September is nearing its end and as it does teams around the nation are jockeying for their spots in the FCS rankings. This week saw lots of shuffling as ___ new teams entered the fray. Some surprising results around the country on Saturday resulted in new faces showing up and other taking a mighty fall.
What does it all look like as we enter Week 5?
The Top 25
#1 South Dakota State (3-0) - Last Week: #1
The Jackrabbits got the week off. They’ll take on North Dakota at home on Saturday to kick off Missouri Valley action.
#2 North Dakota State (3-0) - Last Week: #2
The Bison had an early bye in Week 4. Next up is South Dakota.
#3 Montana State (3-1) - Last Week: #3
It was supposed to be a slugfest with Weber State on Saturday evening but instead it was Montana State that did all the slugging. The Bobcats defense blanked the Wildcats while offense rumbled to a big 40-0 victory. In the absence of Tommy Mellott, Sean Chambers threw for 172 yards and ran for 86 more. Julius Davis ran for 132 yards to lead the squad. The one area MSU needs to improve, however, is special teams. Missed field goals and blocked kicks left eight points off the board in Ogden. The Bobcats head back home this week to welcome Portland State.
#4 Idaho (3-1) - Last Week #7
Idaho gutted out a massive win over Sac State at home and they’ll move up this week because of it. Gevani McCoy aired it out for 234 yards and two scores. Anthony Woods carried the load on the ground for 117 yards on 24 carries and broke the chalk once also. The Hornets hung around but when it mattered most, the Vandal defense tightened up. Ricardo Chavez was a perfect 3-for-3 on his field goals, none more important than the last one which came with seconds left. Another big game with Eastern Washington is right around the bend.
#5 William & Mary (4-0) - Last Week #5
Maine stood no chance on Saturday and the Tribe made it look easy. Nearly all the damage was done on the ground as both Bronson Yoder and Malachi Imoh eclipsed 100 yards rushing. The duo accounted for 266 of the team’s 331 total rushing yards. Darius Wilson only threw for 59 yards but that was more than enough in the 28-3 win. The Tribe defense dominated the Black Bears, allowing only seven first downs and keeping Maine out of the end zone all day. CAA play will roll on for unbeaten William & Mary this weekend as Elon awaits.
#6 Holy Cross (3-1) - Last Week #6
The Crusaders performed exactly how they drew it up against Colgate. Matthew Sluka threw for four more touchdowns, bringing his season total up to 10. Justin Shorter and Jalen Coker each hauled in two scores with Shorter going for 112 yards on the afternoon. Jordan Fuller ran for 121 yards and a pair of touchdowns as well. When the dust settled, Holy Cross was on the right side of an expected 47-7 blowout. The Crusaders will need big margins of victory down the line if they want to again be considered for a seed in the playoffs. Things are off to a good start in that department. Now up is a battle with Harvard.
#7 Furman (3-1) - Last Week #8
Pulling ahead in the SoCon this season will be no easy task but Furman is beginning to just that in the early goings of the season. On Saturday they dismantled visiting Mercer to the tune of 38-14. Four different ball carriers scored touchdowns while quarterback Tyler Huff was super efficient, completing 20 of 24 passes. Huff also led the offense with 82 rush yards. The boys in purple will now get a week off before taking on The Citadel at home on October 7.
#8 Sacramento State (3-1) - Last Week #4
The Hornets gave the Vandals everything they had in Idaho but a late field goal lifted UI past Sacramento State. Kaiden Bennett played a clean game, throwing for 236 yards and two touchdowns while Marcus Fulcher found the end zone once as well. All-American tight end Marshel Martin was back which was nice to see but Idaho proved to be too much. The defense gave up over 400 yards and couldn’t get the big stops when they needed them most. A loss to a Top 10 team on the road is certainly forgivable, though. Northern Arizona comes to town this weekend.
#9 Incarnate Word (3-1) - Last Week #9
UIW cruised its win over NAIA’s North American 63-3. Zach Calzada didn’t play a lot and he didn’t need to. The Auburn-transfer threw for 193 yards and two scores then called it a night. The wealth was spread all over the field for the Cardinals who saw eight different rushers and 10 different pass catchers make plays. The D even got in on the scoring party with a Ronald Wilson pick six. There’s not a lot to be learned from a win like this, though. Southland play starts after the week off with Southeastern Louisiana.
