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FCS Football: The DII Schools Didn’t Win on Thursday Night but They Didn’t Fold Either

Several FCS programs started 1-0 but a few were sweating bullets while doing it.

NCAA Football: Kennesaw State at Cincinnati Katie Stratman-USA TODAY Sports

Maybe it was rust. Maybe it was early-season jitters. Whatever the case, something was in the air for several FCS teams around the country on Thursday evening and it wasn’t anything good. A lot of Division II teams were squaring off with their DI counterparts and a few made it clear that they had more than just a paycheck on their minds.

Some like Lindenwood and South Dakota State, did what they were supposed to and decimated their competition from the level below (the Lions dropped 77 on Wisconsin-Stevens Point). But for others, the wins didn’t come so easily. When the dust settled, the FCS programs in question did avoid embarrassment but it wasn’t before getting a scare.

West Virginia State Nearly Topples Morehead State

Defenses were nowhere to be found between the Eagles and the Yellow Jackets on Thursday evening and, although Morehead State eked out the 37-35 win, it wasn’t necessarily a victory to write home about. West Virginia State outgained Morehead State 457 yards to 424 and forced three turnovers in a gallant effort.

Yellow Jackets running back Joel Felder burned up the MSU defense to the tune of 117 yards and receiver Javion Moore was a man possessed with 133 yards on seven catches and touchdowns. WVSU quarterback threw three touchdowns and no picks while his counterpart, Morehead State’s Carter Cravens, tossed two interceptions. Even kick return man Devin Washington was finding space as he racked up 88 yards on just three runbacks.

If there was any saving grace for the Eagles it was their 12 converted third downs. Going 71% on the crucial down was one of the few bright spots and was probably the reason MSU still won. Giving up 5.6 yards per carry and nine yards per pass, though, is not the formula for success.

Charleston Southern Barely Sneaks Past North Greenville

Things started off ugly in Charleston and never really got better. Props to the Crusaders who went just 4-7 last fall. North Greenville rolled in and almost handed CSU a disheartening loss. If it wasn’t for a false start penalty right at the end, they probably would have done it.

Crusaders quarterback Dylan Rameriz showed up and showed out. He laced the ball for 236 yards on 21 completions and a touchdown; outpacing Bucs signal-caller Tony Bartalo by a country mile in every passing category. CSU only mustered up 12 first downs and trailed for almost 40 minutes before finally taking its first lead with just 7:10 to play.

The Bucs defense was horrid on the final drive, allowing the Crusaders to not only march 72 yards but convert a 4th and 27... yes, 27... while doing so. North Greenville was knocking on the doorstep with under 30 seconds to go and that untimely penalty is what did them in. To say that CSU was lucky to win this one is an understatement.

Kennesaw State Struggles to Shake Tusculum Until Late

Kennesaw State set a new attendance record with 10,108 filing into Fifth Third Bank Stadium but for a while the Owls had those fans on the edge of their seats. The 38-7 score line may not necessarily show it but KSU struggled mightily with with visiting Tusculum for a while in this one and despite the lopsided win, there’s plenty to work on moving forward.

The Pioneers scored first and hung around for a long time, trailing by a slim 10-7 margin at halftime. At the break, Tusculum’s defense had posted four tackles for loss while Kennesaw State’s had none. Even at the end of the third quarter, the Owls had only tacked on one more touchdown.

An avalanche of big plays in the fourth buried the Pioneers but still, Tusculum held on for a lot longer than most thought they might. KSU is going to be an FBS team this time next year but they certainly didn’t look it for most of their first game.

Central Washington gives Weber State Early Trouble

The post-Jay Hill got off to a rocky start down in Ogden, at least right off the bat. Weber State, even with a new coach and roster turnover, should have been able to handle Central Washington from the jump at home in the opener. They were, after all, a playoff team in 2022 and are picked by many to again be one of the Big Sky’s representatives in the postseason this year.

It was the visiting Wildcats, though, that came in with a fire in their gut. After surrendering a quick score, CWU buckled down and held Weber State to just 14 points in the first half. Had it not been for two big special teams errors (kicking to Abraham Williams), they may have actually even been winning at the break.

Weber State began to pull away in the third quarter thanks to a pair of touchdowns from Damon Bankston. Even then, though, Central Washington showed fight. Quarterback Kennedy McGill continued to make plays and the defense kept forcing punts.

WSU couldn’t get out of its own way, even with the game in hand (see the fourth down special teams penalty that gave CWU a fresh set). All in all, Weber State was flagged 11 times. They have work to do if they’re going to be competitive down the line.