In the FCS Huddle: Big Sky a big disappointment


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Updated: 12/08/2013 3:04 am Published: 12/08/2013 2:50 am


Philadelphia, PA (SportsNetwork.com) - The FCS conference with the most qualifiers this postseason has been anything but (Big) Sky high.

The Big Skunk, well, that fits when you get a whiff of the results.

Third-seeded Eastern Washington is the only team standing among the Big Sky's conference-record four qualifiers, which also was the high for a conference this season.

Having a smaller number of teams from the West hurt the Big Sky in the geography-driven first round, as Southern Utah and Northern Arizona faced tougher-than-usual opponents in Sam Houston State and South Dakota State, respectively.

But geography was not involved in Coastal Carolina traveling to Montana from the East Coast, unless one considers how the host Grizzlies went south in their 42-35 loss this past Saturday.

With the weather seemingly a big advantage for the Grizzlies, they had little excuse for the way Coastal Carolina took control of the game with four unanswered touchdowns in the first half. It's just not the Grizzlies of old.

The 0-3 start for the Big Sky finally got some positive news in the form of Eastern Washington's 41-17 victory over South Dakota State. Vernon Adams threw five touchdowns to push his season total to 51.

The Eagles have a national championship-type team, and anything less than reaching the semifinals would be a huge disappointment for coach Beau Baldwin and his players. They will host surprising Jacksonville State in the quarterfinals next weekend.

PLAYOFF FIRST ROUND SCOREBOARD

A roundup of FCS first-round playoff games can be found at http://tinyurl.com/kxd9a5r.

GAME BALLS

Offense - North Dakota State quarterback Brock Jensen posted his FCS-record 45th career win in the Bison's 38-7 win over Furman. Jensen completed 15-of-25 pass attempts for 249 yards and two touchdowns, and rushed another 86 yards and one touchdown on eight carries.

Defense - Jacksonville State had 11 sacks in its 31-10 win at McNeese State, and strong-side linebacker Robert Gray had three of them to go along with seven total tackles and two forced fumnbles.

Special Teams - Despite Maine's 41-27 loss to New Hampshire, Damarr Aultman scored on an 88-yard kickoff return to give the Black Bears their only lead of the game. He had four returns for 143 yards.

SECOND TIME AROUND ...

Well, it feels like the first time.

The three conference rematches ended up with the same results as the first meetings this season. New Hampshire picked off CAA Football champion Maine, 41-27; Ohio Valley champion Eastern Illinois handled Tennessee State, 51-10; and Southland Conference champion Southeastern Louisiana ousted Sam Houston State, 30-29, with a late touchdown.

THE 'ROAD' TO FRISCO

Road teams have faired pretty well in the playoffs, going 3-5 in each of the first two rounds for a 6-10 overall record. The OVC had two of the wins, one each from Tennessee State (first round at Butler) and Jacksonville State (second round at No. 6 seed McNeese State).

CONFERENCE SCOREBOARD

Six conferences are represented among the Elite Eight, with CAA Football and the OVC both getting two teams into the round. The Big South, Big Sky, Missouri Valley and Southland conference all have one team still standing.

Records of the 11 FCS conferences in the FCS playoffs:

Big South - 2-0 (1.000)

Ohio Valley - 4-1 (.800)

CAA - 3-1 (.750)

Missouri Valley - 2-1 (.667)

Southland - 2-2 (.500)

Patriot - 1-2 (.333)

Southern - 1-2 (.333)

Big Sky - 1-3 (.250)

Northeast - 0-1 (.000)

Pioneer - 0-1 (.000)

Mid-Eastern Athletic - 0-2 (.000)

FINAL CONFERENCE CHAMPION

Southern University finished off a superb 9-4 season under coach Dawson Odums, winning the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship with a 34-27 triumph over Jackson State at Reliant Stadium.

Lee Doss' 16-yard touchown reception from Dray Joseph in the second overtime was the decisive margin. Joseph threw for 337 yards and three touchdowns.

FCS AWARDS

The winners of the four major awards in the FCS - the Walter Payton (outstanding player), Buck Buchanan (outstanding defensive player), Jerry Rice (FCS freshman of the year) and Eddie Robinson (FCS coach of the year) - will be announced on Dec. 16.

The FCS Awards can be found at http://tinyurl.com/yhv6oh8.

THE PICKS

Week 15 Record: 7-2 (.778)

Season Record: 630-221 (.740)

Dec. 13-14

All Times ET

FCS Playoff Quarterfinals

Friday, Dec. 13

No. 7 seed Towson (11-2) at X-No. 2 seed Eastern Illinois (12-1), 8 p.m. (ESPN2) - Towson has to avoid the EIU first-quarter scoring crush that is a ridiculous 243-38 advantage.

Saturday, Dec. 14

Coastal Carolina (12-2) at X-No. 1 seed North Dakota State (12-0), noon (ESPN) - Considering their half of the bracket, the Bison can feel Frisco.

Jacksonville State (11-3) at X-No. 3 seed Eastern Washington (11-2), 4 p.m. (ESPN3) - It's just too hard to picture Jacksonville State in the national semifinals.

X-New Hampshire (9-4) at No. 4 seed Southeastern Louisiana (11-2), 7 p.m. (ESPN3) - Two strong offenses. UNH's might be a little better.


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