#10 Southern Illinois (3-0) - Last Week: #12
Like several of their MVFC brethren, SIU didn’t have a game this week. They use the extra time off to get ready for Missouri State.
#11 Delaware (3-1) - Last Week #19
Ryan Carty’s group showed some real grit after falling behind to a really good New Hampshire team last week. The Hens outscored the Wildcats 29-13 in the final three quarters to escape with a big CAA win. Ryan O’Connor put up 355 passing yards and three TDs while running back Marcus Yarns ran for 105 yards and scored the game-winner with under four minutes left. The gutsy win will have UD climbing in the rankings this week. Now they get a week off before they turn their sights toward Duquesne.
#12 North Dakota (2-1) - Last Week #14
UND got the week off. They take on the #1 team in the land this weekend as they make a big trip to Brookings.
#13 Weber State (2-2) - Last Week #10
It was not the night Weber State envisioned when Montana State came to town. The Big Sky’s leading rusher Damon Bankston was held to just 36 rushing yards and quarterback Kylan Weisser threw for 101 yards. The Wildcat defense was gashed by the top rushing attack in the nation for 346 yards and four touchdowns. If ever there was a game WSU wanted to forget, it’s this one. Head coach Mickey Mental will now have the tough task of getting his team right for a road trip to Northern Colorado.
#14 New Hampshire (2-2) - Last Week #11
UNH will slip a little this week after suffering their second loss of the year. They came up just short against Delaware despite holding an 18-point lead. Dylan Laube had a big day which included a 100-yard kickoff return touchdown and Max Brosmer threw for nearly 400 yards and two touchdowns. None of that mattered in the end, though, as the Blue Hens came out with the 29-25 victory. The Wildcats will look to bounce back this Saturday as they host Towson.
#15 North Carolina Central (3-1) - Last Week #18
NC Central made it look easy against Mississippi Valley State even without Davius Richard who didn’t play due to an ankle injury he suffered last week. Backup signal-caller Walker Harris had himself a day, throwing for 263 yards and five touchdowns along with no interceptions. The D held the Delta Devils to just 4-of-17 on third down and barely allowed 100 yards on both the ground and through the air. Eagles fans are hoping from Richard’s healthy return sooner rather than later, though, as Campbell is on the docket.
#16 Villanova (3-1) - Last Week: #25
Many thought it might be a close game with Rhode Island but ‘Nova had other plans. Connor Watkins played lights out, rushing for over 100 yards and three touchdowns. The Wildcats quarterback also threw for 166 yards. All five of Villanova’s TDs came on the ground and the defense only allowed one on the other side (even that didn’t come until the fourth quarter). Not that long ago the ‘Cats weren’t pinging on a ton of radars but now they’re climbing the Top 25 at 3-1. They face Albany this weekend.
#17 Western Carolina (3-1) - Last Week: #23
One of the biggest stories so far this season has been the rapid rise of Western Carolina and the Catamounts did it again last week, dropping 77 points on Charleston Southern. Quarterback Cole Gonzalez tossed five touchdowns then each of his backups, Taron Dickens and Brody Palhegyi, came in and threw one as well. WCU averaged almost 19 yards per pass and put up nearly 700 yards of total offense. Total domination doesn’t quite do it justice. A road trip to The Citadel is on the horizon.
#18 Montana (3-1) - Last Week #13
Things went from bad to worse to downright ugly for Montana really quick on Saturday against Northern Arizona. The Lumberjacks defense held UM to just 31 rushing yards and pitched a shutout in the second half. Sam Vidlak couldn’t find his rhythm in the pocket and the Griz turned the ball over twice in the surprising 28-14 loss. Now at 0-1 in conference play, Bobby Hauck and company have legitimate reason for concern as the slate only gets tougher down the line. The good news? Montana returns home this Saturday. They’ll look to right the ship against Idaho State.
#19 Eastern Washington (2-2) - Last Week: NR
At one point it seemed like EWU would again be a non-factor again this year but the Eagles have climbed up into the rankings after beating UC Davis on Saturday night. Although Kekoa Visperas didn’t throw any touchdowns in the win, he played mistake-free and that was enough to help Eastern Washington get by the Aggies. His 208 passing yards paired with rushing scores from both Justice Jackson and Michael Worthman was just what the team needed. Even the EWU defense found the end zone. Up next is a big test with Idaho.
