Florida A&M and Jackson State are set to cap the first full weekend of the 2022 FCS college football season on Sunday.
Even the game of the weekend will have to work hard to keep up with the FCS excellence from the previous three days.
Upsets – oftentimes the lifeblood of the FCS – stood out, including two wins over FBS competition, in the large schedule over the extended Labor Day weekend.
Here are 10 takeaways from Week 1:
CAA Football isn’t just the largest FCS conference, it’s one of the best. After collecting the season’s first two FCS wins against FBS opponents – William Mary beat Charlotte 41-24 and Delaware topped Navy 14-7 – the CAA has 42 all-time wins over Division I’s upper tier and at least one by 10 different programs since 2013. Darius Wilson had 305 yards of total offense and two touchdown passes to fuel W&M, while Nolan Henderson threw for two TDs and linebacker Johnny Buchanan tied a school record with 23 tackles in UD coach Ryan Carty’s winning debut.
One of the more thrilling games didn’t even have a touchdown – there were two field goals and two safeties in No. 2 South Dakota State’s 7-3 loss at Iowa. It was both physical and painful: SDSU managed just 120 yards on 57 plays (2.1-yard average) and Iowa 166 yards on 61 plays (2.7). Jackrabbits All-America linebacker Adam Bock had a game-high 13 tackles, but All-America tight end Tucker Kraft suffered an ankle injury on his only reception in the first quarter, later returning from a locker room visit walking in a boot.
Top-ranked North Dakota State raised a 2021 FCS championship banner to its Fargodome collection before its season opener, then went out and overwhelmed Drake 56-14. Eight different Bison scored touchdowns, including off a blocked field goal (Destin Talbert), a punt return (Jayden Price) and a scoop-and-score (Will Mostaert). The win was the Bison’s seventh straight in a season opener and their 24th straight in a home opener.
The first game of the season that matched two ranked teams – No. 14 UIW hosting No. 9 Southern Illinois – was delayed by lightning and a stadium power outage, but, make no mistake, Cardinals quarterback Lindsey Scott Jr. provided enough energy to light up Benson Stadium. UIW hammered SIU 64-29 as the Nicholls transfer passed for 391 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for another score. His dominant play helped G.J. Kinne win his coaching debut.
Stock Up: After Western Carolina lost the first six games of coach Kerwin Bell’s first season last year, the Catamounts won four of their final five games in the Southern Conference while averaging 43.2 points in that stretch – or 20 more on average than in the first six games. They opened the 2022 campaign with a 52-38 victory at Charleston Southern as Carlos Davis passed for a school-record six TDs – all to different receivers – and 433 yards. The point total was the Catamounts’ highest in five years.
Stock Down: Kennesaw State was eighth-ranked in the preseason and featuring All-America quarterback Xavier Sheppard at the controls of the program’s vaunted triple option offense, but the return of only three defensive starters was evident in a 27-17 loss to Samford. Transfer quarterback Michael Hiers threw for four touchdowns – two each to Kendall Watson and Chandler Smith – to drop the Owls, who next visit Cincinnati and likely will fall to 0-2.
Over the last year and a half, quarterbacks Cole Kelley of Southeastern Louisiana (2020 season, played in spring 2021) and Eric Barriere of Eastern Washington (2021) flip-flopped in the top two spots of the voting while each won a Walter Payton Award. With the two off to pursue pro careers, their successors opened the new season with mixed results. EWU won a 36-29 slugfest over Tennessee State as Gunner Talkington completed 29 of 46 passes for 348 yards and five touchdowns, adding 60 more yards on nine carries. Southeastern fell at Louisiana 24-7, and Cephus Johnson was 22 of 34, but for just 149 yards and an interception, adding 48 yards on 10 carries.
Eastern Washington’s game-winning touchdown against Tennessee State (36-29) was spectacular.@GunnerTalking10 to @EftonChism for 13 yards.
Lafayette hasn’t finished with a winning record in a full season since 2009, but the Patriot League program opened the John Troxell coaching era with a 6-0 shutout of two-time defending Northeast Conference champion Sacred Heart. Quarterback Ryan Schuster’s 18-yard TD run in the third quarter stood up, but not before the Leopards denied Sacred Heart on three straight plays from their one-yard line in the closing seconds.
Houston Baptist put last year’s 0-11 season behind with a 46-34 road victory over Northern Colorado. Justin Fomby threw for four touchdowns, and freshman running back Ismael Mahdi scored on a 74-yard screen pass and a 78-yard run.
Third-ranked Montana and No. 4 Montana State beat Southland programs from Louisiana. San Diego State transfer Lucas Johnson had 284 yards of total offense and four TD passes as Montana shut out Northwestern State 47-0. With Montana State’s Isaiah Ifanse (3,461 career rushing yards) recovering from injury, running back Lane Sumner stepped in with 218 yards from scrimmage (168 rushing, 50 receiving), and the Bobcats pulled away from McNeese 40-17.
Perhaps with 45-0 and 54-0 losses in the memories of upperclassmen, North Carolina Central ended a four-game losing streak to North Carolina A&T 28-13 as the Aggie-Eagle Classic celebrated 100 years of competition. NCCU quarterback Davius Richard was outstanding with two touchdowns both in the air and on the ground. It’s about to get tougher for N.C. A&T as it next travels to North Dakota State and Duke.
Three players went over 200 rushing yards: Arkansas-Pine Bluff’s Kayvon Britten had 237 and three touchdowns in a 48-42 win over North American; Tennessee State’s Devon Starling 207 against Eastern Washington; and Youngstown State’s Jaleel McLaughlin 203 and three TDs in a 31-14 win over Duquesne. … Dayton’s Rick Chamberlin earned his 100th career victory as the Flyers edged Robert Morris 22-20. … Jacksonville State is off to a 2-0 start in its final FCS season, with quarterback Zion Webb accounting for eight touchdowns in wins over 2021 FCS playoff qualifiers Stephen F. Austin and Davidson. Conversely, FBS-bound Sam Houston fell at Texas Tech 31-0, the 2020 FCS national champion’s first shutout loss since 2014 (56-0 to LSU). … Hampton held off Howard’s late charge 31-28 to extend its winning streak in the “Battle of the Real HU” to six. Christopher Zellous provided the Pirates’ opening score on an 89-yard run. … Stetson quarterback Brady Meitz and wide receiver Quinton Lane connected on a 98-yard TD pass in a 24-14 win over Concordia. … Southern scored 42 points in the first quarter en route to an 86-0 rout of NAIA Florida Memorial. … Two FCS programs fell in overtime to FBS opponents: Saint Francis (30-23 to Akron) and Bryant (38-37 to FIU).
FCS Longest Active Streaks
8 – San Diego
7 – North Dakota State
4 – Alabama State, Dartmouth, Dayton
21 – Wagner
11 – Wofford
10 – Presbyterian