classes. We could see the lower FBS conference joining up with the larger scale FCS conferences and then leave a class for the Division I schools that do not fully fund at the FCS level.
What conferences that might be involved are probably up in the air, but we are seeing the gray area of Division I football continue becoming even grayer as evidence by games by UC Davis. This has been a topic that conferences such as the Big Sky have seen for many years, and I think we will see the shakeup before too much longer.
But who knows exactly what will happen. For now, those of us who enjoy the FCS brand of football can boast until that day comes.
* * *
CSN West Game of the Week
Northern Iowa (2-2, 2-0) @ Southern Illinois (2-3, 1-1), 2 p.m. Central
This is normally the Missouri Valley Football Conference game of the year, but both teams have stumbled a little bit to start the season. Both teams, however, are coming off two conference wins and they come into this game ranked as they have been in past years. There should be a big crowd in Carbondale for this game as it’s the Salukis homecoming game.
Last year, SIU broke the string of home teams winning this series with a 27-24 victory that propelled it to the MVFC crown.
The Panthers come into this game averaging 404.5 yards of total offense per game, but just 15.0 points. This is due in part to its minus-five turnover margin and the fact they have scored only three touchdowns in 16 trips to the red zone. SIU’s defense is giving up more than 22 points per game thus far and more than 300 yards as well.
SIU averages 186.4 yards rushing per game and is facing a Panther defense that ranks second nationally by allowing just 77.8 yards on the ground.
This game likely will come down to the wire again, and I could see a field-goal margin as the differential. I like the home team though to start a new streak. Southern Illinois 26, Northern Iowa 23.
* * *
CSN West News & Notes
* Montana State led Sacramento State 37-10 at halftime last Saturday, and the Bobcats appeared well on their way to their fourth win of the season. It was Montana State, however, that needed a last-minute touchdown just to force overtime. Montana State ended up winning a wild 64-61 contest. The game featured 1,270 yards of total offense. MSU amassed 646 while Sacramento State netted 624.
* Eastern Washington’s Taiwan Jones sat out the Eagles’ 35-24 road victory over Weber State with an injury. The Eagles rode the arm of Bo Levi Mitchell to the win with the nation’s all-purpose leader watching from the sideline. Mitchell threw for 377 yards and four touchdowns. Brandon Kaufman and Ashton Grant each had more than 100 receiving yards.
* The road team has won each game in the four-game series between North Dakota State and Western Illinois. The Leathernecks defeated the Bison in Fargo 28-16 last Saturday.
* Missouri State wide receiver Jermaine Saffold recorded career highs in receptions (9) and receiving yards (114) to help guide the Bears past Youngstown State 35-25 on Saturday.
* South Dakota quarterback Dante Warren guided South Dakota to a 27-17 triumph over North Dakota on Saturday in the Dakota Dome with 268 yards, three touchdowns through the air and 44 yards on the ground.
* Jacksonville quarterback Josh McGregor threw four touchdowns to lead the Dolphins past San Diego, 35-28, last weekend. McGregor completed 20-of-30 passes for 327 yards as Jacksonville finished with 522 total yards — its third consecutive 500-yard offensive performance.
* Campbell rushed for 270 yards and had three ball carriers score touchdowns in a 27-10 PFL victory at Butler. Runningback Rashaun Brown led Campbell with 20 carries for 91 yards and a first-quarter touchdown.
*Drake held Marist to minus-21 yards rushing and posted a 42-0 victory. Drake quarterback Michael Piatkowski completed 29-of-41 passes for 266 yards and a touchdown and also rushed for a touchdown. The Drake defense held the Red Foxes to just 77 total yards.