#20 Florida A&M (3-1) - Last Week: #22
Alabama State kept it closer than FAMU would have liked for a while but in the end, the Rattlers came away with a 13-point victory. Iasaih Major had a nice 40-yard pick six which proved to be pivotal. QB Jeremy Moussa threw for 294 yards and two touchdowns while receiver Jah’Marae Sheread caught nine passes for 72 yards. The defense kept Florida A&M in it for a good long while, giving up a mere 14 yards on the ground. It wasn’t the prettiest of wins but the Rattlers are still 2-0 in the SWAC now. They’ll face Mississippi Valley State on Saturday.
#21 UC Davis (2-2) - Last Week #15
Between losing to Eastern Washington at home and seeing star running back Lan Larison go down, it was not a good night for the Aggies. Larison was having a monster night with 255 rush yards before his injury and UC Davis couldn’t overcome it. Despite outgaining the Eagles and winning the time of possession battle, Dan Hawkins’ team couldn’t close it out. Turnovers made the difference with quarterback Miles Hastings throwing two picks. If there’s any positive to take away from this it’s that a struggling Cal Poly team is up next on the schedule.
#22 UT Martin (3-1) - Last Week: NR
For the first time this fall the Skyhawks will show up in the rankings thanks to a solid win over North Alabama. Four games in and Sam Franklin is the top rusher in the FCS with 653 yards. He ran it 32 times for a whopping 221 yards against the Lions on Saturday and posted two touchdowns. Franklin helped spearhead a UT Martin offense that blasted UNA for almost 500 yards. With Southeast Missouri State struggling early on, there’s some real hope that the Skyhawks could compete for an OVC-Big South title come season’s end. Right now, though, they’ll focus on Tennessee State.
#23 Youngstown State (2-1) - Last Week: #24
The Penguins sat idle last week. They’ll face Northern Iowa this Saturday in the league opener.
#24 Rhode Island (2-2) - Last Week #17
Things fell flat in a bad way for URI against Villanova. The Rams only scored three first half points as the Wildcats roared out to a 35-9 win. Kasim Hill was kept out of the end zone and Ja’Den McKenzie was the squad’s leading rusher with just 24 yards. It was that kind of day as the Rhode Island defense gave up 287 rush yards. If there was anything to be positive about, it was the fact that the Rams were only flagged three times for minimal yardage. Other than that, it was a day to forget. Bryant comes to town this Saturday.
#25 Central Arkansas (2-2) - Last Week: NR
The Bears have had a very up and down start to 2023 and, fortunately for them, they’re on the rise right now after blowing out Abilene Christian 52-17 last weekend. UCA’s offense and, more specifically, ShunDerrick Powell ran wild on the Wildcats. Powell rushed for 256 yards on 23 carries in the win. Quarterback Will McElvain threw for over 200 yards and two touchdowns while the defense bottled up ACU for just 43 rush yards. The dominant performance puts Central Arkansas into the Top 25 for the first time this year. They’ll take on Southern Utah on Saturday evening.
Southeast Missouri State (1-3) - Last Week #16
The Redhawks just can’t seem to shake their close-game blues and again fell in gut-wrenching fashion. Despite having a late lead against previously winless EKU, Southeast Missouri State couldn’t hold it and ended up losing thanks to a field goal right at the horn. Geno Hess only mustered up 43 rush yards and despite Paxton DeLaurent’s 358 passing yards, SEMO stumbled again. The only good news right now is that their one victory was over OVC-foe Lindenwood. Up next is Central Arkansas after a bye.
Samford (1-3) - Last Week #20
This season continues to slip away from Samford who, at one point, was a favorite to win the SoCon. Chattanooga manhandled the Bulldogs as the usually-deadly Michael Hiers threw two interceptions. Chandler Smith still had 87 receiving yards but he was kept out of the end zone and the Samford defense got picked apart as the Mocs averaged 12.4 yards per pass. Things are not going well right now and, with only one win this year, time is already starting to run out. The Bulldogs play East Tennessee State next.
Mercer (2-2) - Last Week #21
Mercer still can’t seem to find much traction so far in 2023 and Saturday’s loss to Furman was the worst it’s been yet. The Bears got outplayed in every facet of the game. Carter Peevy barely got over 100 yards passing while the Paladins ran up and down the field for 387 yards and 24 first downs. The turnover battle, time of possession tilt and overall yardage all went to the Paladins and now Drew Cronic’s team is 2-2. It’s not a death sentence yet but it’s time to turn things around. They’ll see VMI on Saturday.